By Aaron Blevins, 6/21/2012
Opponents Vow to File Lawsuit
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to the approve the Hollywood Community Plan, an update to the 1988 plan that has been at least seven years in the making.
The plan seeks to guide development in Hollywood, while maintaining historic structures and neighborhoods. It also aims to add green space and offer transportation options to reduce the use of automobiles. However, height restrictions and the data that serves as the foundation for the plan have made it highly controversial.
“It is about time that we begin to develop a process that speaks to how the community wants to define itself in this area,” City Councilman Ed Reyes, 1st District, said.
He said the plan will provide an understanding of the notion of compatibility in regards to building projects in Hollywood. Currently, with existing entitlements, developers could build high structures and buildings that are out of character for the area, Reyes said.
“If it was not for this current community plan, many of those structures would be able to be built,” he said, referencing the plan’s protections to historic buildings and “pocket” neighborhoods. “It’s about balance. It’s about approaching how we can address our priorities.”
Councilman Eric Garcetti, 13th District, said the state of Hollywood in 1988, when the plan was last updated, is vastly different than it is now. He said the plan should address residents’ concerns while bettering Hollywood.
“This shouldn’t be a reflection … of the things we fear, but the things we hope for as well,” Garcetti said. “What we want right now is to stop being defenseless.”
He said certain areas of Hollywood, such as Hollywood Boulevard, currently have no height restrictions. No official document accounts for pedestrians and bicyclists either, Garcetti said.
Opponents have stated that the plan benefits area developers and is based upon inaccurate population figures from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Garcetti said the plan is to accommodate for potential growth.
“It’s to make sure that we plan for the option [that], if growth occurs, we aren’t flat-footed like we were twenty or thirty years ago,” he said. “It doesn’t mean growth has to come.”
The council allowed 20 speakers from both sides of the issue to speak for one minute. Opponents voiced concerns about the SCAG figures, historic preservation, traffic and tourism impacts, and height limits.
Susan Polifronio, of the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council, said the organization is not anti-growth, though its members believe more could be done to protect historic elements in Hollywood. She said it was puzzling that the height restrictions would only cover the areas from Ivar Avenue to the Hollywood (101) Freeway.
“We really do want a Hollywood that works for all of us,” Polifronio said.
Forty-year Hollywood resident Jim Van Dusen said the increased density created by the plan would result in more traffic while driving businesses and the entertainment industry out. He advised the council to send it back to the planning department so that it could be based on accurate data with a “downsize-able alternative.”
“It is the wrong plan, the wrong place and the wrong time,” Van Dusen said.
Resident Terri Gerger also voiced her displeasure with the way the plan outlined height restrictions.
“It is inconsistent to acknowledge the uniqueness of Hollywood and then allow unlimited height that would dwarf exiting historic structures,” she said. “We should maintain a reasonable scale and height in Hollywood.”
Opponents are also worried that Hollywood’s existing infrastructure and its police and fire departments cannot handle increased density. Whitley Heights resident Jim Geoghan referenced a film premiere on Hollywood Boulevard on Monday that delayed traffic.
“If you had a heart attack last night, if you had a fire, you were out of luck,” he said.
While some argued that the population data was flawed and that the area is losing population, Hollywood Dell resident Joan Ehrlich questioned whether increased density and a development guide is necessary. She said there is ample office space in the area.
“There are blocks and blocks and blocks of empty office buildings in Hollywood,” Ehrlich added.
Supporters lauded the plan’s inclusion of Hollywood’s transportation options, which were not operational in 1988. They were also pleased that the plan included additional green space, pedestrian amenities and affordable living options.
David Ambroz, of the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council, said the plan is “great work” that has been vetted by many meetings. He said opponents are focusing on the heart of Hollywood and not the surrounding areas.
“This is more than just about Hollywood and Vine,” Ambroz said, adding that he believes any issues could be resolved through thoughtful dialogue.
Steven Whiddon, of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council, who was one of several proponents to use public transportation to attend the meeting, said the plan will help achieve the city’s goal of reducing congestion.
“I think it would be irresponsible to not plan density along the transportation corridor rather than adding to traffic congestion,” he said.
Whiddon also said that, despite the opponents’ argument that the SCAG data is flawed, more than 1,000 apartments have been constructed in Hollywood since the 2010 Census, 91 percent of which are occupied.
Three representatives from area nonprofit organizations, the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA, the Blessed Sacrament Church and People Assisting the Homeless, spoke in favor of the project, saying that the plan will offer additional resources to its clients — namely green space, affordable housing and more access to education.
Beth Marlis, the vice president of the Musicians Institute, said 24,000 college and trade school students attend courses in Hollywood. She said the plan encourages diverse retail, affordable housing and entertainment amenities.
“This plan will create more green space, bike lanes; safer, more walkable streetscapes and alleys,” Marlis said. “It protects our legacy of historic architecture and neighborhoods. …This is human-scale development, and it’s what our students deserve.”
Planning officials said the plan includes a discretionary process for structures more than 50,000 square feet. Major project conditional use structures that are more than 100,000 square feet will require a hearing and planning commission approval.
While the plan has been seven years in the making, the city council’s approval may spur legal action. Opponents have stated throughout the process that they would sue if the council approved the plan, and that was echoed on Tuesday.
“I’m sorry that we have to see you in court to get justice,” resident Rosemary De Monte said.