SpaceX Hawthorne | Green Line development

Amazon and SpaceX lose battle to fight Hawthorne residential project

The Green Line-adjacent project gained approval amid cries of corruption and corporate appeals

Crenshaw Boulevard and Jack Northrop Avenue with Mayor Alex Vargas and City Council Member Angie English (Credit: Google Maps, City of Hawthorne)

In a contentious meeting filled with accusations of corruption and a heated debate, the council voted 3-2 on Tuesday in favor of Blackwood Real Estate’s hotly-contested residential project on Crenshaw Boulevard at Jack Northrop Avenue, Daily Breeze reported.

Located a half a mile from the Green Line station, the 230-unit, six-story project falls outside of the scope of several zoning restrictions, so it needed council approval to pass. The proposed project includes fewer parking than the amount required by the zoning code and its apartments are smaller than the Municipal Code permits. Its proximity to a major transit hub, reduces its vehicle footprint, the developer argued.

But SpaceX and Amazon, which both have operations next door, were against the project from day one, and its other opponents argued that the neighborhood as whole is unfit for an apartment complex, citing constant noise from industrial operations. The area is better suited for aerospace and industrial uses, councilman Nilo Michelin argued.

But despite the concerns, the council ultimately voted in favor of the development — an unprecedented move that has some council members raising their eyebrows.

Mayor Alex Vergas accused councilwoman Angie English of “entering into unilateral negotiations with the developer.” In retaliation, English accused the mayor of collusion. She was also quick to point out the conflict of interest in the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.’s opposition to the deal. SpaceX, which is digging a test freeway tunnel underneath Crenshaw Boulevard, is a member of LAEDC. [DB] – Natalie Hoberman

Hawthorne approves SpaceX-adjacent apartment complex

A major apartment complex is on the way to Hawthorne after the city council approved plans for the mixed use project Tuesday in a contentious meeting that saw councilmembers arguing bitterly for and against the project.

The development is set to bring 230 apartments, along with 3,700 square feet of restaurant space, to the southeastern corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Jack Northrup Avenue. Just a half-mile from the Green Line, the project site is directly across the street from SpaceX and backs up against an Amazon shipping center.

Mayor Alex Vargas told the council that both companies had concerns about the project and asked that representatives from those companies be allowed to speak in a new public hearing session, though one had already been held in September.

Vargas suggested the new hearing would allow the council to consider lower density options for the project, which was initially proposed with 274 units of housing, as the Daily Breeze reports.

“Why not 200? Why not 150?” Vargas asked, suggesting that councilmembers had secretively contacted the project’s developer, Blackwood Real Estate, to reach a deal for the 230-unit version of the project.

Councilmember Angie Reyes English in turn accused the mayor, a former councilmember, SpaceX, and the city’s planning department of colluding “to trash this project.”

Eventually, the council voted 3-2 against reopening the public hearing.

“There is nothing left to discuss,” said Councilmember Olivia Valentine. “We have heard from all sides on this issue.”

In another 3-2 vote, the council approved the project, with Mayor Vargas and Councilmember Nilo Michelin casting the no votes.

Both the mayor and Michelin argued that the project was inappropriate for the area.

“We have an industrial zone and a residential zone,” said Michelin. “If we put a factory in the middle of a residential zone, it wouldn’t make any sense. Same thing if we put apartments right in the middle of an industrial zone.”

But Valentine argued that the transit-oriented development would bring housing and restaurant space in close proximity to a major train stop, paving the way for future commercial and residential development.

“If you don’t take a risk and make some changes, changes will not happen,” she said.

Hawthorne approves dense apartment building, rejects appeals from SpaceX and Amazon – Daily Breeze

A hotly divided Hawthorne City Council traded accusations of corruption, conflict and collusion Tuesday night before approving a dense apartment building that will share a corner with SpaceX, an Amazon delivery hub and other industry, despite strong opposition from those companies.

The council voted 3-2 to allow Blackwood Real Estate to erect 230 small apartments on Crenshaw Boulevard at Jack Northrop Avenue. The six-story project will occupy a rectangular 2.5-acre lot that will also include a restaurant and walking paths.

The so-called “Green Line” development, which needed waivers from the city because it violates several zoning restrictions, was sold as a modern, transit-oriented project by virtue of its location one-half mile from a Green Line station.

City Council supporters — Angie English, Haidar Awad and Olivia Valentine — also refused to allow a second public comment period to hear from representatives from Amazon, SpaceX and the railroad that runs directly behind the property who wanted to speak in opposition.

Mayor Alex Vargas and Councilman Nilo Michelin strongly opposed the development, and the city’s planning director raised several concerns about its incompatibility with city land uses. The project provides fewer parking spaces than the city normally requires, and apartments are smaller than Municipal Code allows. Residents there also will be subject to noise and emissions from the 24-hour industrial operations next to them.

“For me, change is not more apartments. It’s more aerospace companies,” Michelin said. “I was not elected to passively defend developers. We don’t need more apartments.”

Before the vote, council members accused one another of corruption.

Vargas said English’s proposal in September to reduce the apartment density from 274 units to 230 units was suspicious.

“Why are some council members entering into unilateral negotiations with the developer?” Vargas said. “We were prohibited from talking to the developer. Who chose that 230 number? Why not 150? Why not 80?”

English shot back: “Since (Vargas) put it out there, there’s a lot to be said. There’s also been collusion on his part. I want to know from the planning director how many times the mayor has been in contact with you. The bull has to stop.”

English also accused the nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. of unethical behavior for opposing the deal.

“There’s a conflict with LAEDC and SpaceX,” she said. “SpaceX is a member of LAEDC, so of course they would be here to benefit SpaceX. They’re colluding to make efforts to trash this project.”

Valentine also said she believes it’s “very suspicious” that SpaceX and the LAEDC were in opposition because “this (apartment building) will make the area attractive for commercial development.”

Lilian Haney, community relations manager at SpaceX, asked the council to reopen a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, saying the rocket maker is concerned about the safety of homes so close to its headquarters.

“We do not think this project proposed is correct for this space,” Haney said.

Judy Kruger, a director at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., said the city should declare the area an aerospace park rather than building housing in an industrial area.

“Industrial land is employment land, and a critical factor in growing an industry such as aerospace,” Kruger said. “Jobs in industrial parks support high-paying jobs. Industrial land availability rates around the region are only at 1 or 2 percent and we don’t need to lose any more industrial property.”

But supporters said Blackwood’s project is the kind of modern, forward-thinking development that Hawthorne needs.

Kyle Orlemann, vice chairwoman of the city’s veterans affairs commission, said she would like to move to a place like the Green Line project when she gets older.

“The city is changing and, yes, we have a lot of rental units here,” Orlemann said. However, we have a lot of traffic. The city is going to be a model where people live near where they work. (Renters there) can certainly walk to Lowe’s and that development and take cars off the street. Using public transportation is the way of the future.”

Dense apartment buildings are a particularly sore issue in the city because, in the 1970s and ’80s, developers concentrated such projects in the crime-ridden Moneta Gardens neighborhood.

“We do have a lot of apartments,” said Alex Monteiro, a principal of Moneta Gardens Improvement Inc. “We have 70 percent renters. We need more homes and condominiums for sale, not for rent.”

Resident Andrea Santana accused Awad of having a conflict of interest because his father, who operates a used-car dealership and financing business, owns undeveloped land in the city. She has previously brought up concerns about whether the Blackwood deal will open the door to similar lucrative deals involving dense  apartment buildings.

Awad responded that he will make his personal finances public.

“I am clean,” Awad said. “When you’re clean, you have no fear of what’s in the shadows.”

Hawthorne not ready to green-light dense apartment building near SpaceX, Amazon

An extremely dense apartment building proposed for a site near SpaceX’s rocket manufacturing headquarters and a new Amazon delivery hub in Hawthorne provoked passionate arguments from supporters and critics this week before city leaders sidestepped a final decision.

After residents debated the issue for an hour Tuesday night, the City Council decided to more thoroughly study the proposal before revisiting the project on Sept. 26

“Approval of this project would set a precedent which would open the door to other developers who will seek to obtain density similar to this project,” resident Andrea Santana said. “The complex would place 274 rental units on less than 3 acres of land. It would increase traffic and congestion along already congested Crenshaw Boulevard and 120th Street.”

Virginia-based Blackwood Real Estate argues that the development is a perfect example of the kind of transit-oriented housing development needed across the region. It would be on Crenshaw Boulevard between El Segundo Boulevard and 120th Street, just south of the 105 Freeway.

“This is the type of high-quality housing we’ve been waiting for,” said resident Jason Gromski. “This is resort-style living, transit-oriented, popular with young professionals. We shouldn’t be held to the sins of the past and hold ourselves down.”

‘More traffic’

The six-story apartment project would include one ground-level restaurant and a public plaza. But, among other diversions from city code, its commercial portion would be only 8 percent of the overall development rather than the 40 percent required for mixed-use developments.

“I hate to rain on the parade but I disagree with this project,” resident Leatrice Tanner Brown said. “Just consider there is going to be so much more traffic and so many more people here.”

Dubbed the Green Line Mixed-Use Project because it’s a half-mile from a Metro transit facility, the site also is walking distance to Hawthorne Municipal Airport, Target, Lowe’s, PetSmart, 9 to 5 Seating, and other commercial and industrial businesses. The rear abuts active railroad tracks and the Dominguez Channel.

“I’ve long said to members of this council that area needs some type of development and I welcome this project,” said the Rev. John Jefferson, pastor of Del Aire Baptist Church. “Our community needs a complete overhaul and makeover.”

SpaceX officials, however, said the industrial location is not suitable for housing.

“While we do believe there is an absolute need for affordable housing in the city of Hawthorne, we do not think that this specific site is the place for it,” said Brett Horton, SpaceX’s senior director of facilities and construction.


Amazon is now completing its delivery hub — a warehouse and shipping facility — at Crenshaw and El Segundo boulevards.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, whose district includes Hawthorne, Los Angeles International Airport, and Inglewood, sent a representative to express her support at the meeting.

“At this critical moment during our regional housing crisis, I applaud your vision in moving this project forward,” Burke wrote in a letter to council members. “Being less than one-half mile from Crenshaw Line station, projects like (this) allow for less vehicle traffic and more utilization of light-rail alternative transportation.”

New standards

The city’s Planning Commission approved the plan in July on a 3-1 vote.

But Planning Director Brian James has carefully outlined its dramatic changes from existing policy — triple the amount of density allowed, smaller unit sizes and balconies, reduced parking spaces and exposure to noise and odors from nearby industry.

“There’s been talk about a transit-oriented development,” James said. “These are basically employment or housing centers within walking distance of a transit station — it’s not just housing near transit. It can be jobs or a mixture. The goal is to increase mobility.

“The question you need to ask yourselves is: Is this project an acceptable trade-off for the loss of industrial-designated lands and the economic loss those represent,” James said.

Though the routine sounds of truck traffic, overhead aircraft, and trains aren’t the most welcoming neighbors, Blackwood officials said it’s the way of the future for dense urban areas.

“The arts district in Los Angeles is probably one of the most expensive places to rent in L.A. right now,” said Blackwood representative Gilad Ganish. “It’s a cool mix of restaurants, breweries, industrial, commercial, creative and residential. This is an area very similar in characteristics.”

But former Mayor Larry Guidi said all the round-the-clock trucking operations nearby would make for a terrible place to live.

“If you had any common sense, you would know that’s an industrial zone,” Guidi told the council. “SpaceX is against it. Our mozzarella factory has no interest in it. You need to stop it. You need to end it.”

Developer perks

To sweeten the deal, Blackwood has promised to pay for at least $100,000 in public art projects along Crenshaw, near the 105 Freeway. The company also said the project would generate $400,000 in city revenue annually and $11 million over 20 years.

New residents would be offered two years of free Metro passes and Zipcar car-sharing services. The address also would be a designated pick-up and drop-off zone for ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber.

“I would not be speaking against this project if it was (houses), but these are apartments,” said resident Mario Chiappe. “The problem we have here is mainly from high-density apartments. We have 82 police in this city. So what do you expect with this development?”

Councilwoman Angie English said the proximity to industry shouldn’t be a concern.

“If people are looking at the area for a potential lease or potential living, they would make their due diligence by looking at where they’re at with regard to the rail right next to them and any other issues,” English said. “I’m sure these people would know whether or not this is a fit for them.”

Dense 6-story apartment building adjacent SpaceX in Hawthorne gets initial OK

The Hawthorne Planning Commission has approved a six-story apartment building that would pack about 300 small apartments on less than 3 acres in a booming industrial area near the municipal airport.

The proposal flies in the face of zoning codes, placing hundreds of homes in the midst of heavy industrial operations. But the developer said its modern accommodations and proximity to public transit make sense for the region, and would be convenient for thousands of nearby workers.

The City Council will decide next month whether to move forward with Blackwood Real Estate’s request to override city zoning codes to erect the building at Crenshaw Boulevard and Jack Northrop Avenue, across the street from the SpaceX rocket manufacturing plant.

Planning Commissioner Mike Talleda, the lone dissenting vote Wednesday, said it’s too risky for a city already beset by parking and traffic problems. Commissioners approved the project on a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Pat Carey abstaining because he has a business in the area.

“It’s such a big project to put on such a small lot,” Talleda said. “Honestly, I don’t see it as a project that we need. And every building we have has an issue with parking. I don’t care how beautifully they present the case, there’s always a parking problem. If and when they do rebuild the (vacant Hawthorne Plaza) mall, that will do more to satisfy housing need.”

‘Resort-style, high-amenity living’

Residents packed City Hall with strong feelings both for and against the development. Many complained that traffic is already congested, and parking near impossible, in the area.

Others said it’s just what the city needs.

“I think this is the best thing that could ever happen to our city,” Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce President Pat Donaldson said. “I have spoken to over 700 employees at SpaceX who are ready to move in as soon as the project is complete. Over 230 businesses on Crenshaw, El Segundo, and Jack Northrop — and 127 residents in Holly Park — are in agreement and very happy to see this in our city.”

Directly to the north of SpaceX is Hawthorne Municipal Airport and commercial shopping areas.

SpaceX officials expressed early interest in the project in 2015, but have since pulled their support.

“Since (2015), we have significantly expanded our industrial manufacturing footprint immediately adjacent to this site,” said Brett Horton, SpaceX’s senior director of facilities and construction. “While we do believe there is an absolute need for affordable housing in the city of Hawthorne, we do not think that this specific site is the place for it.”


Just south of the location, an Amazon Fulfillment Center is preparing to open inside a cavernous 170,000-square-foot warehouse on Crenshaw and El Segundo boulevards. The facility will have a 24-hour truck-shipping operation and 55 loading bays.

But Blackwood Real Estate representative Michael Jenkins said the housing project fits well into the fabric of the city.

The development would cater to “Hawthorne residents who are looking for move-up, resort-style, high-amenity living (and) executives who want to take advantage of the proximity to the airport,” Jenkins said. “Just at SpaceX alone, at least 1,500 people would want to live right across the street from where they work.”

Planners have concerns

Planning Director Brian James described a litany of problems with the development on Wednesday night.

“They want to change the land use to accommodate a project that allows unique standards that would result in a project that’s not currently allowed,” James said. “They also want to write their own zoning code for this property, with unique standards for density, parking, unit sizes and height.”

James also pointing to worries about limited parking, excessive industrial noise that could annoy residents, and an adjacent railroad. He also said it would set a precedent for this type of development, allowing others to do the same throughout the city.

Blackwood officials want to provide 450 parking spots for a project that the city would require about 750 spaces.

‘High-density rentals’

Reuben Sanchez, president of the North Hawthorne Community Association, said he was asked for support from Blackwood officials, and offered a donation, but refused.

“Let’s be truthful about this project — this is high-density rentals,” Sanchez said. “We don’t want any high-density rentals. We have empty, beautiful condos that could be rented by SpaceX workers, and beautiful other areas where they could purchase as well.”

But Planning Commissioner Rula Alshanableh said she loves the concept.

“I feel that it’s a beautiful design that’s going to attract a lot of young professionals,” Alshanableh said. “They don’t want the commitment of having to buy. Millennials are the future, and they are environmentally correct. My son doesn’t want to buy a car. They want to be using something that’s more green. So I think it would be a great addition to the city.”

New SpaceX-adjacent dense apartment development in Hawthorne up for initial approval

A dense mixed-use project that could provide hundreds of housing units for employees of SpaceX on a lot near the Hawthorne rocket manufacturing plant will be considered Wednesday night by the city Planning Commission.

Planning commissioners will accept public comment on the Blackwood Real Estate bid to erect 305 apartments and a restaurant on a 2.5-acre lot when the hearing starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 4455 W. 126th St.

City leaders haven’t endorsed the densely packed development on the southeast corner of Jack Northrop Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard. The plan, which mostly calls for studio and one-bedroom apartments but includes a few dozen two-bedroom units, was sent to the Planning Commission without a recommendation to either approve or deny.

The six-level project, not far from a Metro Green Line park-and-ride facility, would share a corner with a liquor store, two gas stations and a small retail strip.

SpaceX’s director of construction and real estate, Bruce A. McHugh, said the fast-growing rocket builder could use new local accommodations.

“SpaceX supports Blackwood’s development project,” McHugh wrote in a letter to the city. “The benefits for SpaceX would be corporate housing, housing for our interns and employees, along with possible added amenities of a gym and a restaurant.”

But packing that many apartments in such a small area could pose a challenge for a city already contending with traffic and parking problems.

Blackwood, however, completed an environmental study of the potential impacts and has proposed mitigations. The company plans to build 450 parking spaces, in addition to the project’s proximity to public transit.

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also threw his support to Blackwood.

“I feel this project is the type of forward-thinking effort that will strongly benefit the residents and businesses of the city of Hawthorne,” Ridley-Thomas wrote in a letter to the city. “The project’s proximity to the Metro Green Line will further strengthen the expanding regional transportation network, while also increasing the supply of quality housing to serve the growing workforce in the tech, health care, bioscience and aerospace industries.”

Homicide suspect in Hawthorne officer-involved shooting streamed shootout on Facebook


Authorities said a homicide suspect streamed a shootout he was involved in with Los Angeles police officers in Hawthorne on Facebook Live Thursday.
Detectives were serving search warrants against four suspected gang members wanted in a March 31 homicide around 10 a.m. A multi-agency task force conducted a stakeout near 117th and Avalon streets when they became aware of one of the suspects driving a vehicle in the area.

Authorities said a short chase happened and then ended at the intersection of Aviation and El Segundo boulevards. Hawthorne police officers aided LAPD officers in the chase and Chief Charlie Beck said he believed some Hawthorne police were involved in the subsequent officer involved shooting.

At some point, the suspect exited his vehicle armed with a handgun and appeared to be holding his cellphone and streaming on Facebook with his other hand.

In the video, you can see the suspect holding a handgun and walking toward what appear to be the officers. As the suspect is walking and talking, you can hear helicopters in the area.

Near the end of the video, gunshots are heard and the suspect yells, “They’re about to kill me…they got me.”

The suspect drops the phone and the Facebook Live ends.

During the shootout, an LAPD officer was shot in the hip. The officer, who has been with the department for 20 years, was taken to the hospital and is listed in stable condition.

The suspect was in serious condition, according to the LAPD. He was expected to be booked for murder in connection with the March 31 killing, as well as for attempted murder in Thursday’s shooting.

A witness at the scene, Cory Seubert, said he was driving in the area when he witnessed the firefight. He took some video of the incident, but quickly left for fear of his safety.

(Copyright ©2017 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Hawthorne middle-school girls get unique SpaceX visit

It’s rare to get a tour of SpaceX’s rocket-making Hawthorne headquarters, let alone one-on-one chats with its engineers.

But some Hawthorne middle-school girls who got just such an invitation recently were in awe of the work being done in their neighborhood.

“It was pretty surreal,” 13-year-old Bella Freire said. “Usually, you see rockets in magazines but not up-close and personal. Seeing people work on them is amazing. It makes me feel really small.”

A new volunteer group of female SpaceX employees — the 300-member SpaceX Women’s Network — welcomed Freire and two dozen other Prairie Vista Middle School students on a Saturday afternoon this month for some lessons on engineering and tips about life.

The company offers some local high school internship opportunities and school tours, but is otherwise usually off-limits.

The visit was organized in recognition of International Women in Engineering Day, which is Friday.

Too few women in field

“Because you have few women in this field, we’re trying to empower women to be vocal for themselves and have confidence in their technical abilities,” said Damaris Toepel, the lead integration and test engineer for SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. “In all of the positions I’ve held, it was very common for me to be the only female in the room and, sometimes, I would hold myself back from speaking.”

Toepel founded the volunteer Women’s Network a year ago. She hoped to empower females at the company, which — like many other tech and aerospace companies — is dominated by male workers.

One of the students who attended their first community-education event, Daniela Jimenez, 14, said she has an A in science at Prairie Vista but hadn’t considered a career as an engineer.

“I’m more interested in engineering now. Before, I wouldn’t have thought of doing it in my future life,” Jimenez said. “It was pretty interesting to go and see them build these incredible things that go up to space.”

SpaceX moved to Hawthorne as a startup company in 2008, and now is an established global leader in commercial space exploration. Its Dragon spacecraft was the first commercial space-transport vessel to dock at the International Space Station in 2012.

On to Mars

Now, the company is putting the finishing touches on a craft that can ferry astronauts to orbit and, ultimately, land on Mars.

During their visit, the Prairie Vista students took apart and investigated everyday electronics like phones and cameras, built toy solar-powered cars, and assembled circuit boards.


Freire said she enjoyed doing hands-on work with the engineers. Even though it sounds “kinda cheesy,” she said she was inspired by what she saw and heard.

“I was expecting them to be nerds, but they’re just like us,” she said. “One of the SpaceX girls reminded me of myself, and she was able to go to college and do engineering, and build a race car. That was pretty cool.”

Students got to take home their creations to tell their families about what they learned.

Toepel said she hoped to inspire young women in the way she was inspired by former NASA aerospace engineer and astronaut Susan Helms.

“Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to become an astronaut,” Toepel said. “When they’d send a crew up, I’d sit there watching the Earth rotate in complete awe. Susan Helms became my mentor growing up because I thought: ‘There’s nothing special about her. I can do what she’s doing.’ ”

SpaceX plans second Hyperloop competition for August in Hawthorne

Ready to geek out on futuristic mass-transit prototype vehicles?

SpaceX just announced that 24 teams of university engineering and business students will compete to build the fastest Hyperloop pod in the second competition of its kind outside its Hawthorne headquarters.

The races will take place Aug. 25-27 along Jack Northrop Avenue, where a nearly 1-mile-long vacuum-sealed tube was built last year to test the pods.

“Hyperloop Pod Competition II will focus on a single criterion: maximum speed,” SpaceX officials said in a statement Friday. “The competition’s goal is to accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage innovation by challenging teams to design and build the best high-speed pod.”

Participants in this competition include UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, CSU Sacramento, Purdue University, University of Texas at Austin, Colorado School of Mines, Princeton University, Virginia Tech and others around the country and world.

Twenty-seven teams took place in the first Hyperloop pod-design competition in January.

The fastest pod, built by Technical University of Munich, reached only 55 mph — far less than the goal of 300-700 mph. Other winners were Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While SpaceX is hosting the competition, it’s not participating in the development of new Hyperloop technologies at all. Instead, CEO Elon Musk is providing support to help develop the technology he introduced in a 2013 white paper that described the basic principles of thrusting passenger pods through tubes at supersonic speeds.

Companies such as Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are developing the technology for commercial use.

SpaceX helps Hawthorne draw Porsche, Urth Caffe, Marriott and more

Lindsay Smith’s haunting, magnified snapshots of bark, insects and birds compete for space in her small Hawthorne art studio with salvage tools and industrial equipment.

The studio is inside a cavernous warehouse built in 1957 for the region’s defense industry.

Some of its most recent tenants were electronics and tire recyclers, but now it’s a haven for emerging fine artists whose paintings, sculptures and photographs adorn the freshly painted, milky-white walls.

Fifty more art studios will be added to the 25 existing ones by next year, and the clanking and whirring of construction is near-constant.

“It’s really an amazing story about a building that could have gone the other way and just been offices or something,” said Smith, who lives in Gardena. “We’re right down the street from SpaceX and a new brewery. It’s so up and coming. I think Hawthorne itself is trying very hard to elevate and develop and grow. I think it’s really the happening place.”

Los Angeles Ale Works, the city’s first brewery, opened last month in eyeshot of the Hawthorne Arts Complex. Two brews — Space XPA and Space XPA Full Thrust — are named in honor of nearby SpaceX headquarters, where a 16-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket booster stands outside as a testament to the commercial spaceflight company’s groundbreaking achievements.

Since coming to the city in 2008, SpaceX has helped buoy new eateries in a downtown that was struggling to attract upscale tenants. Eureka! Tasting Kitchen and Flights Beer Bar are now doing bustling business.

But that was just the beginning. Today, city planners are busily fielding calls from interested developers.

“Every couple of days, I get calls from folks who want to do projects here,” said Brian James, the city’s newly hired planning director. “It’s been constant the last two months.”

The signs of renaissance in a town that has fallen on tough economic times are sprouting everywhere.

A second brewery and tasting room with an outdoor patio, Common Space Brewery, is in the works at 3411 W. El Segundo Blvd.

Urth Caffe, an upscale organic coffee and tea house that serves breakfast and lunch, plans to open later this year on Hawthorne Boulevard and 145th Street.

Newly renovated India Tandoori restaurant and a 99 Cents Only Store reopened this month on Hawthorne Boulevard. Also, Little Asia restaurant is under construction at 4624 Imperial Highway.

This year, a Porsche dealership replaced a Nissan facility that moved to Torrance. Subaru also took over a former Fiat dealership — adding a dog park to its facility because, as City Manager Arnie Shadbehr said, “Subaru is known for having a dog-friendly atmosphere.”


And business travelers visiting SpaceX and other local companies will soon find newly built hotel rooms to stay close to work when they’re in town.

Marriott is building two hotels where the city’s old police station used to stand, next to City Hall off Hawthorne Boulevard at 126th Street. The new properties, a 221-room Courtyard Marriott and a 133-room TownePlace Suites extended-stay franchise, will open next year. A standalone restaurant on the property has not yet been named.

In January, the city also approved a new 88-room Best Western Premier hotel at 11501 Acacia Ave. Next door, Hampton Inn is expanding its 87-room hotel by another 41 rooms.

The city’s growth isn’t just a reflection of SpaceX’s success. City Hall is stable after years of political corruption, staffing upheavals and a financial hardship.

Since taking over City Hall in 2015, Shadbehr has worked quickly to reverse a devastating budget deficit left by the city’s prior leadership. Former City Manager Michael Goodson worked with then-Mayor Chris Brown to secretly exacerbate a structural deficit during their tenure. They spent heavily on travel and other nonessential items and handed their friends high-paid City Hall jobs.

The new administration already has made progress with the long-vacant Hawthorne Plaza mall. Development of a portion of the site is already in progress after more than a decade of standstill.

“We’ve been working to bring the city of Hawthorne back on track where it should be,” Mayor Alex Vargas said. “I think people are confident now they can come here and not worry about doing pay-to-play (politics) or people shaking them down.”

Vargas said that, since taking office in late 2015, he has worked to bring consensus on the City Council and support qualified staffing hires at City Hall.

“Without bringing order to your house and creating a welcoming environment, you can’t bring economic prosperity,” Vargas said. “Hawthorne is defining itself. Have we fully defined ourselves at this point? No. I’ll say it again: We’re doing things by the book, the way we should be. And truly just doing the people’s business. There’s so much room to grow.”

At Hawthorne Arts Complex, about two dozen artists filter in past the new native plant garden throughout the day to work in their various media. Traditionally painted landscapes and portraits share space with modern graffiti artists, sculptors, and abstract acrylic paintings on glass.

Lindsay Smith typically does photography but has drawn a lot of inspiration from her industrial Hawthorne surroundings. She and artist Stephanie Kohler of Redondo Beach collected discarded pieces from the warehouse’s old tenants. They’re using the tools, air-conditioning components and various equipment in a joint project making unique, rust-colored designs.

“There are 12 shades of rust,” Kohler said. “It’s a chemical reaction. If I use green tea, I get more of a camo-ish color. Hibiscus tea is more purple. Each one is different, depending on how long you leave it, the temperature, and what you have it interact with.”

Kohler and Smith wrap the old equipment with muslin and soak it in the different liquids to create unusual colors and patterns.

“The purpose of art is to make the invisible visible,” Smith said. “To allow us to look at things more deeply and closely and experience the surprise.”