After a year of debate, city planners and a citizens advisory group are nearing completion on the first major step of Hollywood's redevelopment plan, ironing out proposals to encourage commercial growth while protecting neighborhoods and historic buildings.
Planners with the Community Redevelopment Agency and most of their citizen advisers say the plan would lower zoning densities, but would also keep land-use controls flexible enough to stimulate investment.
"It's a good compromise document," said Marshall Caskey, an attorney who is president of the renewal agency's advisory Project Area Committee. "To get a bunch of people who represent every interest in Hollywood to sit down and agree on such complex, loaded issues, I think, is remarkably harmonious--somewhat of a minor miracle."
But a number of Hollywood's most vocal interest groups still harbor doubts about the plan. Preservationists insist that it lacks the detailed authority to maintain many of Hollywood Boulevard's landmarks. Homeowners in the Hollywood Hills fear that traffic will worsen and the skyline will be cluttered with office and apartment towers. And some community activists complain that Hollywood's ethnic poor have had no voice in the planning process.
"It's a plan with no vision," said Frances Offenhauser, an architect and hillside homeowner who is on the committee. "It cements into place a plan that's too vague. We're being asked to take an awful lot at face value."
The area committee and redevelopment planners expect to formally approve the proposal within the next month. The CRA will then prepare an environmental impact report. The plan must be adopted by the city Planning Commission and then the City Council--a process expected to take at least another year--before the CRA can proceed with the details of revitalization.
Redevelopment agency planners said they tried to keep the plan flexible because once adopted, it charts an urban renewal process that could take up to 30 years.
"The very nature of the plan is long range," said Richard Bruckner, the agency's senior planner for the Hollywood project. "That requires that we keep it fairly general. You have to start somewhere."
Once the plan is adopted, Bruckner said, the CRA and its citizen advisers will develop a more detailed framework. "If you're too specific at the beginning, you run the risk of setting into stone something that might not be appropriate for the Hollywood of 15 or 20 years from now," he said.
What makes Hollywood such a difficult planning area--and such a controversial one--is its size and diversity. The redevelopment area covers 1,100 acres, "as large as some cities," Bruckner said.
It encompasses new glass-and-concrete commercial office towers on Sunset Boulevard and older, sometimes vacant brick buildings on Hollywood Boulevard. Neighborhoods change character within a few blocks, from the stucco single-family bungalows on the west side to the film-editing laboratories and storage warehouses in the south-central corridor, to the cramped, decrepit apartment houses and small stores that line Western Avenue.
CRA planners divided Hollywood into seven planning areas, each with its own character and its own problems. Over the past year, planners and citizen advisers have developed goals for each of the areas.
The result is a general lessening of zoning densities, accompanied by land-use changes that strengthen residential growth in some sections and commercial growth in others.
"We're reinforcing a lot of current trends," Bruckner said. "What we're trying to do is provide for a variety of residential densities, develop Hollywood's commercial core and expand industrial uses in outlying areas where there hasn't been much residential growth."
Almost all area committee members give the CRA high marks for proposing zoning changes that would strengthen zoning for single-family homes in the area around DeLongpre Park, attract warehouses and light manufacturing to the western Santa Monica Boulevard corridor and support entertainment and film production facilities near Hollywood's western edge and in the vicinity of the Sunset-Gower studios.
"Most of the changes have gone through with the unanimous approval of the PAC (Project Area Committee)," Marshall Caskey said. "In most cases, I think the plan plays to Hollywood's greatest strengths."
But planned zoning changes on Hollywood's northeastern edge and along Hollywood Boulevard have been more controversial.
The change that has drawn the most fire is the CRA's plan to lower residential density along Franklin Avenue, on the area's northeast edge. Homeowners in the hills north of Franklin fear that developers will be allowed to cram apartment houses along the avenue, clogging the area with traffic and raising the skyline.