Mid-City resident Robert Portillo and his neighbors can't catch a break, and developer CIM Group seems to only want more.

The newest clash between these two sides started last Friday, when Portillo and his neighbors saw construction workers at the CIM-owned Midtown Crossing shopping center suddenly erecting three large frames for signage on a huge wall that's already caused much blight in the neighborhood.

“It adds more blight upon blight,” Portillo tells L.A. Weekly.

The newest development is another surprise Portillo and his neighbors didn't see coming.

Last year, Portillo and his neighbors were shocked when CIM Group built a towering wall for the Midtown Crossing shopping center at Venice and Pico boulevards that completely obliterated their backyard views of the Los Angeles basin and the Hollywood Hills.

The neighborhood people tried to stop it, but got no support from L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson, who represents them. The wall stayed.

Once that happened, the huge wall not only killed their views but created a kind of echo chamber, with the sounds of busy street traffic on Venice Boulevard reverberating off the wall and into their homes.

To add further insult to injury, the signage framing went up. Portillo immediately wrote an email to CIM Group and Councilman Wesson's office asking them what's going on.

Another view of signage framing at Midtown Crossing

Another view of signage framing at Midtown Crossing

He hasn't gotten a response, but Wesson's assistant chief deputy Edward Johnson tells the Weekly that CIM Group is perfectly within its rights.

“On-site signage or signs promoting businesses on-site are regulated and allowed by city laws,” Johnson writes in email. “Signage being built was approved by the city several years ago and the developer is now implementing that portion of those agreements.”

CIM Group representative Karen Diehl writes in an email to the Weekly that the developer “is in full compliance with all city of Los Angeles entitlements and has secured required permits for work at its Midtown Crossing retail center. This includes the current installation of framework for tenant signage.”

Legal or not, Portillo and his neighbors expected something very different to go up on the huge wall on Venice Boulevard.

This past spring, Portillo met with CIM Group representative Kathleen Kim at the L.A. Mayor's Office to discuss ways to mitigate the street noise created by the wall. The confab was brought together by Mid-City Neighborhood Council president Alan DiCastro and mayoral aide Fabiola Vilchez.

By the end of it, Portillo says, Kim promised to plant 40 Cypress trees on the Venice Boulevard median and to construct trellises on the huge wall so it would be covered with ivy. There was no mention of wall signage at the meeting, Portillo says.

A few months later, the trees were planted. The trellises, though, have not appeared. Instead, the large framing fixtures have gone up. Portillo's view of the Hollywood Hills will now be replaced with huge advertisements.

CIM Group “just runs wild,” says Portillo. “They are doing whatever they want to do… Our group is frustrated. We're trying to be helpful and understanding, and we get our faces rubbed into it all the time.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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