Despite complaints from Hollywood Hills residents that the Hollywood-Highland commercial complex is a nuisance, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved an agreement with the developer preserving its rights to operate under special rules for 20 years.
City officials said a key provision of the development agreement is a condition requiring the mall owner, TrizecHahn Hollywood LLC, to do everything it can to keep the Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater for the next two decades.
However, opponents said, the agreement is not binding on the awards show and protects an entertainment and shopping complex that already is violating conditions set a couple of years ago on parking, traffic and design.
"The residents are getting shafted because they are not getting what they were promised in the conditions," said John B. Murdock, an attorney for the Hollywood Heights Assn., in testimony to the council.
Murdock, who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the residents, said that, when the city first gave planning approval to the project, it required that there be 417 parking spaces on site for employees. He said the requirement was later changed to allow off-site parking.
The result is that many employees park on neighboring streets, according to Fredrica Cooper, a resident of the area. The agreement approved Friday does not require on-site parking.
Cooper also said the development agreement does not protect residents of the area from frequent closings of Orchid Alley, a major access thoroughfare for residents, for special events held at the Kodak Theater, such as the Latin Grammys and Academy Awards.
"It constitutes a tremendous hardship," Cooper said.
In addition, the neighbors protested that the development agreement requires the city to honor, for 20 years, an ordinance exempting the mall from normal billboard restrictions.
The exemption, first approved by the council in June 2001, "completely obliterated all of the protections provided by the municipal code," Cooper said, adding that she fears existing signs on the property will be joined by a cluster of new billboards.
Jerry Newman, an attorney for the developer, said the city attorney had reviewed the project and concluded it is in compliance with all city rules.
Newman said Friday's agreement provides "additional teeth," to make sure the development firm stays in compliance.
He said the alley had been closed during recent events at the request of the LAPD, for security reasons.
Councilman Eric Garcetti supported the development agreement but said he would form a task force to look at limiting the number and kinds of events happening on Hollywood Boulevard in an effort to address traffic and parking problems.
He said the development agreement allows for periodic review of compliance issues. He especially praised the agreement for promises that the developer try to keep the Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater.
"This is totally a huge money maker for the city of Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "If we ever got to the point where they may be leaving, I would be very worried."