By Jack Humphreville.
Hollywood’s neighborhoods and residents are under attack by big time real estate developers who are investing billions in too many to count high rise residential and commercial buildings along the three mile stretch of Hollywood, Sunset, and Santa Monica Boulevards between Western Avenue and the border with West Hollywood.
This massive densification will overwhelm the area’s aging infrastructure (streets, water, power, sewer, gas) and the City’s ability to provide police and fire protection. It will also turn Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards into unsightly canyons, destroying the existing character and culture of these thoroughfares and the surrounding residential areas.
Worst of all, the resulting traffic on these poorly maintained boulevards and narrow side streets that are already jammed with parked cars will turn Hollywood into Gridlock City. Not only will this traffic adversely impact the quality of life and public safety of the surrounding residential neighborhoods, it will endanger the tourist industry and create a huge disincentive for employers in the high tech, engineering, and entertainment industries whose highly paid professionals will refuse to fight the traffic.
The poster child for neighborhood unfriendly development is Millennium Hollywood (photo left), the $664 million, 1.2 million square foot monstrosity that will clog the already busy intersection at Hollywood and Vine and, according to the California Department of Transportation, back up traffic on the 101 Freeway.
Despite the multiple warnings from CalTrans and the likelihood that the two towers were on an earthquake fault, our City Council and Mayor Garcetti approved this project, no doubt helped along by the $4.5 million that New York City developers used to grease the skids.
But this is just one of more than 70 developments in Hollywood which, according to one knowledgeable resident, includes 8,800 dwelling units, 5 million square feet of retail and commercial space, and 800,000 square feet devoted to hospitals and schools.
Another offending development that adds to the vertical blight is 8150 Sunset, a 330,000 square foot, mixed use, under parked, two tower project financed by a NYC hedge fund that will create a massive traffic jam at the already clogged intersection where Crescent Heights turns into Laurel Canyon on Sunset Boulevard.
Many of these developments are predicated on the myth of Transit Oriented Density. This assumes that Hollywood’s new residents will rely on public transportation. But given the high cost of these new non-family oriented apartments and condominiums, the upwardly mobile professionals will be commuting in their BMWs and Range Rovers, forsaking the buses and the Red Line.
As the residents battle to protect their neighborhoods from overdevelopment, traffic, and the impact of too many liquor licenses, the developers will tag them with the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) label. But as Councilmember Mike Bonin said when discussing the findings of the LA 2020 Commission’s report, A Time for Truth, the locals support progress and the greater good as long as it is “neighborhood friendly development.”
Bonin also said that the way the City evaluates traffic is a “joke” where money “squeezed” from developers goes to “rinky dink stuff” that fails to mitigate the influx of more traffic. Rather, the City relies on outdated formulas that do not consider the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians and the impact on neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, Hollywood’s representatives on the City Council., Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge, are not stepping up to the plate to defend the residents from this onslaught by real estate developers who are only interested in maximizing their bottom line, the hell with the community.
But rather than proceeding with the rampant commercialization of Hollywood, O’Farrell, LaBonge, and the rest of the City Council must demand that the Planning and Transportation Departments and the developers’ Environmental Impact Reports address the cumulative impact of all of these developments on traffic, public safety, and the infrastructure in the Hollywood area.
While many of us are not directly impacted by the helter-skelter development in Hollywood, it is our battle none-the-less as developers pursue neighborhood unfriendly developments throughout the City, including Sherman Oaks, the West Valley, Wilshire Boulevard, the Westside, San Pedro, Boyle Heights, and Downtown LA.
Simply put, Hollywood’s battle is our battle.
City Hall needs to mitigate the adverse impact of overdevelopment and traffic on our neighborhoods if it wants to begin to earn our trust, confidence, and respect. Otherwise, our elected officials will confront an angry electorate the next time it even considers asking us to approve any increase in our sales or property taxes.
Cross-posted at LA City Watch.