Hollywood Center, a $150-million commercial project opposed by neighborhood groups, was approved Thursday by Los Angeles planning commissioners, who hailed the high-rise complex as a cornerstone for Hollywood redevelopment.
The complex, approved on a 3-0 vote, is expected to bring a 400-room hotel, a 400,000-square-foot office building and a motion picture museum to an eight-acre site at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
Restaurants, retail shops, theaters and 4,200 spaces of underground parking also are planned as part of the project, to be built by Indianapolis-based Melvin Simon & Associates. The center's open-air plazas, walkways and 235-foot-high towers would replace a number of open lots and small shops to form a horseshoe around Mann's Chinese Theater.
"This is a major step," city Councilman Michael Woo said after the commission vote, which will become final unless opponents appeal the action to the City Council. Woo urged commissioners to support the project, calling it an important element in Hollywood's $922-million redevelopment effort.
The project is the first large development designed to be part of the 30-year plan, approved by the City Council in May.
"We have the opportunity to create another landmark," Woo told commission members. "The revitalization of Hollywood has been the top priority in the year and a half I've been on the City Council. . . . If our community is to regain its luster, we need projects of this type."
Commission President Daniel P. Garcia sided enthusiastically with the councilman, chastising community groups as overly critical of the center's plans.
Opponents of the project included many of Hollywood's largest and most active community groups, including the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., the Greater Hollywood Civic Assn., the Hollywood Neighborhood Coalition, the Hollywood Merchants Assn. and Save Hollywood Our Town.
Members of those groups argued that the center will worsen traffic on busy Highland Avenue, eliminate street parking needed by boulevard merchants and obstruct the panoramic views from hillside homes.
'People Are Shocked'
"People who come here from around the world are shocked at the physical and human deterioration they see in Hollywood," Garcia said. "The type of project being proposed is exactly what we would have asked for.
"Hollywood is lucky, frankly, to get a project this good this soon."
Brian Moore, president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., said most community groups do not wish to kill the project. Although developers reduced the height of the hotel and office tower, Moore said the complex is simply too big.
"We're not here to put (Melvin) Simon out of business," Moore said. "Simon came in here to build to the maximum. That's his job, he's a developer. (But) we consider this out of scale."
The 235-foot-high hotel and office tower would be twice as tall as the refurbished Roosevelt Hotel, a landmark just west of the project site, Moore said.
"The Roosevelt Hotel is 12 stories," he told commission members. "That always seemed like a pretty big building to me."
Opponents have 10 days to appeal the action, but Moore said it is unlikely his group will do so because of the commission's strong stand and Councilman Woo's support for the project. "They made their feelings very clear," Moore said. "But we wanted it on the record . . . that the community has many concerns."
Doreet Rotman, president of the Hollywood Merchants Assn., said she hopes to meet with developers in coming weeks to address the concerns of small business owners on Hollywood Boulevard. She said merchants are worried about possible parking problems and displacement as this project and others are developed. Some would like to see a child-care center be made a part of the 24-story office tower, she said.
Susan Nelson, president of Save Hollywood Our Town, asked commissioners to reject the project completely, arguing that it benefits developers at the expense of merchants and residents who would be stuck with increasing traffic.
"The developer is using Hollywood," Nelson said. "This is not revitalization. The historic old business district will be getting the shaft."
She could not be reached after the hearing to say whether she would appeal the action.
Developers defended the project by saying they have compromised on building heights and on traffic and parking issues. The height of the office tower had been planned at 385 feet, George J. Mihlsten, attorney for the developers, said. The hotel had been planned at 300 feet.
After negotiations with homeowners, he said, both buildings were reduced to 235 feet--the height of an existing 22-story Holiday Inn at the north edge of the site.
In addition, Mihlsten said, developers are contributing $3.5 million for a computerized traffic-signal system for much of Hollywood and $1.2 million to pay for street improvements at the busy intersection of Franklin and Highland avenues.