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Arch Proposal Raises Eyebrows in Redevelopment of Hollywood

August 23, 1987|DAVID WHARTON | Times Staff Writer

George Houraney, from Florida by way of Las Vegas, has come to Hollywood with a big plan:

All the buildings on Hollywood Boulevard will be covered over in white stucco. Tulips imported from Holland will blossom in concrete flower beds.

And three tremendous arches will span the boulevard. Forty feet tall and lighted from within, they will symbolize George Houraney's Hollywood.

"It's got to touch people just looking at it," the 42-year-old businessman said. "It could be similar to a Statue of Liberty-type thing."

These days, Houraney is peddling his vision to whoever will listen. The arches and the stucco and the flowers won't cost the city a dime, he says. They will be paid for by corporate donations and the proceeds from a massive talent contest that he plans to stage in Los Angeles on Nov. 28.

Endorsed by Bradley

Mayor Tom Bradley has signed a proclamation endorsing the three arches of Hollywood. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has also pledged to help the Boca Raton businessman.

But Hollywood activists say that although the entrepreneur's vision of Hollywood may be well-intentioned, it is also ludicrous and unsightly. And officials outside the mayor's office predict that Houraney's arches will never see the light of day because they don't fit in with the spirit of the city's $922-million plan to redevelop Hollywood.

"This is sort of a cartoon-like idea," said Frances Offenhauser, a Hollywood Hills resident who has been active in the city's redevelopment effort. "The idea of arches is a hackneyed idea. And to stucco over the existing buildings is a completely ridiculous notion. It shows these people don't have any architectural or historical knowledge."

Whether or not Houraney's arches are erected, they underline the huge task that officials face--screening the flood of proposals from promoters and developers looking to get in on the Hollywood restoration.

Embattled residents have vowed to protect their boulevard from outsiders.

"Hollywood has an international recognition. Entrepreneurs all want to be a part of it," said Diana Bradford Webb, senior project manager for the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. "They have this energy, this creativity. We get a lot of proposals, a lot of dreams, if you will. It is our job to work with the community to sort through them and help make decisions about what's good for Hollywood."

Houraney's arches are not the first controversial proposal to hit the boulevard. More than one developer has sought to close off traffic and turn the street into a giant pedestrian walkway, said Len Betz of the redevelopment agency.

'Lots of Bizarre Plans'

A residents group has called for part of the boulevard to be turned into an enclosed mall featuring upscale department stores. Another resident wanted to attach film studio facades to the rears of buildings. This, the man reasoned, would make off-street parking lots look like movie sets.

"There have been lots of bizarre plans," said Richard Adkins, president of the Hollywood Heritage residents group. "I've heard, 'Bulldoze the whole street and start over.' There has been lots of neon, lots of buildings in the shapes of objects and that kind of nonsense.

"I think that the purpose of restoring Hollywood to its former glory would be better served by taking care of the landmarks we already have, rather than adding new ones," Adkins said.

Those in favor of preserving Hollywood speak of an era when Tinseltown was hitting its heyday. They point to the mix of architectural styles along the boulevard: conservative, classic bank offices stand beside retail buildings fashioned in the flamboyance of Moorish and Spanish Colonial revival.

Hollywood Boulevard is listed in the Department of Interior's national register of historic places, which means that many of the older buildings on the street are protected from demolition, Betz said. There will some demolition along the boulevard--several structures will be razed to make way for the $150-million hotel and cinema complex being built around the Mann's Chinese Theatre--but many buildings will be restored to their original state, he said.

At this point, there are no formal construction or restoration guidelines beyond those of the national register. The redevelopment agency has begun studies to devise a plan for Hollywood Boulevard. That report is due next spring.

Final Authority

Houraney has not submitted any plans for his arches to the redevelopment agency, which is the final authority on development proposals. Both Betz and Webb said they doubted that the arches would fit in with the tendency toward historic restoration.

When his plan was criticized, Houraney--who favors wide smiles and a portable telephone--reacted in anger.

"I'm amazed," he said. "These arches are a tribute to Hollywood. Why wouldn't they want some kind of tribute there? You could fix Hollywood up, clean up the buildings, but is that going to give the people who come to visit here any kind of feeling or emotion?"

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