Tony Richman loves Studio City.
In fact, upon retiring, he downsized by selling his Studio City house and moved to Laguna Beach—but he lasted only six months there.
He owns business real estate in Studio City, so he found himself coming back to his old stomping grounds a lot.
“I was walking down Ventura Boulevard visiting, and people were saying ‘Hi’ and then I went into Art’s Deli and all my friends were coming over to talk and I thought, ‘This is home why did I leave?’ “ recalled Richman. So, he and his wife Judy moved to a condo and became Studio City residents again.
Now, at 71, Richman is busier than ever, having taken over as president of the Studio City Improvement Association, the only business improvement district in Studio City, which helps make improvements in the heart of the business area.
He is taking over the job from his close friend Ray Franco, who is retiring and led the Studio City Improvement Association through some major events in the area, including tree trimming, alley paving and a movie screening on the rooftop of a Studio City parking lot.
“It will be hard to fill Ray’s shoes, but I do want to be better about getting the word out to let people know what we do,” said Richman, sitting for an interview with Studio City Patch at Du-par’s Restaurant.
The Studio City Improvement Association runs a specific area that includes Ventura Boulevard from Carpenter to Whitsett avenues, Ventura Place between Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards, Radford Avenue between Ventura and Valleyheart Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard just north and south of Ventura Boulevard. The property owners in the area are assessed a special tax that gives them about $250,000 to spend on the area.
“We’re not very good at telling people what we do,” Richman repeated. He ticked off a list.
The money goes to:
- Trash removal, median maintenance, weeding, tree trimming, watering and sidewalk pressure washing;
- Sidewalk sweeping and gutter cleaning;
- Alley repaving (south of Ventura between Whitsett and Rhodes avenues)
- School marketing program that distributes $26,500 to area schools. The schools benefitting are Carpenter Community Charter, Walter Reed Middle School, Colfax Elementary and Studio City Co-op Preschool.
“I have a lot of friends who are property owners and pay the special tax on their bills and they don’t have any idea what we do,” Richman said. “They think the city takes care of all this stuff, and the reality is that the area wouldn’t look like the way it does if we left it up to the city alone.”
That doesn’t mean that they don’t have to deal with the city permits and delays that usually falls in the hands of their executive director Lorena Parker, who has an office on the CBS Studio Center Radford lot.
In her most recent report to the board, Parker said, “Due to the long time it takes to plan, design and obtain permits, the SCIA will not execute a project in 2013.”
It’s the Improvement Association that also put out the tiles of the movies in the area that commemorate TV shows and movies shot at the Radford lot, the largest employer in the area.
Richman has been involved for six years in the Improvement Association and he said he is delighted that it has such a mix of young business owners and longtimers. There are members like Art Ginsburg of Art’s Deli who has one of the oldest businesses in Studio City, and Mikayel Israyelyan of Romanov’s one of the hottest nightclubs in the area.
“We have a good mix, and no one is out for just ‘me’ in this group,” Richman said. “It’s a pretty vital mix.”
Richman said that he regrets that the Studio City Holiday Parade “died under its own weight” and was shuffled to different organizations to try to put it on. Permits and business complaints ended up changing the community event to a holiday festival that the Studio City Residents Association spearheads with funding from the SCIA and the Studio City Neighborhood Council.
Today, the issues around the area include broken parking meters and also more of a connection to City Councilman Paul Krekorian’s office.
Richman’s family came from Detroit. His father was in the dry cleaning business and Tony went to Los Angeles High School. He got a job in the family business providing linens—such as towels, uniforms, grill cleaning cloth—to companies such as hotels, hospitals and studios. He worked there 35 years until his family business was bought out by a bigger company.
In 1964, he married Judy Harriet Spiegelman, an original Mouseketeer who made movies with Bing Crosby and Debbie Reynolds and had a vibrant singing career.
Richman couldn’t afford to buy a house on the Westside, but he discovered the Valley, moved to Sherman Oaks and in 1971 bought a house in Studio City.
“Then, when I retired, I could move anywhere, and we looked all over, in Hancock Park, the Westside, everywhere, and we just kept coming back to Studio City,” Richman said.
They love that they can walk to the Studio City Farmers Market, or their favorite sushi place (Teru Sushi) or a number of their favorite eateries.
“I like that it’s kept village-y,” Richman said. “I do tend to fall on the side of making live easer for business expansion and growing the opportunities for businesses, but I understand the balance that is needed.”
Parking is a problem, of course. And, being a condo owner now, he does see that having condominium and apartment complexes in the area is a necessity to some extent, even though Studio City is known for its smaller, quaint homes.
He worked long ago with city councilman Joel Wachs, and with Wendy Greuel when she was a city council member. He said that filling potholes and fixing graffiti were issues they had to deal with even then.
“We are doing a lot of work people think the city is doing or should be doing, but that is not the reality,” Richman said. “This year, I’ll be spending a lot of time educating people about what we do.”
The bi-monthly (every two months) meetings are generally held on the first Monday of the month and are opened to all. A light snack is usually available.
The meeting on March 4 is at 5 p.m. at the CBS Studio Center Radford lot, Mack Sennett Building, Room 112. Click here for meeting details and the agenda.