By Jonathan Van Dyke, 5/07/2015
Judge invalidates EIR for controversial Hollywood project
The long and winding story of the Millennium Hollywood took another twist last Thursday when a judge issued a ruling to halt the $1 billion project, likely forcing the developer to go back to the drawing board and create a new environmental impact report (EIR).
“We got everything we wanted,” said George Abrahams, who was the plaintiff in the case and a member of Stop the Millennium. “The things we won on were very solid.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant said the city disregarded concerns by Caltrans that traffic on the Hollywood (101) Freeway would be significantly impacted by the development. The judge also noted that the project’s description was overly vague. The decision invalidates the project’s EIR.
“An injunction shall [be issued] enjoining the city from granting any authority, permits, certificate of occupancy or entitlements for the project pursuant to the city’s prior actions, and enjoining Millennium from undertaking construction on the project pursuant to the set aside approvals,” Chalfant said in the decision.
The Millennium Hollywood project was approved by the city council in July 2013. It would be built on two sites on Vine Street just north of Hollywood Boulevard. The proposed project would have had 492 residential units, 200 hotel rooms, 100,000 square feet of office space, 35,000 square feet of restaurant space, 40,000 square feet of sports club use and 15,000 feet of retail space. It would be built while preserving the Capitol Records building. The maximum height of the two towers would be 39 and 35 stories.
Last fall, a new California Geological Survey (CGS) map outlined the Hollywood Fault zone, which overlaps portions of multiple projects in the city, including the proposed Millennium Hollywood.
Abrahams said it was a victory that a new EIR would have to account for the study. Proponents of the Millennium interpreted the judge’s decision differently.
“We are gratified by the judge’s ruling on seismic issues acknowledging the appropriateness of our studies,” said Philip Aarons, of Millennium Partners. “We are considering our options for addressing [all of] the issues cited by the court and are fully committed to moving forward with our project.”
The Millennium was strongly supported by now-Mayor Eric Garcetti, who at the time represented the 13th District. His successor, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, has also been a supporter, as has the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
“I think nobody wants to see two empty parking lots,” Garcetti said. “It’s important that we get something done there. Sometimes taller, thinner things become more of a lightning rod, literally, than flatter shorter things that block views and take every last space. I hope we can get something that is reasonable there, something that is good.”
“Today’s ruling was mixed and we won’t know the ultimate outcome until the appeals and various causes of action are heard,” O’Farrell said in a statement. “This proposed project has garnered a significant amount of attention since it was first announced, none of it helpful to the economic health, future and job growth in Hollywood. I am glad the judge relied on data in determining the site does not sit on an active earthquake fault and I applaud the city’s department of building and safety for its rigorous review of the geology reports. This will eventually clear the way for development on parcels that have been surface parking lots in the heart of Hollywood for at least 60 years. I will continue working hard to make Hollywood a safe, vibrant, high quality neighborhood and world-class tourist destination.”
Ultimately, city officials and the developer said it would be up to local geologists.
“The California map only concludes one thing … that the lines are an estimate from the state geologist,” said Luke Zamperini, chief inspector of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. “It’s why we require the developers to bore holes and dig trenches to demonstrate whether there is an active fault there. Just because the state drew a line doesn’t mean that’s where it is. At the end of the day, you’ll have physical proof whether it is there or not. Before they could get a permit from building and safety, they have to prove there is not an active fault under the building.”
Abrahams said he is not in favor of building anything major on the land due to seismic concerns, and added that the city should consider installing a greenbelt there, similar to what has been done in Yorba Linda and Signal Hill.
The judge’s 46-page document was a tentative ruling that was later ruled as final except for the plaintiff’ fifth cause of action, which asked the judge to order the city to develop a “fair” hearing policy for its procedures relating to land use appeals. Another judge will hear that part of the lawsuit.
Millennium Partners may eventually appeal the decision when it is entirely final. If the decision stands, the developer would have to conduct a new EIR for a new proposal.