Silver Lake wall won’t be going away

Photo by Will Campbell

Bob Warpehoski

A large group of Silver Lake residents and officials – including City Council staff, business owners and even the Silver Lake $5 Guy – gathered Thursday night to hear restaurant owner Gareth Kantner respond to criticism about the wall he is building in front of his Sunset Junction property.  While Kantner said he would “love to hear your suggestions”, the writing was on the wall: no changes will be made. “This is sort of a moot point at this point,” said Kantner, owner of Cafe Stella and the surrounding storefronts at Sunset Boulevard and Sanborn Avenue .

Some officials with the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, which hosted the meeting, said they were not aware that Kantner would construct an approximately six-foot high wall, which will enclose a patio, when they supported his restaurant expansion plans. A spokesman for Councilman Eric Garcetti said the office would review zoning along Sunset Boulevard but said the city had already approved Kantner’s plans and issued the necessary building permits to build the wall, which will be finished off with stucco and vines.

Silver Lake resident and blogger Will Campbell summarized the meeting this way:

With the exception of a Kantner supporter sneering at a detractor and calling her ridiculous, the meeting itself was a rather civil affair – I think mainly because it was pretty much agreed that the wall’s a done deal and all that’s left is the stucco and the bougainvillea.


  1. …oh good , now get on to more important issues , like anything but a stupid wall !

    • Yeah who cares about quality of life? Are you fn kidding?

      • How does this affect your quality of life?

        • poor marty, a simple wall completely ruined his quality of life. I feel for you bro!

          • People are getting a little too precious about something they won’t even notice in a year. The “ugly” cinderblock wall isn’t finished being built so how can you judge the way it looks? Get over it an move onto more important issues.

      • ………yeah because last time i checked my quality of life was affected by a wall.Not my childhood or my work or my college days or my travel around the world or any thing but a wall …………yeah , my quality of life is fine thanks.
        who’s fn kidding who ?

    • If they were taking a lane off of a busy street, you’d care. But since we’re just loosing space on a busy sidewalk (stupid leg users), we should all make fun of it.

  2. There is no reason that wall should be a done deal. It is not like an entirely new building has been constructed and is all done. It is just a few cinder blocks — nothing so much as to be a big deal to pull back on and pull down.

    But Stella’s attitude is: tough luck, I got mine, and I will not be good to my neighbors.

    Well then, BOYCOTT STELLA! If they want to go against the community, then let the community go against Stella. Boycott (of course, too many who go there are not from this community). Picket. OCCUPY Stella!

    Or better yet, maybe his neighbors on that strip, who will only suffer the bad effect of destroying the ambience of the street of windows, should all build a wall to block off their stores. Then, no one would go there at all — and Stella would go bankrupt. Stella would go under from its own self-centeredness.

    As for Garcetti at the meeting, hey, Stella has greased the gears. Kantner has made the maximum political contribution to Garcetti that he is allowed — Garcetti isn’t going to be helping the community on this at all. Garcetti has already been bought and paid for.

    BOYCOTT STELLA. Picket Stella. Occupy Stella. How much picketing on the sidewalk in front of the door do you think it would take to get Kantner to reconsider that wall?

    People need to coalesce now and mount a pickit line.

  3. To paraphrase a former president:

    Kantner, take this wall down!

  4. “The point is moot” until we vote by not supporting his business.

    How many good (better) restaurants are there in the neighborhood?
    How many still fail?

    Precarious position to take over an ugly wall- how could it even be nice from the inside?

  5. One interesting thing briefly mentioned at the meeting was the possibility of the city widening the sidewalk to address the blind/narrow corner that’s been created by the wall (perhaps with a bulb out, kinda like this: http://betterbike.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/curb-bulbout.jpg).

    • The bulb-outs do NOTHING to increase visibility at a corner. The cars are still at the same stop line they were at before the bulb-out was added. So no, a bulb-out will do nothing to mitigate any loss of visibility from this wall.

      Nonetheless, like them or not, bulb-out already an planned and funded to go in on that corner, and the other corners of Sunset Junction, as part of the $1.5 million project to add those, put in the huge piece of sculpture and add some saplings and bike racks.

      • Well with regards to the wall, I was more thinking of people walking around a tight corner having to compete for space with those (say a couple walking hand in hand, or a teenager on a skateboard, or a parent with a stroller) coming around the other side.

  6. The issue isn’t the wall. The issue is oversight of changes to the neighborhood. SLNC claims they did not know there would be a wall at that spot, yet they reviewed the plans and had a board member who is also an architect (Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov) review the plans. Last night, Sharkov said she was embarrassed to have not asked how the corner would be changed. Now is not that time to be embarrassed because Sharkov’s error was not a clerical or technical one. The error should be shared by the SLNC entirely. Those present at the meeting heard board members shift blame for this mistake on the community for failing to inquire about the wall at an earlier meeting, and they said that one way to fix this in the future is to come to more meetings. This is not a solution. First, it’s not a solution because Sharkov upholds herself to have professional expertise on these matters and so the community rightfully trusts her to ask the most pertinent questions. (I assume that this would include a thoughtful inquiry concerning any change — structural or aesthetic — to a corner that serves as a gateway to the community.) But secondly, more people showing up to meetings is not an organized way of asking the community for more input. The SLNC should ask whether the way it has organized its committees can effectively address the accelerating pace of change to the neighborhood.

    • Very well put, Alex.

    • You have that right. I will add, though — I am coming to the very unfortunate conclusion that our neighborhood council is certainly no good, whatever combination of adjectives you might want to use to say that. II conclude that because this is absolutely not the first time they have said they did not realize what was going on when they approved something! This is not the second or third time either. They have just said this over and over and over again over recent years.

      I have communicated with Sharkov a few times over recent years. She seems like a good person. Nonetheless, anyone who wants to hold themselves yup as a professional architect HAS to know that a 6′ tall concrete wall in the midst of a storefronbt window area is as contrary to good planning as it can get! If she honestly did not realize that, then she should have her license taken away. And I hate to say that because she does seem like a nice enough person.

      That does not exonerate the rest of the board. Still, they take her point of view of such projects as smarter than anything they think — because she is the educated professional on the matter. Still, what we have on the board — and unfortunately, probably on most all the boards around the city — are a bunch of people who might have good intents but have not the slightest idea of what they are doing, have no knowledge of the things they are dealing with, and so they are destroying neighborhoods.

      Our NC seems to feel it has to approve anything that is generally the size allowed under the zoning. Well, no they don’t, for lots of reasons. Those reasons often would come in under environmental effects, such as ruining the design plan for the rest of the block. (But don’t ever take any EIR presented by the developer as holding much of any truth.)

      As for participating at the meetings, maybe more input can be taken via the Web — as goes on in these forums. People don’t go to all these meetings for lots of reasons, including that they have other conflicts, or even that they just don’t have the energy to do all their life stuff and add in a lot of these meetings, which itself requires a lot of time spent checking all the matters going through the NC just to see if there is something they want to comment on — and many other reasons. But clearly, they can find a few moments to express their ideas online. Maybe the NC should take more comment that way.

      • I agree that the people on the board are good people with good intentions. And the truth is that the Neighborhood Councils have very limited power over things at the end of the day. But the way they are responding to these changes (the overnight demolition on Santa Monica Blvd and now this new wall at the neighborhood’s gateway), they are taking this criticism too personally. Sharkov should not only stand up before the public and offer words of contrition. She and the entire SLNC board as well as all Silver Lake stakeholders should take a breath and ask what they CAN do. Our community needs to address these needs urgently, and this does not have to mean that that work should fall on the individual board members as they stand now. Nor does it mean that the board can excuse the lackluster job it’s doing on the lack of community input and then shame those concerned in the community for only being reactive when something like this happens. The city has a process that works for property-owners, and it takes a vigilant and thoughtful Neighborhood Council to ask the RIGHT questions, and be thorough and to a certain degree skeptical of the information provided by developers or property owners. The case with Gareth’s wall is worth examining. Gareth is a longtime stakeholder and fortunately for many in the community, his interests and the community’s interests have largely been congruent in the past. I am grateful for his magnificent contributions. I understand why Gareth has his fans for all that he’s done. But the SLNC must remember that there are many stakeholders in our community who depend on them to balance the interests of the individual property owners with the interests of the community. Furthermore, when was the last time the SLNC made a “mistake” that passed along a benefit to the general public? Later in last night’s meeting, a SL activist proposed that the developer of the Santa Monica Blvd high rise incorporate a 1,000 square foot space dedicated to honoring that site’s importance in LGBT legacy. The committee then voted to make this demand and if the developer would not comply, then the committee would “shame” the developer to other Neighborhood Councils. I was the only person in the meeting who voted against this measure, not because I disagreed with it on principle, but because it reflected that the SLNC does not have a vision for what Sunset Junction should look like. Making threats to the developer is a good way to alienate the developer, and the SLNC should be cautious about making threats in case there comes a time when they do all have the sit down at the table together. I understand that the SLNC feels embarrassed by the overnight demolition, but it should be thoughtful and considered in how it reacts. Without a general plan for public interests like open space — everything that the community requires to nurture what makes it a vibrant, dynamic, and economically profitable place to do business in the long-run — then this SLNC will be railroaded and steamrolled again and again. The SLNC needs to realize this isn’t about THEM individually, but about the role the entire SLNC can and must play to articulate the community’s interests. They must act now so that oversights of the board members don’t have far worse consequences in the future.

    • With respect to Ms. Bougart-Sharkov’s credentials for performing this review, she is not an architect (or at least she isn’t licensed in California). Does anyone have a copy of the exhibit that was reviewed by the Neighborhood Council?

      • She lists herself on the NC Website as:

        … a design professional for over 30 years of continuous architectural practice …

        ” … Elizabeth received her Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Architecture, Structural Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia, Bulgaria. …”

        ” … She moved to Silver Lake in 1989, where she joined the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce with her architectural practice. This membership put a start to her community activism, which she claims to be her second, but not less important passion in life, after architecture.”

        • I don’t know Ms. Bougart-Sharkov personally (and she may be very capable), but all that is being suggested is that she does not possess the qualifications to practice architecture in the State of California, and may not legally hold herself out as an architect. Just using the term “architectural” in conjunction the work that she does in her design firm puts her in dangerous territory as far as the Department of Consumer Affairs is concerned.

          In case you think this is nitpicking, the distinction is important if the Neighborhood Council is under the impression that a qualified professional is performing planning review on its behalf. Although she obviously has dedicated a great amount of time to the neighborhood, that commitment alone does not ensure that she has the tools to do the task she has been charged with.

  7. Sunset Junction Neighbor

    When someone starts the boycott Cafe Stella Facebook page, please post and let everyone know.

  8. If you KNEW the Kanters, you wouldn’t even be having these discussions… they are good people who love the neighborhood. He would have torn the place down years ago and turned the corner into an overpriced piece of crap structure to make money. Yet he didn’t because he has pride in what he has accomplished for the property and the surrounding neighborhoods. I will NOT be boycotting stella. In fact, i’ll probably spend more money there now…

    • Sunset Junction Neighbor

      Well Brad… if you really KNEW the owner of Cafe Stella, you would know that his last name was Kantner… not Kanter.

      Now what were you saying?

  9. So that means that the boeugenvilla bush and its stickers will be occupying the narrow sidewalk? They couldn’t put it in 6 inches and drop it to 3 feet? What the F!?! And nothing like trashing the look of that historic building. I’m staying away from Stella and that place for sure.

  10. I really love people who post that they will “boycott” an establishment because they don’t like how it looks…. Please, get a life

  11. Mr. Kantner made it pretty clear at the meeting that he has no intention of changing or removing the wall — he said he would love to hear people’s suggestions, but also said the wall coming down wasn’t an option he would entertain. I don’t disagree with people who say he cares a lot about the neighborhood – I just think the wall is a step in the wrong direction for the community and contrary to his own interests.

    Although it may have been civil, the meeting itself was pretty frustrating, from my perspective at least. Although lack of formality can be a benefit of neighborhood councils (inclusiveness, etc), it was hard to tell who had authority to decide when an issue was closed or what motions were under consideration and in what form. The SLNC board member (Mr. Neumann) facilitating the discussion basically said there wasn’t more time for discussion and wasn’t it great that people could just stop by Stella with suggestions (without acknowledgement that those suggestions were not going to get any consideration), despite concerns about the zoning issue. One gentleman who appeared to be a board member said he HAD known there would be a wall, at which Ms. Bougart-Sharkov expressed surprise. The Garcetti reps were asked directly toward the end of the discussion whether there was anything that could require the wall to be removed or altered; they said the permits had been issued and the wall was built, so there was nothing to do be done about it. That didn’t seem on point with the question — if the permits were not properly issued, why would those permits allow the work to remain in place? — but Mr. Kantner’s expediter stated that the original consideration of the Stella alterations before the council mostly focused on alcohol because everything else (including the wall) was by right. Some of the other comments were about how the wall will pale in comparison to the 3 new proposed developments, which is true but not particularly relevant to whether the wall should have gotten greater scrutiny. The discussion on the issue ended abruptly to get to the other agenda item, which was Frost/Chaddock’s demolition of the building on Santa Monica, before the end of the meeting.

    As mentioned, Mr. Neumann proposed a “shaming” motion condemning Frost/Chaddock’s action and sending a notice to the other neighborhood councils about the action. Then someone else proposed a motion that called on the developer to provide, in light of the significant LGBT history of the area, community display space within the developer’s proposed new building for a five-year period. The guy who said he had known about the wall offered a “friendly amendment” that the shaming notice only go into effect if the developer refused to give the display space. While I don’t totally agree that announcing disapproval of F/C’s actions would necessarily chill future discussions, I do agree that the motions (and combining them into an “if you don’t/then we will”) were poorly thought through, I wish we’d had more time to really talk about them, and I hope the board will revise them before moving forward. Putting the two things together seems like it could give the impression that community frustration at being purposely misled about demolition could be cured by providing temporary display space – or could be interpreted as prematurely putting a price on the board’s endorsement—but there wasn’t much time to discuss in the 15 minutes allotted at the committee meeting. It was also mentioned during the meeting that part/most of the development proposal is by right except for number of units, so I hope the Board considers a more sophisticated motion and a more sophisticated bargaining approach, along with more community involvement, going forward than there was time for last night.

    The meeting ended at 6:30 so the next committee meeting could start on time — where a presentation on the damaging effects of plastic bags and benefits of using reusable bags was given 20 minutes.

    I give credit to neighborhood council members who donate a lot of time. However, there are many different committees and real lack of specificity on the agendas for the meetings. Even if a concerned citizen wants to, it would be difficult to attend all meetings or know which meetings are important to attend. Maybe fewer meetings with more noticing/advertising of agenda items would help. I agree with Bob that board members don’t always seem to know what they can ask for, and it seems like too often ideas are offered up and decisions made on the fly without an overarching vision. Even if the NC does not have much actual power to stop something, persuasive authority can be powerful if exercised correctly. It might help if they could be sure to introduce an issue at one meeting and conclude its consideration at the next meeting. I am sure this is done in some cases, but I see “discussion and possible action” on the agendas of some committees, when it would be nice to have time between meetings to better consider an issue or bring more residents into the discussion/decisionmaking process (including getting their written comments before the meeting) before something is a “done deal.”

    • i completely agree. the way neumann ran the meeting reflected seemed to reflect his own (apparent) frustration with the embarrassments befalling the neighborhood council. the “shaming” of the developer, conditioned on a passionate demand for an LGBT cultural center, should be more thought out and considered. short-sighted tactics without a strategy or vision for sunset junction will hinder the SLNC’s ability to deliver benefits to the community in the future.

    • If you want to learn more about the second item talked about at the meeting, the developement at 4000 Sunset were the gay book store was, the SLNC will ducessing it at their Feb 8th meeting: http://ens.lacity.org/ensnc/silverlakenc/ensncsilverlakenc83375542_02082012.pdf

  12. I believe the plans call for a ‘bougainvillea MURAL’, not actual bougainvillea vines.

  13. The wall is beyond bizarre. I did a triple take when I first saw it the other day, trying to figure out what the hell they were thinking. Why would you build a sidewalk patio on an iconic corner and make the wall so high that people inside can’t even see the street or enjoy the ambiance? Truly perplexing. This is why people make fun of Los Angeles – this isolationist mentality.

  14. Too those saying this isn’t a big deal; for hipsters and gentrification-obsessed yuppies a wall IS a big deal.

  15. I don’t go to Silver Lake much anymore, but now I’m really interested in seeing that wall. It must be amazing.

  16. This issue and many of the comments here just prove a long held LA belief…The people of Silver Lake are petty, self-centered, a-holes. I mean really, all this over a wall on his property, built legally under the law and with valid permits. Attention Silver Lake, in case you have forgotten, you are still part of the United States and he has a right to build a wall. Can you all focus this huge amount and waste of energy on more pressing issues??? I don’t think I’d be caught dead spending anytime in a community made up of people as rediculous as you all come off.

    • How is it petty and “self-centered” to want your neighborhood to welcoming and not like a fortress?

    • I have to look at this obstruction at least four times a day, driving around, as it is on the street where I live. This is not petty, and I’m not an asshole – I’m a stone cold motherfucker. I will boycott Stella (the twits who went there on their dumb dates irritated me anyway. It’s Eurocheesecake Factory.)
      Also, seriously, learn to spell. It’s bugging me.

  17. Whoops, “to feel” ^

  18. ha ha, I’m going to use the phrase my inconsiderate Silver Lake neighbor used to throw at me:

    If you don’t like it, why don’t you MOVE?

    • I’m working on it Ruby! I actually don’t care that much about the wall as I am itching to leave this neighborhood, but from an objective standpoint it is really quite hideous. I feel sorry for people who are invested really invested being here, that there’s apparently no recourse for this type of thing and that the council totally dropped the ball.

  19. I live here and I think it’s funny that everyone gets up in arms about a wall that is maybe 10 feet long, but nobody gave a shit about another “mexican” fast food joint going up down the street last year. A wall = big problem. An entire building dispensing toxic, preservative-laced “food” to fatten up the masses = no worries!!

    • I was disappointed by that dump too. So I boycott!

    • Oh Todd You try to make it sound like if junk food and soda didn’t exist or weren’t accessible then people wouldn’t consume it. I think that is the same rational of “the war on drugs”. If there isn’t a market for a product then the product goes away and the opposite is true too.

      If you dont like del taco or el pollo loco the dont spend your money there. If enough like minded people are behind you then the place would close.

      You are seriously closed minded if you think that all establishments should be “organic tofu wheatgrass gluten free”

      The market decides.

  20. I swear, The Eastsider is going to get a Pulitzer for this story. I love it! I can’t get enough. Nice job!

  21. This “scandal” would make a good skit on Portlandia.

  22. Hey, leave Del Taco out of this! And did you hear? Circuit City is going to be a Whole Foods after all!

  23. wall haters: in addition to not patronizing this place in the future you can tell everyone of your dining experience and you distate for the imposing wall here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-stella-los-angeles

    this is how you affect change.

    • Kyle haters:

      Before you follow this moron’s advice you should know this:

      Yelp uses a FILTER on reviews. They have an algorithm to combat attacks such as this. (smart huh?)

      If they get a surge of any review (pos or neg) or about specific topics or from specific areas etc. they get shuffled into a special “filtered” file. The result is no filtered reviews impact the business’s rating.

      So go ahead and yelp away! It shall do nothing to “AFFECT CHANGE”.

      By all means, if you do not agree with this biz owner’s decision vote with your dollars… don’t UNFAIRLY GAME THE SYSTEM!!!

  24. I drove by the wall for the first time yesterday and honestly, it didn’t look that bad to me. I know plenty of people have expressed strong opinions but from judging from the reaction here, I had expected this ugly monstrosity that resembled the Berlin Wall…it didn’t look that bad, really, and it will probably look better once it’s painted and finished. I’ve never been to Cafe Stella.

  25. Maybe because you were DRIVING?

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