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Amid Criticism, City Will Give 1601 Vine Deal Another Look

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Today, the City Council was supposed to give its final approval to 1601 Vine, a Community Redevelopment Agency deal that will bring an eight-story, glass-sided office building to Hollywood (and give a tasty $1 million payout to Molly's Burger). But amid numerous questions, now the project is being sent back to the Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee for a public airing. Whether this new hearing will validate critics' accusations about the deal (it's shady, they allege), or is just political theater to help the city fend off an eventual lawsuit (this is Hollywood, land of the development lawsuits), or both, remains to be seen. But the subcommittee will more closely examine the deal on November 17th. "Hopefully through the committee process there can be a full public airing to answer any questions about this project," said a city official involved in the process, who asked not be named.

Ever since deal surfaced, there's been a drumbeat of mostly negative press. Earlier this year, the LA Times quoted critics wondering why the Community Redevelopment Agency is selling the lot for so cheap--Santa Monica-based developer Pacifica Ventures is buying the site for $825,000 from the CRA, who paid $5.46 million for the site. And a few weeks ago, resident Bob Blue spoke at a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, questioning numerous aspects of the deal, including the bumpy financial history of the developer.

"Instead of it being referred back [to subcommittee] the whole process needs to be audited," Blue wrote in an email today. "And an outside law enforcement agency should be brought in since obviously the City cannot police itself."

While saying that the "principles behind this project appear to be sound," Yusef Robb, spokesperson for City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents Hollywood, told us:
"There have been concerns raised as to the process behind this project. These concerns must be addressed, fully and openly."

Robb also said that Hollywood needs more class-A office space, and that the city is losing entertainment companies and jobs to Burbank and Glendale given the lack of office space in the neighborhood.

As for what he thinks is the best use of the site, Blue said that given tax payer money is involved in the deal, request for proposals should sent out. And the CRA shouldn't "force down an office building in that area if market conditions don't warrant it," he added.

"Also, do we really need to develop this site at this time?" he wrote. "Surrounding this parcel are all new developments or historical elements that will not be demolished such as the Ricardo Monteblan Theater, Legacy Apartments, Sunset Vine, etc."

A rep for the Community Redevelopment Agency didn't return a call, but in that previous LA Times story, executives have defended the deal. From the story: ""People have to understand the numbers," said Neelura Bell, the agency's Hollywood project manager. "We didn't just back into this. We looked at the reasonable return to the developer" to calculate the "fair reuse value" of the property."

· Greasy Burger Shack Threatened by Purple-Hued Office Project [Curbed LA]