By Richard Platkin
On Tuesday February 18, 2014 the LA City Council passed Council motion 12-0303-S3. In part it said:
INSTRUCT the Planning Department, in consultation with the City Attorney, to:
a . Initiate the process of amending the General Plan’s Framework Element to make clear that the Framework Element does not require, and was never intended to require, Community Plans themselves to contain monitoring policies or programs, and that the Framework Element’s monitoring programs are discretionary, not mandatory, and that they are contingent on the availability of resources and competing priorities, as the Court of Appeal held in Saunders v. City of Los Angeles , Case No. B232415
It is possible to amend the General Plan, and the procedures are explained in detail in Charter section 555. All references to General Plan monitoring – which the Department of City Planning has overlooked since 1999 – could be excised from the citywide General Plan Framework Element. But it is incorrect that these monitoring provisions were originally intended to be discretionary. As a City Planning staff person who participated in the preparation of the General Plan Framework Element, there was never any discussion or written documentation presenting the Framework’s monitoring program and the annual monitoring report as discretionary. In fact, after the City Council adopted the General Plan Framework Element in 1996, I was assigned to a Framework monitoring unit that produced three annual monitoring reports in the late 1990s. Furthermore, the Framework’s monitoring requirements are also discussed in detail in the General Plan Framework Element’s Final Environmental Report, where it is clearly described as a detailed, mandatory, and on-going aspect of the General Plan Framework Element, not a discretionary feature contingent on available staffing. Continue reading
The recent decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman to reject as “fatally flawed”  the densification plans for downtown Hollywood could shake the foundations of California’s “smart growth” planning clerisy. By dismissing Los Angeles’ Hollywood plan, the judge also assaulted the logic behind plans throughout the region to construct substantial high-rise development in “transit-oriented developments” adjacent to rail stations. Continue reading
Reaching more than a thousand feet into the air, The Shard was hailed as one of the wonders of the age when it was completed. Yet Britain’s tallest building is almost entirely empty, as its owners struggle to find buyers and tenants for its offices and luxury flats. As our picture shows, London’s 72-storey skyscraper is largely dark in the early evening, while the surrounding buildings are bright with office lights. Continue reading
Modernist tower blocks should be demolished and replaced with streets of terrace houses and low-rise flats that people actually want to live in, an influential Conservative think tank will claim on Thursday. Continue reading
Rhode Island’s tallest building will soon be its most visible symbol of the state’s long economic decline. The 26-story Art Deco-style skyscraper, known to some as the “Superman building” for its similarity to the Daily Planet headquarters in the old TV show, is losing its sole tenant this month. No one is moving in, and the building, the most distinctive feature on the Providence skyline, will no longer be fully illuminated at night, if at all, its owner says. It’s a blow for the city and the state, which had 9.4 percent unemployment in February and has had one of the worst jobless rates in the nation for years.
Nicolas Retsinas, a senior lecturer in real estate at Harvard Business School, says 111 Westminster, as the building is also known, will be “the ultimate urban pothole.”
A minor earthquake occurred at 3:26:56 AM (PDT) on Monday, September 3, 2012. The magnitude 3.3 event occurred 1 km (1 miles) ENE (62 degrees) of Beverly Hills, CA. The hypocentral depth is 0.1 km (0.1 miles).
The Hollywood Fault runs along Hollywood Blvd and is directly under the land where Millennium want to build two tall skyscrapers. The Hollywood Community Plan calls for many more tall buildings in this area.
The Hollywood Community Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report states:
“Hollywood Fault. The Hollywood fault is located along the southern base of the Santa Monica Mountains, beneath northern Hollywood. Rupture of the entire Hollywood fault could produce a magnitude 6.6 earthquake (Dolan et al., 1997). The active Hollywood fault trends approximately east-west along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Beverly Hills area to the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles (Dolan et al., 2000). Studies by several investigators have indicated that the fault is active, based on geomorphic evidence, stratigraphic correlation between exploratory borings, and fault trenching studies (Dolan et al., 2000). The fault is also considered active by the State Geologist. However, there is an absence of well-defined surface fault traces. For this reason, an Alquist-Priolo zone has not been established for this fault.” [emphasis added]
UPDATE: A minor earthquake occurred at 0:03:09 AM (PDT) on Friday, September 7, 2012. The magnitude 3.4 event occurred 1 km (0 miles) SE of Beverly Hills, CA. The hypocentral depth is 2 km (1 mile). The quake was 1.6 times stronger than the one last week.
The earthquake faults in Hollywood are described in this report from the Southern California Earthquake Center:
Santa Monica fault
The Santa Monica fault extends east from the coastline in Pacific Palisades through Santa Monica and West Los Angeles and merges with the Hollywood fault at the West Beverly Hills Lineament in Beverly Hills, west of the crossing of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, where its strike is northeast.
The Hollywood fault extends ENE for a distance of 14 km through Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood to the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5. It is truncated on the west by the NNW-striking West Beverly Hills Lineament (WBHL), which marks a left step of 1.2 km between the Santa Monica fault and Hollywood fault (Dolan et al., 2000a). The lineament, located in Beverly Hills immediately east of the Los Angeles Country Club, is on trend with, and may be the northwest continuation of the Newport-Inglewood fault.
The Raymond fault extends 25 km from the Los Angeles River east of Griffith Park east to east-northeast across the San Gabriel Valley through South Pasadena, Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia, and Monrovia to a junction with the Sierra Madre fault at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains
SCEC video (Santa Monica, Hollywood, Raymond Fault Relationship) from USC showing the faults.
The Santa Monica fault is shown in blue, the Hollywood fault is shown in yellow and the Raymond fault is shown in green.
“The earthquakes that hit this week — a 3.2 on Monday, centered near Doheny Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, and a 3.4 after midnight Friday, centered near Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Drive — were relatively shallow. “As a result, they were strongly felt,” [U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Doug] Given said.”
Doheny Drive and Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard are both east of the West Beverly Hills Lineament (WBHL) immediately east of the Los Angeles Country Club. This places the quakes on the Hollywood fault.
How residents unearthed 200,000 words of phony findings City Hall used to illegally approve a skyscraper at Hollywood and Gower —
By Jill Stewart published: August 30, 2012 —
In May 2011, at a final public hearing over whether to approve the tallest skyscraper in Hollywood history, the Department of Planning unveiled 231 pages of surprise “supplemental findings” backing the developer’s plan.
The 200,000-word, book-length document gave the L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee an added boldness. Its chairman, City Councilman Ed Reyes, refused to let a member of the public rebut the developer, Hanover Company. Then the committee quickly approved the Hollywood/Gower Project.
Reyes should have let the man speak.
An environmental attorney from the Silverstein Law Firm, Daniel Wright knew the Department of Planning hadn’t written the 231-page “supplemental findings.” Doug Haines, a representative of the firm’s client, the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association of Hollywood, had discovered that the developer wrote the entire tome.
Wright had minutes earlier warned the land-use committee that the key study repeatedly referred to in the “findings” — the parking study claiming that the development would need 30 percent less parking than the city generally requires — wasn’t even included in the 200,000 words and was never seen by the public.
The Hirsch/Green Parking Study, it turned out, was merely an “exhibit” attached to a letter from the developer’s lobbying firm, in a pile of papers submitted at the hearing itself. Later, emails showed that city planners likely never read the study: Just before the hearing, planner Jim Tokunaga couldn’t open the developer’s attachment.
The land-use committee, known as PLUM, approved the skyscraper, along with the developer’s request for reduced parking, in parking-challenged Hollywood.
“We were asking city officials, ‘Where is the parking study that’s being voted on? Where is it?’ ” Wright says. “But no member of the public could see it — until it was posted the next day on the City Council website.”
Later, the City Council rubber-stamped the committee’s approval without allowing public comment — ending a supposedly public process in which the public was prevented from considering and debating the key issues.
The legal wrongdoing by City Hall resulted in an uncommon finding in July by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones: that the City Council and city had violated the “due process” rights of the Hollywood community. (Jones also found that L.A. violated the California Environmental Quality Act.)
“We alleged the city engaged in misconduct, lied to members of the public and suppressed information in an effort to conceal critical material from the public,” explains Robert P. Silverstein, the lead attorney. “So we won on our constitutional challenge — which is extremely rare.”
On Aug. 13, Jones affirmed her initial ruling, rejecting objections filed by the developer and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. She ordered not just a redo of the areas obfuscated by city officials, such as parking shortages, but also an entirely new Environmental Impact Report.
R.J. Comer, attorney for the project’s investors, said they are considering all options. The City Attorney’s office had no comment.
But Wright responds, “They’re so caught with their hands in the cookie jar, we do not see an appeal.”
Silverstein persuaded Jones to enter into evidence disturbing emails showing city officials readying the developer’s “findings” in support of the project as the city’s own.
Environmental attorneys consulted by the L.A. Weekly say they cannot recall such a courtroom slap-down. Although this was a lower court, only a few appellate cases have been reported involving municipalities guilty of violating due process.
Attorney Noel Weiss, who has won suits against L.A., says, “It’s because they are running a kangaroo court. The City Council and its PLUM committee don’t read the planning documents before them, which often aren’t written by the planners they pay. It’s lawless, and nobody has been shutting it down. Judge Jones is stepping on a lot of powerful toes by being so courageous against big L.A. powers. I very much admire her for doing it. ”
Although one Hollywood neighborhood council dominated by business interests backs the high-rise, the other four Hollywood-area neighborhood councils do not. Many residents are angry that it would tower 270 feet over a low-slung historic community. The first three stories were to be parking, topped by 17 stories of condos or high-end rentals — squeezed onto a cramped lot whose zoning restrictions prohibit skyscrapers.
Labor lawyer David Bell, president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, argues that while the City Council granted the developer many “entitlements” — zone changes and billboard ads to help provide a more robust bottom line — the council was simultaneously degrading a protected skyline that has made the Hollywood Hills and its landmark sign among the most recognized sights anywhere.
“This isn’t Tarzana or Century City,” Bell says. “Hollywood is a global cultural asset that belongs to the community and world, being trampled upon for 176 luxury apartments. It isn’t right.”
The most controversial “entitlement” allowed investors to provide far less parking than required. (The developer claims, among possible mitigations, that the well-to-do residents will choose to use buses and subways.) Another “entitlement” lets the developer embed a huge billboard into the building’s side, visible from great distances and, Haines says, taller than the W Hotel nearby.
Maybe the ghost of Hollywood historic preservationist Robert Nudelman, who abhorred City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s dream of skyscrapers and billboards in Hollywood, caught wind of what was unfolding. One day, Haines, who greatly admired Nudelman, noticed in the public record an odd term — “supplemental findings” — mentioned in a letter from the developer’s consultant written to City Hall.
“I called city planner Jae Kim and said, ‘Hey, this isn’t supposed to be a game of hide-and-seek. Where are these supplemental findings?'”
As it emerged at trial, Kim then provided Haines with the “findings,” assuring him three times that City Planning had no intention of submitting the developers’ submission to the council committee.
But Haines was uneasy. He pored over the 200,000 words, and then he and attorney Wright attended the committee hearing. Then they watched, stunned, as Jae Kim himself delivered the findings as the city’s own.
La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association’s legal team showed in court that Kim’s superior, senior planner Jim Tokunaga, exchanged emails with Kim before the hearing, explaining that they would do a quick edit of the developer’s work. The new version was 20 pages shorter, with some sections tweaked.
Key city officials have refused to comment on who (or what) compelled Kim and Tokunaga to proceed. And no city officials involved would comment on why the Hirsch/Green Parking Study was kept secret from the public and added to the city website only after the skyscraper was approved.
City planner Michael LoGrande, Kim’s and Tokunaga’s boss, refused to comment, saying the project still faces litigation. Ken Bernstein, a principal city planner, returned the Weekly‘s call to LoGrande but did not know any details. Kim and Tokunaga did not return calls seeking comment.
Garcetti’s office, which led the cheers for the Hollywood/Gower skyscraper and wants more high-rise towers in Hollywood, said it did not know the Department of Planning had claimed the fat “supplemental findings” from the developer as its own. Julie Wong, a top aide to Garcetti, said she didn’t know if LoGrande had launched an investigation and was surprised to learn that LoGrande was not commenting.
City Attorney’s spokesman Frank Mateljan could not comment as to whether those involved in violating the due process of the Hollywood community will be investigated.
However, former city planning commissioner Mike Woo, who stepped down in mid-July, said an investigation would not be unheard of.
In an email, Woo explained that when a judge finds that L.A. acted illegally, “The City Attorney routinely reports back to the decision-making bodies (in this case, the City Planning Commission and the City Council) about the outcome of the lawsuit and recommends a course of action. In theory, this can include the kind of investigation or reprimand” the Weekly queried Woo about.
Silverstein isn’t holding his breath. If the skyscraper is ever built, he says, “Its big billboard should say, ‘Don’t violate our constitutional rights.’ ”
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