The Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday will consider whether to allow the development of 3.1 million square feet of office and hotel space in the Howard Hughes Center in exchange for $30 million in improved roads and other public services in Westchester.
The commission will conduct a public hearing on the proposed 20-year agreement between the city and the developer. If it passes the commission, the proposal also must be approved by the City Council.
"Offering to build roadway in order to build a second downtown in Westchester is not a fair trade-off," said Patrick McCartney, president of the Westchester-based Coalition of Concerned Communities, which has worked to reduce the size of the Hughes Center project.
The project is on 69 acres just west of the San Diego Freeway near Sepulveda Boulevard and 74th Street, and lies below bluff-top homes in northeastern Westchester. The development includes at least eight buildings that could be 10 stories or more, with two as high as 21 stories. One 16-story building is under construction and due to be completed in December.
It Provides Certainty
The proposed agreement "provides certainty for the city and the developer about what will be developed and allowed," city planner David Gay said.
"A bigger project sometimes takes years to complete and developers are concerned that halfway through the project something may occur that will interfere with the project," Gay said.
Bill McGregor, general manager of Tooley and Co., which is building the project for Howard Hughes Properties, said the agreement means the city will not "change the rules in midstream."
"The agreement means the city will not make us finish all the improvements and spend all our money and then say, 'That is it, you can't finish the project,' " McGregor said. The project should be finished within 10 years, he said.
But McCartney said Tooley and Co. should be required to increase its contributions to road improvements if in the future it is found that the development has attracted more automobile traffic than anticipated.
"The city is giving too much away," McCartney said. "We object to the length of the agreement and the flat guarantees. You can foresee a possible change in conditions, and with the agreement the developer would not have to make any change."
Gay said the agreement would not allow the city to add new road projects and require Tooley and Co. to foot the bill. And he conceded that the agreement "hinders groups from rolling back" the project.
But the agreement will make it easier for the city to enforce the rules and conditions attached to the project, Gay said. "It is easier to enforce because it is contract law."
McCartney warned that if more roads must be improved in the future the agreement will be "a highly favorable break" for the Hughes Center.