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Lane comes across as a tough, independent woman — “We make shit happen,” she says, “that’s our motto around here.” But the hotel owner wants to keep the feel and look of the historic neighborhood intact. “We want to preserve our little area here,” says Lane, a former wife of the late actor Dudley Moore, “and we’ll do whatever we have to do to preserve it.”
But in fact, the pressure to tear down her bungalow enclave once a skyscraper rises will be intense. Lamishaw, the consultant to developers, who has watched L.A. land transformations for three decades, says that once the height limit is blown, more skyscrapers will come. “The bungalows across the street are going to go,” she predicts. “You can save them for a while, but they’re going to go.”
In the mid-1980s, Ralph Bouwmeester,a civil engineer based in Barrie, Ontario, wrote his own computer software to study the ways in which tall buildings cast shadows. Since then, he has testified in court cases and consulted with developers throughout Canada and the United States.
When Bouwmeester heard that only a few people had begun asking questions about the shadows that the proposed side-by-side buildings at Columbia Square would cast over a large area, the classic views they would wipe out, and the long construction schedule that Hollywood’s first true skyscraper would require, he was surprised.
“You have those westerly winds coming off the ocean and heading into the basin,” says the tall-buildings expert, “so they may be in for quite a dusty period.”
But a more profound change in the microclimate would come from the huge shadows. Bouwmeester says that during the spring, summer and fall, a 40-story skyscraper and 14-story office building would throw “significant shade” on the historic district to the east. According to his calculations, the dark silhouettes would have a “1-to-1 ratio,” meaning the 447-foot skyscraper and 210-foot office building would cast 447-foot and 210-foot shadows.
Since the sun keeps moving, so would the largest man-made shadow created so far in Hollywood. By 3 or 4 p.m., Brogan Lane and her guests would not be enjoying the unique Southern California sunlight.
In Manhattan, affected New Yorkers would not only be informed in detail about the new darkness to befall their homes, offices and schools, but many would be calling lawyers and circulating petitions. Shadow wars, in cities accustomed to skyscraper developments, are a very, very big deal. But in mostly low-rise Hollywood, it’s an entirely new concept — and one that Garcetti’s office is not exactly advertising to the greater community.
The skyscraper would also obscure views of the Hollywood Hills for potentially thousands of residents to the south — including beloved views of the Hollywood sign.
“You get these tall buildings with big, very ugly signage blocking the views, the vistas of the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood sign — all of the things that make Hollywood unique,” says Greg Williams, a producer and writer who has lived in Hollywood his whole life. “The Hollywood we’ve known is gone, and gone forever.”
Williams wrote the award-winning book The Story of Hollywood, which covers its long, storied history. His uncle operated a market in Hollywood — ”He delivered groceries to Jean Harlow,” Williams says — and he attended Hollywood High. For him, the Columbia Square monolith is yet another development that force-fits modern buildings into a unique area, with no thought for the past or the future.
“They’ve done almost nothing to complement the neighborhood,” explains Williams. “The Hollywood Historic District [as created by the CRA] is pretty much shot.”
Williams says it’s important for people to see the Hollywood sign without an obstructed view. “Looking at the Hollywood sign is like looking at the Eiffel Tower,” he explains. “It gives you a sense of where you are.”
Instead, Garcetti has just been doing what the past three City Council members have done before him, starting with Peggy Stevenson and continuing with Mike Woo and Jackie Goldberg. They’ve all allowed Hollywood to be developed in a thoughtless, too-intensive way.”
The Columbia Square tower affects far more than Hollywood. Residents far to the south, near Larchmont, live in just one area that will see the skyscraper instead of the Hollywood sign. Yet members of that area’s very active Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, including its 16-member board of business owners and residents, haven’t heard of it. “I’m not aware of the project,” says Elizabeth Fuller. Fellow member Russell Sherman also says he knows “nothing” about it.
Nor has any information yet seeped out about the expected mass congestion from the project.
During an August 6, 2007, “Hollywood Mobility Strategy Plan” meeting held near the Hollywood police station on Fountain Avenue, the Community Redevelopment Agency and some hired consultants acknowledged that Sunset Boulevard attracts even more cars than Hollywood Boulevard during rush hour. Robert Nudelman of Hollywood Heritage, who attended the Fountain Avenue meeting, says, “If you put up something as big as Columbia Square, it’s going to be catastrophic. And no one is going to use the subway. People who own condos don’t take public transit. They drive cars — and they probably own two of them.”