Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo broke his long silence on the proposed Hollywood Redevelopment Plan this week, ordering changes that would aid residents and businesses displaced by renewal, develop programs to solve the area's pressing social problems and strengthen protections for historic buildings and parks.
At Monday night's meeting of the Project Area Committee, a Hollywood citizen advisory panel to the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, Woo said the new provisions will not radically restructure the plan. "These are changes in emphasis," he said.
In a later interview, the 13th District councilman said that the changes reflect an attempt to answer harsh criticisms of the plan from the city Planning Department and from some segments of the community, including preservationists, social activists, small merchants and Hollywood Hills residents.
"I think the plan now represents what the community has been looking for," Woo said. "I think there's something in there to satisfy everyone."
Although Woo did not present specific changes to the advisory committee, planners from his staff, the Planning Department and the redevelopment agency were working on detailed language that was expected to be ready for a Planning Commission hearing this morning.
The proposed Hollywood plan, which could cost between $572 million and $920 million, must be reviewed by the Planning Commission before it is sent on the City Council for final approval. Redevelopment agency planners expect the redevelopment project to take up to 30 years to complete, and they envision Hollywood's blighted core transformed into a thriving 1,100-acre community of offices, hotels, theaters, apartment houses and parks.
The changes that took most of the advisory committee's members by surprise were Woo's new provisions dealing with displacement and Hollywood's myriad social problems.
Some committee members, who had repeatedly lost votes to beef up language within the plan on social and preservation issues, had all but given up on trying to alter the plan.
"We were being treated like crazies," said Frances Offenhauser, an architect and Hollywood Hills resident who is also a committee member. "Mike has relieved us of a lot of psychiatric bills."
Another member, Doreet Rotman, a coffee shop owner, said she was "overwhelmed. I never expected so much."
Woo said he wanted new provisions in the plan that would commit the redevelopment agency to eventually earmark funds to deal with Hollywood's human needs. "I want stronger language in this plan indicating more concern for the needs of runaways, ethnic groups, senior citizens and children," Woo said.
He added that he wanted the redevelopment agency to work with existing nonprofit social service agencies and help fund new agencies. "Human blight is just as much of a problem as blighted buildings," Woo said.
Woo also told the redevelopment agency that it would have to "make a stronger commitment" to find new housing for Hollywood residents and businesses that might be displaced by the agency's urban renewal projects.
"I want to see specific plans made . . . now," he said. "We shouldn't be waiting until after demolition begins."
Woo said he wanted to preserve some of Hollywood's older and unique businesses, singling out Hollywood Boulevard's bookstores as one example. And he said he wanted planners to be able to use redevelopment funds to attract "supermarkets as well as big development projects."
A large Safeway market in Hollywood recently shut down and Woo said a Hughes market in the area has also announced plans to close.
Woo also announced changes to further strengthen protections of Hollywood's historic buildings. Although pressure from the city Planning Department forced the redevelopment agency to add some protections in recent months, Woo gave preservationists their most powerful tool--the threat that developers could lose redevelopment bonuses if they demolished historic structures.
In previous projects, the redevelopment agency has been able to spur new projects by giving bonuses to developers, allowing them to build in excess of density and height limits. But preservationists and the city planners had argued that in earlier versions of the Hollywood Plan, developers could demolish historic buildings without losing the bonuses.
Woo has ordered a change that would prohibit the redevelopment agency from granting any bonuses to developers if they demolish historic buildings. "I think it may be necessary to use the stick as well as the carrot," he said.
Redevelopment agency senior planner Richard Bruckner said that the agency's staff is "supportive of the councilman's position. We think they (the recommendations) improve the plan and highlight some of the issues that are important to the councilman."
But Woo and city Planning Department officials said the agency's staff had earlier resisted a number of the changes, insisting that flexibility would be lost if they were implemented.