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Hit With Lawsuits, Hollywood Target Will Regroup and Come Back

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It's going to be a bit longer until you are able to buy Target-branded flatware at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Western Ave. In a surprising reversal, the Minneapolis-based retailer announced last week that it was surrendering the entitlements granted by the city and will instead go back and do an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project, a move which delays the building process by at least a year. A rep for Target says an EIR is being done in response to lawsuits filed by locals against the 74-foot project, a legal challenge that represents, in part, the ongoing battle over building height limits in this neighborhood. Calling the lawsuits "unfortunate," the rep says that an EIR will be done on the existing proposal, seen above. But whether just completing an EIR is enough to ultimately satisfy those who don't like the current project is unclear. Meanwhile, members of the Hollywood Design Review Advisory Committee, which weighed in on the Hollywood project, are now saying they were never thrilled with the final result, with committee member Michael Lehrer specifically noting the "lack of innovation" of the design. "It's OK," says Lehrer of the proposed building. “But “OK” isn’t good enough for Hollywood anymore.”

For those just catching up, in late June, the city approved a Target store at the corner of Sunset and Western, a large box store that will encompass the entire block, taking over the CVS pharmacy and old Farm Fresh Ranch Market. While the project, which was supposed to break ground later this year, had plenty of community support, those who spoke out against the store questioned design decisions such as the lack of underground parking. They also argued the traffic study submitted was based on outdated information.

Given threats of a legal action, no one was surprised when late last month, residents Robert Blue and Doug Haines (the latter is represented by well-known attorney Robert Silverstein) filed separate lawsuits alleging the city violated municipal code by granting nine variances for the project. Additionally, the suits allege approval of the project violates provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“I don’t think [Haines and Blue] will even think of dropping the lawsuits if there’s not an EIR,” says the rep for Target, explaining why the retailer is going forward with the study, which will more fully address traffic concerns. But because an EIR will be done on the same project, it’s unclear if Haines' and Blue's gripes about height and design issues will be addressed by Target.

For his part, Haines wants a store that conforms to the specific plan, which limits building heights to 35 feet, or 75 feet for mixed-use buildings, in this section of the city. “We look forward to Target opening a store that the community would embrace,” he says.

Meanwhile, they don’t have any real power, but the Hollywood Design Review Advisory Committee, a pro-bono group of architects and designers which advise City Councilman Eric Garcetti's office, say they were left with concerns about the project’s final design. Committee member Lehrer, who works as an architect in Silver Lake, specifically was worried about the lack of sustainable elements in the design. And while he calls the treatment of the Sunset and Western corner "energetic and nice," he wishes the retailer would show more imagination given Hollywood's growing importance as a neighborhood.

“Target can’t make every project unique, but on the other hand Hollywood is unique, “ he adds. “Hollywood is no longer in a position where it has to settle?. You can’t casually throw away space anymore.”

Enter City Council President Eric Garcetti, facing pressure to bring jobs and revenue to the neighborhood. Asked about the hubbub and the lawsuits, Garcetti’s office issued the following statement: “A new Target would bring construction jobs, permanent jobs, and millions of dollars in economic activity to Hollywood. There is a lot of community support for the project, and we hope there is a way for all parties involved to find common ground.”

But some are scratching their heads, wondering why Garcetti’s office didn’t press Target do an EIR in the first place, particularly given the fact that Silverstein will file a lawsuit if a developer so much as sneezes in Hollywood.

One local land use consultant, who asked to remain anonymous, says he’s very surprised Target didn’t offer to undertake an EIR. “ For any controversial project, I advise my clients to do an EIR,” he says.

Asked why an EIR wasn’t done, a rep for Target says: "The city did not believe it was necessary to do an EIR and Target was in agreement, so a [mitigated negative declaration] was done.”

The rep also says that conversations about the overall project will continue with the council office.

Bonus video: Hollywood Unbound has video of Target lobbyist Bill Delvac announcing the surrender of entitlements at a City Council meeting. There's also video of City Council President Eric Garcetti speaking about Target's decision, a speech in which Garcetti tries to appease all sides: the construction workers who want the jobs, Haines, and Target. And he weighs in on some design issues in Hollywood, calling the Sunset Boulevard Home Depot "ugly." Sorry, Home Depot.

· Here's What Your Hollywood Target Would Look Like [Curbed LA]
· On Hold: Proposed East Hollywood Target Goes Back to the Drawing Board [Hollywood Unbound]