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From Hollywood, Rumblings and Requests for CEQA Reform

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Via Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
As we've repeatedly covered over the last two years, Hollywood is ground zero for lawsuits over development. Consider what's happened with the proposed Target, Emerson College, Bvld 6200, or Sunset and Gordon projects. "Everyone sues in Hollywood," is what lobbyists will warn their clients. More often than not, locals will sue over California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) issues. Some of these neighborhood activists argue they have no other weapon than CEQA in their arsenel against big developers; developers and some city officials counter these activists are exploiting the legal process. The issue of CEQA-related lawsuits is black and white for some, murky for others.

Amid the debate, the latest newsletter from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce calls for legislative CEQA reform. From the newsletter: “Virtually all major development in Hollywood has ground to a halt,” said Chamber President & CEO Leron Gubler. “The sad thing is that thousands of people could have been put to work if it had not been for these lawsuits or threats to sue. And now other developers are reconsidering doing projects in the community because they are fearful of frivolous lawsuits.” The Chamber newsletter cites at least six Hollywood projects that have faced legal challenges, and states that local law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell has been working with the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee to research and draft a bill that that would help to shorten the timeline for CEQA reviews. You can read the newsletter via this link.

The newsletter from the Chamber prompted the Los Angeles Business Journal to pick up Gubler's call for CEQA reform, with editor Charles Crumpley writing that "CEQA’s like a third rail in Sacramento. Nobody will touch reform."

Crumpley's column prompted local activist Cary Brazeman to write an Op-Ed in the LABJ, defending CEQA.

Argued Brazeman: "Charles Crumpley should be careful not to imbibe too much of that anti-CEQA Kool-Aid, as expressed in his Comment column...Next thing we know, he’ll be calling for eliminating all pollution controls ? yikes!

While there is some evidence of abuse, the California Environmental Quality Act provides so many more benefits than it does damage."

Brazeman went on to argue: "CEQA isn’t the problem here. There are three other culprits at work in the city of Los Angeles." Those include out-of-date community plans, antiquated zoning code, and byzantine development-approval processes, he states.

It's not just in the pages of publications that this debate is happening. At a recent meeting for the local branch of the California Infill Builder Association, held at Hollywood's Sunset and Vine tower, a group consisting of developers, lawyers, and architect reps, had a lengthy session to talk about CEQA lawsuits and how reforms can be accomplished. Any changes to CEQA, believe experts, have to come at the state level.

· Not Suited for Development [Fox and Hounds]

Emerson College Los Angeles

5960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028