High-Rise Cynicism

Eric Garcetti's vision for the future of Los Angeles

Eric Garcetti’s vision for the future of Los Angeles

It should come as no surprise to anyone that last week a judge ruled that the Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU) was fatally flawed. From the beginning, the plan was basically a tool to overrule those who want responsible, sustainable growth and give carte blanche to developers. It would have allowed the construction of skyscrapers fifty stories high, without any serious consideration given to how such high-density development would affect traffic, infrastructure and emergency services. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce seems to believe that Hollywood should become a west coast version of Las Vegas, with massive high-rises filled with luxury condos and trendy clubs on every corner. Sadly, rather than choosing to protect the interests of local residents, the Mayor and the City Council jumped on board to promote this destructive plan.

Fortunately, they ran into a judge that actually expected the city to comply with state law. LA County Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman said that,

….forging ahead in the processing of the HCPU, EIR and related documents in this case based on fundamentally flawed factual premises has resulted in a failure to proceed in the manner required by law.

The biggest problem was that the plan was based on a population estimate that was obviously wrong. In preparing the Environmental Impact Report for the HCPU, the City claimed that approximately 224,426 people lived in the Hollywood area. They got this number, an estimate, from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Using this figure, the City argued that Hollywood was growing and would continue to grow, meaning that high-density development was the only solution.

But the judge points out that the city didn’t produce any documentation from SCAG to support this figure. On the other hand, the groups fighting the HCPU took a look at the US Census, which says that in 2010 Hollywood’s population was actually about 198,228. Hollywood has actually lost over 12,000 residents since 2000. While the Census info wasn’t available when the Draft EIR was originally prepared, it was available before the City Council voted to approve the plan. But they weren’t going to let the facts stand in their way. The City also insisted that Hollywood was going to experience substantial growth over the next twenty years, but in fact growth has slowed considerably in Los Angeles, and right now there’s no reason to expect that will change in the near future.

Community groups were alarmed at the problems with the plan, and asked the City to revise it. The City refused, and voted to adopt the HCPU in spite of strong opposition by many Hollywood residents, leading the judge to conclude,

The evidence in this record strongly supports petitioners’ contention that there has been an insufficiently-reasoned rush to completion of the EIR process, and that the process was administered in a way that is clearly contrary to well-established laws as interpreted by the appellate courts.

It’s not surprising to see developers running high-pressure campaigns to push their projects through. That’s what they do. But our elected officials are supposed to be protecting our interests. They’re supposed to be serving us. Instead, Garcetti and the City Council approved a plan that they knew was seriously flawed from the beginning. They knew the population figures were wrong. They knew the plan didn’t adequately consider alternatives. They knew there were serious questions about infrastructure and emergency services. They knew the plan didn’t follow state law. Then, as if to prove how completely cynical they are, to show us how little they care about serving the citizens, they spend our tax dollars fighting to ram the HCPU down our throats, when they knew it should never have been approved in the first place.

No wonder voter turnout is so low in LA. It’s easy to see that our elected officials have complete contempt for us.

The image above is from Bladerunner, directed by Ridley Scott, photographed by Jordan Cronenweth, production design by Lawrence Paull, art direction by David Snyder.

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