The Los Angeles City Council today voted unanimously to approve the long-debated Hollywood Community Plan, which will guide building and development in the neighborhood over the next few decades. The vote ended an approval process that began in 2001, but not before one final, loud public comment period featuring many of the same fireworks that thrilled observers when the plan appeared before the City Planning Commission in December and the Planning and Land Use Management Committee in March. The last update for the plan came in 1988--even before the construction of the Metro Red Line, which served as the focal point of many of the plan's smart growth goals. Before getting to a lengthy public comment period, the hearing commenced with Planning and Land Use Management Committee Chair Ed Reyes and Councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge--the two councilmembers representing the 26 square mile area in question--providing background and voicing support for the work of the Planning Department.
PLUM Chair Ed Reyes said the main objective of the plan was "to understand the notion of compatibility--what fits," and called the controversy that has surrounded the plan a good sign: "We know we've done our job if people walk away upset because they didn't get everything they wanted. It's about compromise." Councilmember Garcetti described the neighborhood as defenseless without the Community Plan update because many parts of Hollywood currently lack pedestrian plans or height restrictions. But he also clearly disagreed with plan opponents who claim that population growth projections used by the plan are inaccurate or obsolete: "Plan so if growth occurs, we aren't caught flat-footed like we have been for 20 years," adding, "Planning for growth does not mean growth will occur."
When public comment started, with each side being given 20 minutes for a series of one-minute comments, the noticeably agitated opposition stuck to their guns on issues like traffic congestion, building heights, census data, and traffic congestion (again). Here are some of the scary visions presented by the plan's opponents:
-- The "big one" will destroy all the new high rises
-- A developer's dream (that can't be good, right?)
-- Hollywood businesses will leave Hollywood
-- Tourists won't be able to see the Hollywood Sign (except from somewhere in Beachwood Canyon [where they're not welcome])
-- The lack of height restrictions will allow buildings that dwarf existing historic buildings
-- Traffic will be congested through the Cahuenga Pass, which is the only transportation corridor through the "mountain range" to the north of Hollywood
-- Residents of Hollywood Dell would become "prisoners in our own homes" because there is no turn signal at Cahuenga Terrace where it meets Cahuenga Boulevard, which is congested
-- "More lives will be lost and more fires will burn out of control" because of LAFD not being able to navigate through the congestion
-- Cars will kill cyclists (i.e., because all the congestion means it's not safe for cyclists already, the city shouldn't build bike facilities)
-- Several direct and indirect threats of lawsuits were made should the plan be approved
After public comment, both Councilmembers Reyes and LaBonge asked Planning Department staff to explain the process by which high rises could be built in the vicinity of the Capitol Records building (as is currently proposed). City Planner Kevin Keller explained that although the HCP does not add height restrictions along the Vine corridor, developers will not be able to build high rises by right (meaning without review by officials). Buildings larger than 50,000 square feet would trigger a discretionary review process that includes an environmental review (more chances for CEQA lawsuits!). Buildings larger than 100,000 square feet will require a Major Project Conditional Use, which is an additional layer of discretionary approval (more chances for CEQA lawsuits!).