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Hollywood Community Plan mostly just fine with 12 council candidates

The plan, approved last June, allows bigger, taller, view-spoiling development. Some residents bitterly oppose it, but not the 13th District City Council candidates.

February 22, 2013|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times

If you were thinking the selection of a new City Council representative for Hollywood would turn out to be a major referendum on zoning regulations that allow bigger and taller buildings there, you'd be wrong.

Most of the 12 candidates competing to replace City Councilman Eric Garcetti in the 13th District feel the controversial new Hollywood Community Plan is just fine.

Designed to guide Hollywood growth through 2030, the plan predicts a need for 13,000 additional housing units between now and then and calls for them to be built primarily along Vine Street and Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. It was approved last June by Garcetti and other council members with a 13-0 vote.

But the plan has been bitterly opposed by those who feel new high-rises will spoil tourists' views of the Hollywood Sign and mar the view of Los Angeles that hillside residents now enjoy. A month after its approval, three neighborhood groups that spent years fighting higher density in Hollywood filed lawsuits against the city to protest it.

Some of the plan's most vocal critics do not live and vote in the district, however. Areas north of Hollywood Boulevard and Franklin Avenue lie in Council District 4, which is represented by Councilman Tom LaBonge.

"It's a good blueprint on how we can grow into the future, and I support it wholeheartedly," said candidate Mitch O'Farrell, a former aide to Garcetti. "We do not need to revisit the Hollywood Community Plan."

Challenger Matt Szabo, a former deputy to termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, agrees. "I support it. It's an excellent plan," he said. "I support density around [mass] transit. I think it's an incredibly positive step forward."

Candidate Emile Mack, an assistant chief with the city Fire Department, takes a similar view. "It gives us a framework … an idea of where you want to go. It means we have to be very thoughtful and collaborative on how we're going to do the development that comes with the Hollywood plan," he said.

Council hopeful John Choi, a former city Board of Public Works Commissioner, views it as "a thoughtful and reasonable long-term vision for Hollywood. The Hollywood Community Plan is the first step to get there."

Candidate Josh Post, a deputy state attorney general, acknowledges that there is some opposition to the plan but says he supports it. "I think if you look closely at the community plan, you actually see it's pretty rational," he said. "It's sort of bringing Hollywood into the next century. It's going to create wider sidewalks, bike lanes — a walkable community, which is what I really support."

Challenger Octavio Pescador, a lecturer in UCLA's graduate school of education, also sees positive things about the master plan. "I'm in favor of any process that brings jobs to the area," he said of future growth. "I'm supportive of smart mixed-use development."

Less enthusiastic but still supportive of the plan is Alex De Ocampo, a charitable foundation director. "It is a very good start. It does not mean it's the end-all, be-all. We need to really think strategically long-term on the development of Hollywood," he said.

Candidate Robert Negrete, an aide to state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), says the updated plan was needed but the next Hollywood council representative must be watchful. "I'd want to make sure the existing community is respected. There are some people whose homes are going to be overshadowed by these big developments," he said.

Opponent Sam Kbushyan, also an executive director of a charitable foundation, believes the new council should take another look at the plan. "I don't support it thoroughly. I think we can take a different approach. If we continue building on this scale, we'll have problems," he said.

Candidate Roberto Haraldson, a visual effects editor, favors reopening the plan. "I really think it needs to be readdressed. As we head into the next decade any future development has to take into account people already living in the community. Development is going to happen, but we're in an extremely densely packed district," he said.

Challenger Jose Sigala, who helps run a family-owned public relations firm, complains that some residents of the district were left out of the debate over the master plan. "Like any document, it should be reopened to reflect the needs of the community and the need for more housing," he said.

Hopeful Michael Schaefer, a retired lawyer who manages real estate, is unfamiliar with the plan but supports anything that will get people out of their cars. "I never got a copy of it. I haven't seen it," he said.

Richard Eastman, who is certified as a write-in candidate for the race, opposes the community plan. "I'm against high-rises in Hollywood. I doubt they're building high-rises to house old people" and those with low incomes, said the former motion picture costumer.

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