Ground breaking for the Hollywood Promenade, a cornerstone of the ambitious Hollywood redevelopment project, could be delayed by a lawsuit filed by a local resident and a group of community activists.
The suit, filed against the City of Los Angeles, claims that the environmental impact report used to approve the project was insufficient. It also claims that the city's overall general plan--which must be used when approving any development project within city limits--doesn't meet state guidelines and should be revamped.
Local development experts say the plaintiffs--Hollywood resident Pat Morley and a group of homeowners, renters and environmentalists known as Save Hollywood Our Town (SHOT)--have little chance of getting the court to order an overhaul of the city's general plan. However, the community group may have a good chance to delay or reduce the scope of the proposed Promenade.
If the judge unexpectedly rules that the general plan is inadequate, however, the decision could conceivably put all new development and redevelopment proposals within city limits on hold until a new general plan is put together.
The suit is scheduled to be heard in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 8. Although it is filed against the city, it names Promenade developer Melvin Simon & Associates as the "real party in interest," which effectively links the Indianapolis-based developer with the city.
The Hollywood Promenade, planned for an eight-acre site at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, would include two 235-foot-tall towers--one a hotel, the other an office building--and, possibly, a motion-picture museum. Open-air plazas, walkways and the two towers would form a horseshoe around Mann's Chinese Theater, replacing several vacant lots and small shops currently scattered about the site.
SHOT hopes to convince the court to set aside the city's approval of the Promenade, and also hopes the judge will order improvements to Los Angeles' general plan, said Michael Sinkov, the group's attorney.
"It is not that the group is opposed to a project at that location, or use of the project as outlined by the developer," Sinkov said.
"Save Hollywood Our Town's concerns focus on project size, which would add almost 1 million square feet of built space to the area, and on project height, which tends to ignore the historic character of Hollywood. The overall feeling is that there should be room for compromise."
In the lawsuit, SHOT claims that the Promenade's sheer size will raise the area's noise levels, ruin views, and create traffic gridlock that could stretch for blocks around the development.
The suit also claims that the final environmental impact report used to evaluate the entire Hollywood Redevelopment Plan "was based upon a false and fraudulent administrative record." The suit alleges that city employees, on orders of their superiors, "intentionally included false and fraudulent conclusions regarding the environmental impact of traffic" with "a predetermined fraudulent intent" to convince the council to approve the redevelopment plan.
Dan Garcia, president of the Los Angeles Planning Commission, called allegations of fraudulent behavior among city employees "outrageous."
"The staff may be wrong now and then, but I've never seen the staff lie about anything," said Garcia, who reviewed a subdivision appeal by SHOT several months ago. "It sounds to me like this is nothing but a frivolous lawsuit."
George Mihlsten, an attorney for the developer, said construction of the Promenade hasn't been delayed and will probably begin in September or October. He said the lawsuit is unlikely to torpedo the development, although a decision favoring the community group could push ground breaking back about six months.
Mihlsten said the builder has already made "some significant compromises" on the proposed Promenade, including an agreement to pay nearly $5 million for a computerized traffic system and other transit improvements throughout much of Hollywood.
"It would have been easy for Melvin Simon & Associates to have already thrown in the towel on this project," Mihlsten said. However, he added, the company "has a strong commitment to the Hollywood area, and it is committed" to building the Promenade.
Unavailable for Comment
"I have no fear, none whatsoever, that this project will be scuttled," Mihlsten added.
City Councilman Michael Woo, who represents the Hollywood area and has been a strong supporter of the Promenade and other nearby projects, was unavailable for comment on the lawsuit.
"We're just going to let the courts handle it," said Bill Chandler, Woo's press deputy. "The court system will look at the case and make its decision."
In its attack on the city's general plan, SHOT claims that the plan fails to meet state requirements concerning noise, traffic, housing and other issues.
Second Action Filed