By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
With Garcetti apparently standingaside, and its application moving along, Molasky Pacific lastly geared up its outreach campaign for neighbors living within 500 feet of the proposed buildings — by law, the only Angelenos who must be notified at this point. The broader public, who might think skyscrapers in Hollywood are an atrocious idea that will create a toehold for more skyscrapers or ruin the recently revived district, typically don’t get invited into the loop until a deal is nearly unstoppable.
Members of the firm met with community leaders, hosted a “scoping meeting” at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, attended a meet-and-greet in the neighborhood east of Columbia Square and invited selected guests to the cocktail party last month.
When the important meetings with the experienced suits from Las Vegas went down, Garcetti was noticeably absent, according to people who attended. A Garcetti staffer would show up — often his green, 23-year-old Hollywood field deputy Helen Leung, with a salary in the mid-$30,000s — but community activists say it seemed odd that the City Council president didn’t show. The proposed project, after all, rivals in height many downtown skyscrapers, and it is unlike anything Hollywood has seen in size, expense and potential congestion. (The area’s most prominent high-rises — the Sunset-Vine Tower, circa 1963, and the Sunset Media Tower, circa 1971 — are only about 20 stories tall and are seldom referred to as skyscrapers today.)
Garcetti insists, “I take my cues from the community.” But according to Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council chair Bob Blue, Garcetti has never personally contacted his group about the project. Still, Molasky Pacific doesn’t seem to be hurting in the PR game, although the developer hasn’t released a draft of its environmental-impact report, more than a year after filing its application with the City Planning Department. The environmental report will reveal all of the goodies the firm is seeking from the city — such as its plans to blow past existing height limits on Sunset Boulevard by 922 percent, any efforts to cut the required parking spaces to squeeze in more condos, or any plans to reduce the required open space between the sidewalk and the building. One City Hall insider describes the delay as “unusual.”
Recent, unverified rumors floated around Hollywood that Molasky Pacific planned to sell Columbia Square, handing off its project to yet another speculator. At the cocktail party, Mark Cassidy said this wasn’t true. “It’s never been on the market,” he said. “It’s unfounded.” The developer also said the “soft market” spurred by the burst housing bubble isn''t affecting the project. Maybe. But maybe not. Major projects are under intense fiscal pressure, even as the Villaraigosa administration continues to approve luxury buildings, needed or not. (See “Bitter Homes and Gardens,” L.A. Weekly, Feb. 29–March 6, 2008.)
In the meantime, the project exists only as a scale model, photographs of which are not allowed. Angelenos will learn the details of the stealthscraper only when it reaches the stage of environmental reviews and what passes, in Los Angeles, for “public hearings.”
Thanks to months of groundwork, the locals will almost certainly not fight it, at least not too hard. Ed Hunt, chair of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee for the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council, describes Molasky Pacific’s outreach as “pretty good,” and says, “so far, I don’t get any false notes.”
One key community meeting was the spring 2007 meet-and-greet, held at Maripat Donovan’s home on Harold Way, across the street from Columbia Square. The Community Redevelopment Agency designated her neighborhood of cozy bungalows a historic district soon after the 1994 Northridge earthquake caused the area extensive damage. Donovan helped turn the block around, and her work earned special notice from Garcetti during his January 26, 2006, State of Hollywood speech, citing her as a “one-woman redevelopment agency.”
In the tree-shaded backyard of Donovan’s 1915 “airplane” bungalow, Molasky Pacific representatives brought their easels and posters and gave a short presentation. At one point, Donovan says, a Molasky Pacific rep joked about hiring housekeepers to clean away the dust during a loud and dirty construction period of three to four years — barring delays common to skyscrapers. The crack didn’t go over well.
“That really bothered some people,” says Donovan, who’s also a board member on the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. “One woman told him her health wasn’t a joke.” But no one came up afterward and said the project needed to be stopped. “I’d say 90 percent of my neighbors are for it.”
Down the block from Donovan, just a few houses to the west, Brogan Lane sits at the front desk of her boutique hotel, Villa Delle Stelle. Also a Neighborhood Council board member, she is dressed entirely in black, with a black bandanna wrapped around her head. Lane says, “We’re superexcited about the redevelopment of Hollywood. It’s time.”