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Hollywood Debates Its New Planning Standards at City Hall

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The Planning and Land Use Management committee of the Los Angeles City Council held a marathon hearing for the Hollywood Community Plan yesterday. The HCP is the first of many city community plans that will update and standardize zoning codes and planning priorities for their neighborhoods--this one looks to increase density around transit nodes while preserving single family areas. The hearing yesterday was probably the first of many hearings for the HCP--in fact, the only action PLUM took yesterday was to continue the item until April 17. In the interim, the committee members will review all of the public comments, which have been added to the record. There were few surprises yesterday--the groups you would expect to oppose or support did their best to oppose or support (opposed: neighbors, especially in the Hills, who fear traffic and view-blocking towers; support: fans of transit-oriented development and density in general). Aside from traffic congestion, population figures were the most frequent target of the opposition--the US Census says Hollywood's numbers are declining, while the plan counts on numbers rising. Opponents don't think that a "build it and they will come" mantra is a good enough reason to add density and increase building heights in the neighborhood. In a reply at the end of the hearing, planner Kevin Keller explained that "[The plan] is a policy decision in terms of providing capacity for growth. The plan itself does not generate growth. It guides the growth." The Planning Department did make 16 changes to the plan before the hearing, helpfully listed today by the Hollywood Patch.

The number public comments clocked in at well over two hours, with the number of speakers totaling somewhere between umpteen and infinity. In a hearing as controversial as this (the debate around the plan has already produced some of history's greatest malapropisms--note that it encourages the creation of a Hollywood Freeway cap park, not a cat park), we couldn't resist listing some of the highlights and lowlights from the hearing:

-- According to planner Kevin Keller, the current Hollywood Community Plan, approved in 1988, is sorely lacking the tools a community plan needs in Los Angeles, including slope density requirements, urban design guidelines, and mansionization controls.

--As shown in the image above, the most intense development is targeted for the area around Sunset and Vine.

--Many commercial property owners said they supported the plan and encourage the neighborhood's transformation from a place where no one would want to live or work to a 24/7 environment.

-- John Walsh from HollywoodHighlands.org managed to discuss his concerns about Hollywood turning into Tokyo during public comment for all the other items appearing before the committee.

--A resident speaking for herself punctuated her opposition with the following gem: "We're known for palm trees, not skyscrapers."

--An unidentified poet opposed new density for market reasons: "New density is hitched to a CRA honey pot that no longer exists." (On a related note, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles had to be written out of the plan in the eleventh hour because, well, it doesn't exist anymore.)

-- LA notoriously relies on case-by-case planning approvals (the HCP would cut back on that by providing new, denser standards, meaning developers wouldn't have to apply for exceptions so frequently)--one representative for the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council said he supports the old way of doing things: "If you remove case by case planning, you remove the voice of residents."

-- A Hollywood resident who's been in the neighborhood since 1952 urged the council to approve the plan using the following creative simile: "What we have gone through in the last eight years is like being nibbled to death by ducks."

--Will Wright, of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter: "The community plan is one of 35. If we can't make this one work, how are we going to plan the future of our city?"

HCP presentation
· City Planners Revise Proposed Hollywood Community Plan [Hollywood Patch]
· Hollywood Community Plan Makes Its Debut [Curbed LA]