A Real Hollywood Flop

Posted on March 28, 2013
Filed Under Culture, Greed, Main, Politics | Leave a Comment

Developers of The Millennium Project in Hollywood are proposing to build two 50+ story twin skyscrapers — one on each side of the 12-story historic Capitol Records Building. It is designed to have over 400 apartments, 100,000 sq. feet of office space, as well as restaurants, sports center, a 200 room hotel, and retail space. An additional adjacent 14 story hotel being developed by someone else will further fill the skyline. This project will not improve Hollywood — it will just put more money into the pockets of developers, hedge fund managers, and the coffers of old-boy politicos (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who needs funds for future political endeavors, and Los Angeles City councilmembers, who always need money for re-election campaigns — or to run for mayor). What it will do is further congest Hollywood’s streets, destroy Hollywood’s skyline, ravage parking, and adversely impact existing stores and businessss (a 38-month construction timetable will foul the air with dirt and truck exhaust, pock-mark the streets with rutholes from the giant vehicles, and worsen traffic congestion).

Here are six good reasons why this should be stopped. Read them and then sign the petition to stop this folly:

1. The height of the buildings will be more than 3x the Historic Scale designation for the high-rises in Hollywood. Except for these, new high-rises in Hollywood are all complying with the Historic Scale of 150 feet.

2. In an already congested area, the impact due to increased traffic both during the lengthy construction period and once built will be huge. Developers say they are unable to mitigate the traffic problems on the two key east-west streets or around the freeway ramps.

3. The buildings only allocate parking spaces for the apartments but not for the 100,000 square feet of office space or the restaurants and retail areas.

4. Transformation of the Hollywood skyline.

5. Blocking of the Hollywood sign from various city locations.

6. No planning for any additions to infrastructure, water, police or fire.

7. Approval of the Millennium Project as presented does not lock them into executing exactly what they are proposing.

Below is a recent editorial (March 28) from the Los Angeles Times:

On Thursday, the city’s planning commission is likely to consider a development proposal that will affect the lives of everyone who lives in Hollywood or passes through it on the Hollywood Freeway, one of the most congested in the nation.

The 1.1-million-square-foot development, Millennium Hollywood, would be twice the size of the Los Angeles Convention Center and allow a tower nearly 600 feet high, vastly out of proportion with today’s Hollywood. Its boosters say it would provide jobs, stimulate business, lure thousands of new tourists and “reinvigorate” Hollywood. The developers, a New York hedge fund and an owner of the land under Grand Central Station, are asking for an unprecedented 22-year contract to build out the sites just north of Hollywood and Vine.

Unprecedented too is the fact that, while the city sees this development as Hollywood’s future, there is no final design. We don’t know what it will look like or even what it will contain. The proposal includes more than four acres of high-rise luxury condos, offices, bars, boutique hotel rooms, restaurants and a vast fitness center, all encased in private towers so tall they will dwarf its centerpiece, the Capitol Records building. Slabs of Hollywood sky will be parceled out for private resale, and hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt and debris will be hauled through city streets and onto the Hollywood Freeway for disposal.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has fully embraced this vision for Hollywood, insists the whole thing will be so well served by public transportation that it will wean people from driving and contribute to his ambitious goal of moving people onto public transit. This kind of wishful thinking is what has allowed the city and project developers to assert, improbably, that the Millennium Project will have little impact on traffic, health, safety, roads and neighborhoods. The assertion is particularly specious when considered in light of the 57 other city-approved projects slated for Hollywood. If you’ve driven in Hollywood lately, you know how bad things have gotten. Do we really think massive new development will help that?

Caltrans, meanwhile, has formally notified the city that its traffic studies are inadequate and that the agency has strong doubts about findings that there will be “no significant impact” on the nearby Hollywood Freeway. It has also warned that the project could create dangerous driving conditions.

The environmental impact reports for the projects collectively run thousands of pages, with grids, appendices and an alphabet-soup of acronyms. But, for all the civic promises that this frenzied development will ensure Hollywood’s future, many of us are not convinced.

“We have no idea what will be built, except that it will likely be massive,” wrote Manatt, Phelps & Phillips attorney Victor de la Cruz, who represents the AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts, which occupies a campus of restored old buildings that will now be bisected by a staging area for what developers estimate will be 38 months of construction.

He goes on to note that the development agreement “allows different parts of the project site to be sold to different developers who may choose to build something that bears no real resemblance to the concept plan. This is all the more shocking given that the development agreement also provides that no subsequent approvals/environmental review would be required for any subsequent build-out of the project.”

A Hollywood resident for 28 years, I started looking at this project almost two years ago, when I heard about it almost by accident. Since then, I’ve come to see it as an outgrowth of a perfect civic compost: a city budget crisis, mayoral politics, an understaffed newspaper stretched too thin to fully scrutinize the project and New York developers who specialize in “public-private partnerships.”

I have also come to understand that while the city insists it wants to preserve local neighborhoods, its insistence on removing public parking from central Hollywood will make it impossible for those who already live nearby to take advantage of the “vibrant” new Hollywood.

The traffic analysis embraced by the developer doesn’t answer many crucial questions, including those affecting our access to police and fire protection. What happens on summer nights when the Hollywood Bowl draws 18,000 people to the neighborhood and Hollywood Boulevard’s bar patrons spill out into the street. And what kind of absurd math allows developers to claim that this project will require only two new police officers and no update of already substandard Fire Department response times?

The developer is in an understandable hurry to have the project approved while a supportive councilman (Eric Garcetti) and an enthusiastic mayor (Villaraigosa) are still in place. But some 40 neighborhood organizations oppose it. We think other Angelenos would agree with us if they understood the project.

Garcetti: A March 28 Op-Ed said that Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti was supportive of the Millennium Hollywood development proposal. He had not at that time taken a position. On Thursday, he issued a statement that he does not “support the project as it is currently envisioned because the proposed height is out of scale with the Hollywood landscape and does not have a broad enough level of support throughout the community.”

Laurie Becklund, a former Times staff writer, is a senior fellow of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.


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