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Red Tape Tangles Up New McDonald's Sign

May 07, 1987|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Tourists on Hollywood Boulevard can buy a Big Mac if they can find McDonald's newest and most lavish restaurant.

The $3-million outlet has been open for a month without the special sign the company has designed to recapture the glamour and glitz of Hollywood.

And, according to a spokesman for the city Bureau of Engineering, approval could take another six weeks, even though the bureau's permit division has started a crash effort to expedite approval, said Gene D. McPherson, senior engineer.

The basic problem, McPherson said, is a matter of definition: Is McDonald's seeking to build a sign or a marquee.

Hearing May Be Required

"If it is a marquee, we can clear it up in a day," McPherson said. "But a sign will require a hearing before the Board of Public Works--and that takes about six weeks."

McPherson said the bureau hopes to resolve the definition problem this week.

The department's volume of work is too high to allow for a faster decision, McPherson said. "We used to be able to do it in 30 days, but not any longer," he said.

Robert A. Goldfarb, owner-operator of the restaurant, was clearly peeved at the delay, saying that he already had received approval for the signs from two city departments and from City Councilman Michael Woo, who represents Hollywood.

"There's enough red tape involving the signs to strangle King Kong," Goldfarb said. "It is getting to the point where I am not sure which city department has the final authority to approve the signs. I am more than frustrated. I am chagrined, appalled and upset."

Violations of Municipal Sign Ordinance

The signs have encountered trouble in various city departments because they violate many aspects of the city's basic sign ordinance.

A large "M" that is to be placed cockeyed atop a building is, by the strict standards established in the code, too large and encroaches over the sidewalk. Several smaller trademark signs are set off by blinking neon lights, which require special approval.

Then there is a message board, designed after Times Square in New York City, that will extend seven feet over the sidewalk. It also requires specific approval.

All of the unique features are supported by Woo and the Community Redevelopment Agency because they fit into new efforts to redevelop Hollywood with an emphasis on the motion picture heritage of the community.

The Hollywood restaurant does not look like any other McDonald's. It features a combination of Moorish, Egyptian and Art Deco styles and has a vaulted atrium and a healthy splash of mirrors on the wall.

Treasured for Unique Design

William D. Chandler, an aide to Woo, said that the very uniqueness of the McDonald's design for its Hollywood restaurant is what has excited those involved in redeveloping the community.

However, he admitted that the city bureaucracy may not be equipped to handle something unique.

"We have sent letters to various departments asking them to speed the process on the Hollywood restaurant and have not been successful," Chandler said. "What this case shows is that city departments are too rigid to expedite matters."

In light of the long delay in gaining approval of the signs, Chandler said Woo's office is preparing an information package to present to new developers, outlining the various steps that may be necessary to get a building off the ground.

"We do not want developers to get discouraged when they try something new," Chandler said. "We certainly are sympathetic with Mr. Goldfarb and the problems he has been having."

Goldfarb, with family members and partners, operates six other McDonald's restaurants in Los Angeles. He said his company will surmount the quagmire, but worries about the future of Hollywood redevelopment.

"It bothers me and should concern others that instead of helping developers rebuild Hollywood," he said, "there are nothing but roadblocks thrown up in the way of development."

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