The Hollywood Community Plan Update – a Fiasco in the Making

By Dick Platkin –

Published in CityWatchLA.com –

THE CITY – The Update of the Hollywood Community Plan is not only opposed by every neighborhood council and resident group in Hollywood, but also by city planning professionals like myself.  I was part of the team of Los Angeles city planners who prepared the General Plan Framework in the mid-1990’s, the adopted citywide plan which public officials, like Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge, claim the Update implements. (Link)
In fact, the Update totally conflicts with LA’s General Plan.  It is nothing more than the city planning version of the fantasy film, Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond that magically materialized high caliber baseball teams and games.

The politicians promoting this “plan” believe that a slew of mega-projects in Hollywood will propel economic growth.  Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why the General Plan Framework is strongly opposed to such real estate bubbles.

First, Hollywood’s public infrastructure and services cannot support super-sized projects, a barrier clearly documented in the Update’s Final Environment Impact Report.

Second, there is no evidence that the upscale tenants, shoppers, and residents required to make these mega-projects succeed will ever materialize.  LA is no longer a boomtown, but an old, deteriorating city, mired in poverty, inequality, and decay.  Instead, like the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, the new skyscrapers encouraged by the Update will languish until their developers are forced to beg for public handouts to avoid bankruptcy.

If City Hall really wants to revitalize Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles, it must provide amenities, not green light financial speculation.  This city desperately needs code enforcement, bans on supergraphics and billboards, undergrounded utility wires, good schools, extensive transit and bike lanes, more parks and community centers, repaired streets and sidewalks, and an urban forest.

This ought to be the clear local lesson from the Wall Street financial crisis that began in 2008 and has yet to be resolved.

(Richard Platkin is a veteran planning professional and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com) -cw

Richard (Dick) H. Platkin, AICP

 

The Dilemma

By James O’Sullivan

The update to the Hollywood community plan is posing a real dilemma for neighborhood councils. Long used to dealing with liquor licenses and individual projects in their areas, this update deals with the entire community plan area and many Neighborhood Councils are stuck within their self-imposed boundaries while others are not. The issue will be whether to approach the plan update from their individual boundaries or examine the plan holistically to determine the impact up zoning will have on the entire area. An extra added challenge is that what happens in Hollywood doesn’t stay in the Hollywood! The impacts of this plan for better or for worse will not be contained within the Hollywood boundary.

If these neighborhood councils follow the charter, there will be no dilemma. The charter is very clear in that it gives to neighborhood councils the responsibility to monitor city services. However there is already friction between neighborhood councils primarily in the hills and those in the flats. This is unfortunate because city infrastructure is not separated that way. When a water pipe breaks on Hollywood Boulevard, there is a good likelihood that it will affect service in upper Beachwood Canyon as well as Melrose Avenue. If you need an ambulance up on Outpost and the roads down below are clogged with commuters or partygoers, the fact that your streets are passable may be of little consequence if the ambulance is delayed.

 

High winds up in the hills or fires that race up the canyons threatened power services of those living far below. So individual neighborhood councils may on paper experience very little change in this new Hollywood community plan update but they still have to look at basic services and how this new update will affect police, fire, water, power, sewers, streets, libraries, parks, and all of the components of the city’s infrastructure system. I would argue that the Hollywood neighborhood councils have an obligation not only to their residents and businesses but also to the plan areas beyond their boundaries. Already some of Hollywood’s infrastructure services are not self-sufficient and the city cannibalizes resources from other community plan areas to service Hollywood. A recent Case in point is the rescue ambulance removed from Rancho Park and placed in Hollywood for 3 days during Halloween 2011. This effectively left sections of Century City in the West Los Angeles community plan area without a rescue ambulance. Hollywood’s neighborhood councils must monitor city services.

This is the heart of the debate over the Hollywood community plan update. It is not about tall buildings, transit oriented districts, the CRA, or any number of other issues being debated today. They are important issues but the core issue is our infrastructure. Do we have enough? Do we need more? Are serious environmental impacts adequately addressed in this new plan update or is the city taking the field of dreams approach? Build it and they will come! Or not.

Sadly this is the Field of dreams with no good ending. If you read the Statement of Overriding Considerations (SOC) in the Final Environmental Impact Report, you will see that this plan acknowledges that it will cause an increase in Green House Gasses in Hollywood but blames that on commuters traveling through Hollywood and not all the new development this plan endorses. The SOC acknowledges that there could be issues with police, fire and other services and promises to do nexus studies and hire more police and fire should there become a need. Does anyone seriously believe the City has the money to do that? Or to build new facilities if needed? Listing mitigations for serious environmental impacts without funding is a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. The City knows this but typically they take the position that they can do whatever they want and if you don’t like it, sue them! We don’t want to do that. What we want is a government that is responsive to the people and not special interest.

So this is the crux of the of the dilemma Hollywood’s Neighborhood Councils will face. The Charter created them and charged them with bringing government closer to the people and monitoring City services. Will they do that or take the approach – we got ours, you need to get yours?  I honestly don’t know. Each Neighborhood Council will have to choose between approving this plan with all its Environmental deficiencies or tell the City to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that protects the lives and safety of those that live, work and play in Hollywood.

Posted at FixLosAngeles.com