Century City Center, the 37-story office complex proposed for the corner of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard, is picking up steam and opposition from rival developers. Chicago-based JMB Realty is developing the project, with local high-rise purveyor Johnson Fain as the project architect (Johnson Fain also did the designs for an earlier iteration of the project). A scary-sounding opposition website has sprung up, from a group called Coalition to Save the Westside, claiming that the project will be built to a density beyond what's allowed by the 1981 Century City North Specific Plan.
The Century City Center website says that the project will include a single 37-story building with supporting retail and dining; two acres of tenant gardens and courtyards covering the parking structure; 25,000 square feet of one- and of two-story "loft-like flexible office space designed for start-ups"; a 1,300-square-foot Mobility Hub, which will encourage Century City employees to use public and alternative transit; and a 40,000-square-foot public plaza with "vibrant planting, a garden cafe, seating under groves of trees and wireless connectivity." The website also makes a key claim: "Century City Center will be built below allowed density and will conform to the [Century City North] Specific Plan without need for amendment."
The Coalition to Save the Westside (such lofty ambitions!) takes umbrage with that claim, arguing (in all caps, no less) that the project is much larger than the plan allows: "JMB's 37-story office complex would be MORE THAN TWO AND A HALF TIMES what they are allowed to build -under the Century City North Specific Plan...Under the rules, JMB is allowed to build 293,925.5 square feet of office space. The scheme submitted by JMB is over 731,250 square feet. THAT IS A 250% INCREASE IN SIZE!" Of course, the website's main concern is that traffic will become intolerable with the extra cars in an already congested neighborhood.
Christopher Koontz, planning deputy for area Councilmember Paul Koretz, clarifies via email: "The proposed project complies with the zoning for the site in terms of [floor area ratios, ratio of the development to the site], parking and height. The project does propose a different 'trip rate' than the one found in the Specific Plan. Allowing for such an 'alternative trip generation' is allowed and contemplated under the Specific Plan. The claims of Save the Westside are not without some basis but are exaggerated and misleading." Basically that means that the developers used a different method to calculate the new potential car trips the project would create, but that that's a kosher practice.
Koontz offers some additional words of caution--Save the Westside is operated by lobbyist Harvey Englander on behalf of JP Morgan Chase: "JP Morgan Chase is a competing property and office-space owner in Century City. [Councilmember Koretz] is not interested in protecting JP Morgan Chase from competition but rather is more interested in hearing from our constituents and working toward a project that is beneficial to the community and city at large." The Save the Westside website also lists Westfield LLC (which has plans of its own for a 39-story tower up the street), One Hundred Towers LLC, and Entertainment Center LLC among its members.
Adding to the intrigue, the project's site is by a very controversial potential location for the Century City station of the Purple Line extension--this is the stop that will require Metro to tunnel under Beverly Hills High School, an idea that a lot of NIMBYs in Beverly Hills are freaking out over. Back in November 2011, opposition groups raised the possibility that Metro was doing JMB Realty's bidding by placing the stop at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation. (Metro says that this stop is far more central; the alternative is on a fault line and by a golf course.)
Koontz also confirmed that a draft version of the project's environmental impact report is in circulation in the Council District 5 office and should be released for public review in February.