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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is it the Echo Park council office or an illegally converted garage?

The back end of the Bank of America branch in Echo Park have served a variety of public uses over the years.  The Echo Park Avenue space that once housed bank offices  and a sidewalk teller window has served as a police drop-in center, community meeting room, fruit-tree giveaway distribution point and, for the last three years, home of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council.  But, apparently, there is a problem with this space.  The city agency that oversees neighborhood councils recently  determined that the Echo Park council office is “not compliant with building codes”  and cannot serve as a polling place in next October’s neighborhood council elections. Meanwhile, the Building and Safety  Department has found that the same space where the Echo Park neighborhood council holds its meetings is technically a garage and not permitted for office use.

At some point, the back of the Bank of America building, which dates back to 1926, was converted from a garage into office space. But  apparently the permits – including an essential  “certificate of occupancy” – cannot be found of the conversion.  At the end of May, an order to comply was issued by the Building and Safety Department, according to online city records. Said a summary of the violation:

“A two story structure approved as office and garage has been converted without permit and inspection. The garage on the first floor has been converted to office / meeting room without permit and inspection.”

The findings are a big surprise to the leaders of the Echo Park neighborhood council, which recently renewed their lease of the space following a review and approval by the City Council as well as the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees neighborhood councils.  It’s not clear how the city, police department and neighborhood council used the space for so long without the proper permits being in place.

“No one can find a certificate of occupancy” said Lisa Baca-Sigala, Chief Information Officer for the council.  Officials with the bank  have “told us that we are going to get a new certificate [of occupancy] this month. We are just waiting as tenants to get the certificate in place.”

The council for now continues to use the office. Baca-Sigala said they will once again request the office serve as an election  polling place once the proper permits are obtained.

10 comments

  1. Sounds like a tax issue.

  2. Community didnt want an office the feeling with some was rent MONEY could be put to better use. This board shoved it down the communities throat
    For there own personal gain.JMO . How can community vote when no one show up tomeetings??!??!. I personally filed 17 complaints Nothin was ever done . Candidates for CD 13 can quote me on this.

  3. Eastsider Watcher

    Agree with J Cardenas.

    A “garage” is taxed at a different rate.

    Looks like B of A will owe for back taxes.

    The N.C. should pull out and meet elsewhere.

  4. GEPENC has been operated as a private foundation or private club thanks to
    Empower LA/Dept. of Neighborhood Empowerment.
    GEPENC keeps denying that there is a problem with the location.
    Eastsider LA should print the Order to Comply and Notice of Fee that is dated
    April 27 and signed by Inspector Donald Wong of LADBS/Code Enforcement Bureau.
    In addition, the community should know that GEPENC has never had a working
    Fire extinguisher on the premises. It uses an empty one as a door stop!
    In October, 2011, the LA Fire Dept (Engine #20) gave GEPENC a citation to get the Fire extinguisher working and mounted within a month. To date this has not been addressed. It is already July, 2012!
    And DONE/City wants us to vote for another NC who can operate under the same guidelines and without the problems ever reviewed through the Grievance process leads one to realize that it is not grassroots democracy that
    is championed but a dirt under the rug operation that Echo Park does not need.
    De-Certify GEPENC and give this community an opportunity to recuperate and
    recover. Echo Park is owed this.

  5. Is this where the fights are held?

  6. Converting a garage to an office is keeping with the spirit of the neighborhood. It’s only appropriate that the NC meets there. Wouldn’t have it anywhere else.

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