You Can Fight City Hall

DSC01449Okay. I’m in shock right now. I just read that the City Planning Commission approved the Millennium Hollywood project. I attended the meeting on Thursday, listened to the developers, the attorneys, union reps and residents talk about the project for hours. I left some time after two, feeling certain that the Commission would not approve the plan in its current form.

That shows you how naive I am. I just read the LA Times article stating that the Commission voted unanimously to approve this insane assault on the Hollywood landscape. At the meeting on Thursday I was thrilled to hear a representative from Eric Garcetti’s office say that the councilman had decided he couldn’t back the development in its current form. Now I’m thinking this was just political posturing, since Garcetti’s running for mayor and he knows how angry people are about the project.

I came up with the title for this post after I left the meeting, thinking the Commission was going to withhold approval. After reading the Times article, I debated changing it, since my initial reaction was that the city does what it wants no matter how many people show up to protest. But I believe we can still win this fight. The project has many problems, the biggest of which is that Millennium’s proposal does not actually outline what it is they’re going to build. They can’t even say how many residential units, how much office space, what kind of retail they’re proposing. They just want the city to grant them carte blanche to build whatever they want to. As many people pointed out at Thursday’s meeting, this clearly does not meet the California Environmental Quality Act’s requirements.

We’ve lost the battle, but we can still win the war. The link to the Times article is below. If you have the stomach to read it.,0,363474.story

Rush Hour on Cahuenga

Let’s talk traffic.

The streets directly adjacent to the proposed Millennium Hollywood project are actually fairly quiet.  Traffic impacts on Vine, Ivar and Argyle will probably not be too severe.  It’s the major corridors that serve this area that will have difficulty accommodating the increased traffic.  Take Cahuenga Blvd. for instance….

Anybody who’s driven north on Cahuenga at rush hour knows the traffic can get pretty heavy.  If you haven’t made the trip yourself, here are a few photos that will give you an idea of what it’s like.

The photo above was taken on the 1500 block of Cahuenga, east side facing south.

This photo was taken on the 1700 block of Cahuenga, east side facing south.

Now we’re on the 1800 block, just above Yucca, again east side facing south.

The 2100 block, again east side facing south.

Same location as the last photo, but now facing north.

These pictures may make it seem worse than it actually was on the days I was shooting.  I want to make clear that even though it was stop and go, traffic was moving.  In most cases the line of cars at an intersection were able to make it through on the green.  But as you can see, rush hour on Cahuenga is no picnic.

Keep in mind that these pictures were taken in March.  You should see what it looks like after the Hollywood Bowl season begins in June.  That’s when things really get scary.    On Bowl nights the traffic can start slowing as early as four, and rush hour can last til around seven.  When shows are sold out, Cahuenga, Highland and the freeway tend to look like parking lots.  And don’t forget there are additional performances scheduled outside the regular Bowl season.  Coming up in the next few months we have Fleetwood Mac, Andrea Bocelli and the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Now, in theory, the people who live in the Millennium Hollywood towers would have no reason to be involved in this rush hour morass.  So let’s assume that none of them will ever have any reason to be travelling through the Cahuenga Pass between four and six pm.  Still, the people who work at the complex will need to get home at the end of the day.  And many of them will wind up on Cahuenga at rush hour.

The Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

The CapitolRecordsTower is a Hollywood landmark.  It is totally unique, and helped set the stage for the era of space age design.  But it’s not just the look of the structure that makes it significant.  It’s one of a number of buildings designed by Welton Becket and Associates within the city of LA.  Becket was involved in creating some of the city’s most distinctive buildings, including the Pan-Pacific Auditorium [destroyed by fire] and the MusicCenter.  His work helped to define the look of mid-century LA.

Capitol Records is one of two Becket buildings that have become Hollywood icons.  The other is the Cinerama Dome, located just a few blocks away.  In light of the threat that the Millennium Hollywood project poses to the status of the former, it might be useful to review the recent history of the latter.

Cinerama Dome

Cinerama Dome

In the late nineties, Pacific Theaters presented a plan for redeveloping the Dome.  There was a huge public outcry, because in its initial form the plan would have meant ruining the Dome and building a nondescript mall around it.  To Pacific’s credit, they listened to the community, went back to the drawing board and came up with a far better design.  Not only did they refurbish the Dome and restore it to its place as a Hollywood landmark, they also added a beautiful state-of-the-art multiplex which includes a restaurant, bar and patio.  The completed complex was a welcome addition to the community, and it offers the best experience you can have in a commercial movie theatre.

It’s doubtful that the developers behind the Millennium Hollywood project will reconsider their plans, which would erase Capitol Records’ presence on the Hollywood skyline.  I like to think that the LA City Council might actually listen to the community and reconsider their support for the project.  But maybe that’s too much to hope for.

Gentrifying Hollywood

Hollywood used to be for everybody.  Not so in recent years.  Around the time we slid into the new millennium, real estate agents and developers started paying a lot of attention to the area.  It used to be a place where people without a lot of money, musicians, artists, immigrants, students, could find a cheap apartment.  But for the past ten years or so rents have been rising steadily.  And the new units that have been built are geared towards people with money. There was a break in the cycle when the stock market crashed, but now it’s picking up again.

In short, the powers that be want to turn Hollywood into a gentrified enclave like Santa Monica.  The City Council and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce are trying to transform the area into an upscale haven for club-hopping hipsters.    Anyone who makes less than fifty thousand a year is no longer welcome.

The LA Weekly recently ran an article on this trend.  I do feel the title, “Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing”, is too extreme, but the story does a good job of laying out what the politicians and the developers are doing to the area.  The link is below.

Millennium Hollywood Project

One of the things that motivated me to start this blog is the proposed Millennium Hollywood Project.  As a resident of Hollywood, I’m really concerned about this for a number of reasons.  While I support responsible, sustainable development, neither one of those adjectives can be applied to the project in its current form.  My main gripe is that two huge, high-rise towers will be erected next to the Capitol Records building.  My objections are based in part on aesthetics, since if the project is built these towers would completely overwhelm this Hollywood icon.  But the biggest problem with this project is that it will make traffic much worse.

The City of LA has been pursuing a policy of building high-density residential projects near transit centers.  In theory this sounds like good planning, and I used to support the idea.  But there have been a number of large residential projects built in Hollywood over the past several years, most of them less than a block away from subway stations, and traffic has only gotten worse.  The concept of having people live next to a subway so they won’t need to use their car sounds good, but the reality is that most Angelenos still take their cars most of the time.  The Millennium Hollywood Project will only make traffic worse, and the proposed mitigations are not sufficient.

I’ll write more later, but if you’re interested in finding out more about the project, here’s a link to an article that includes renderings of the finished development.