By Aaron Blevins, 4/04/2013
Plan calls for large towers near the Capitol Records building
The Millennium project, a proposed 1.1 million-square-foot development in Hollywood, has cleared the city’s Planning Commission and is now headed to the Los Angeles City Council.
The project, which has no final design, could add two towers in Hollywood that would be 44 and 52 stories high, respectively. The commission on March 28 approved it by a 6-0 vote. Commission president William Roschen did not vote, having worked as a consultant on the project.
“This project is a key piece of the redevelopment puzzle in Hollywood,” said Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Leron Gubler. “It is a prime parcel surrounding a very beloved structure in Hollywood.”
Indeed, the developers plan to incorporate the Capitol Records in the overall plan, which calls for almost 500 residential units, 200 luxury hotel rooms, 25,000 square feet of office space, 35,000 square feet of restaurant space, 40,000 square feet for a sports club, 15,000 square feet of retail and about 2,000 parking spots on a site that is just over four acres.
While the chamber has not taken a position on the project’s height, which could be twice as large as any structure in Hollywood, Gubler said the proposed site is currently not “pedestrian- or public-friendly.”
“This project will help to activate that entire area,” he added.
Gubler said the developers — Millennium Partners and Argent Ventures — have a proven track record and are capable of creating a signature project for the 21st Century for Hollywood. He said the chamber is pleased that the site is near a major transit center.
“This is where development needs to be concentrated,” Gubler said. “It’s important to get the right project at the right location.”
He said the approval by the planning department “says a lot.” However, two of the area’s councilmen, Tom LaBonge and Eric Garcetti, have expressed concerns about the Millennium project, and Gubler said those issues will need to be worked out.
“We will see what happens there,” he said.
Prior to the vote, Garcetti released a statement to the planning commission, saying that he did not believe the project would complement the area.
“I do 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,” Garcetti said. “I look forward to working closely with my colleague Tom LaBonge, community groups and residents to assess other options at this site with the developer that would continue the progress we have seen in Hollywood in recent years.”
In a previous interview, LaBonge said any project over 29 stories would “cast a different feel to historic Hollywood.”
“I think if we had a super high-rise, it would overwhelm the neighborhood,” he said.
The councilmen are not alone. Six entities, mostly neighborhood associations, filed appeals to challenge the planning commission ruling. Their appeals were denied.
George Abrahams, president of the Argyle Civic Association and the director of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association, both of which filed appeals, said he was not surprised by the planning commission’s vote.
“We expected it because the mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa) is a great believer in the concept of transit-oriented development,” he said. “That is actually the heart of our objection.”
Abrahams said that no matter how many concepts officials throw at transit-oriented development, it is still a failed planning model. He said people will simply move away from congested areas.
“There’s a disincentive for mass transit, just on economics,” Abrahams said, citing a handful of cities that have abandoned transit-oriented legislation.
While the organizations disagree with the model as a whole, their members’ opposition has several “technical aspects,” such as increased traffic congestion, pollution, artificially inflated housing prices and the loss of the area’s competitive workforce, he said.
While some have expressed worry that the project will further impact emergency response times, Abrahams said police and fire response is really contingent upon the city’s spending priorities.
He said the organizations were “very dissatisfied” with the project’s environmental impact report, and they are concerned that the developers are not beholden to any one particular project. Abrahams said the developers are pursuing variances for parking restrictions, height restrictions and the allowable floor to area ratio.
“None of that actually specifies how the project will be configured,” Abrahams added. “There’s no actual design that he’s being held too. It could just be like an ugly box.”
He said the groups plan to fight the project until they exhaust their legal recourse options.
“If it goes through the city council, then we go to court and we fight them on the CEQA violations,” Abrahams said. “We’ll just fight it all the way to the end. Hopefully the city council will see the light. Sometimes they don’t.”
The developers, though, were pleased to have the project pass the planning commission unanimously, saying that it was gratifying to hear expressions of support reflected in the planning commission’s vote.
“We spent a long time crafting our plans for a transit-oriented, mixed-use development with the guiding principle being to honor and preserve the Capitol Records Tower,” Philip Aarons, of Millennium Partners, said. “By adding a mix of complementary uses to the surface parking lots surrounding this iconic building, including residences, a boutique hotel, office space, exciting new community-serving retail and dynamic open space, we will create an enhanced destination at the most famous intersection in the world, Hollywood and Vine. Based on the testimony we heard expressed at [the] hearing, it is clear that many others in the community, along with L.A. business leaders and organized labor, share our vision of what Hollywood can and should be.”