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Humongous Mall Project Sparks Controversy in West Hollywood City Council Race

Proposed project at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards
Proposed project at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards
WEHOville

WEHOville recently broke a jaw-dropping story that's causing a major stir in West Hollywood and could possibly impact any driver passing through that city on Santa Monica Boulevard, which is already a rush hour nightmare.

Developer Charles Cohen, who owns the Pacific Design Center and recently added the huge "red building" to the complex, has entered into a negotiation agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to possibly build a massive mall at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards that could be bigger than The Grove.

West Hollywood community activists are alarmed -- they've been against over-development for years -- and candidates in this year's City Council race are speaking out.

For starters, challenging candidate Sam Borelli tells L.A. Weekly, "Is this just another train that has left City Hall Station and will be dictated to the residents that this is 'good for us'?"

As WEHOville reported, Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation of California will send Metro "proposals for developing a massive multi-use complex, comparable to Century City's mall, with office, hotel, residential and retail space on the MTA bus depot lot on the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood.

"The proposed project would cover 10.9 acres, the equivalent of 10 football fields, and extend beyond the scope of many other LA shopping centers like The Grove, in nearby Los Angeles, or Americana at Brand, in Glendale."

Whoa!

Charles Cohen certainly has a thing for size -- the "red building" at the Pacific Design Center dwarfs a quaint, nearby neighborhood of single-family homes and can be easily spotted from the Hollywood Hills.

Now he's looking to build a gigantic mall in a small city that's already beset with traffic problems on Santa Monica Boulevard.

West Hollywood City Council members will have a major say about the project, which is why it's quickly become a controversy in this year's City Council election. Currently, the property is home to a Metro bus depot and a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station.

West Hollywood City Council members Jeff Prang and John Duran are up for re-election, and Duran says in no uncertain terms that the project as it is proposed now is a "non-starter."

"There is no way I would vote for a mall in Boystown!!!" Duran writes in an email to the Weekly. "Completely incompatible. I do support making the south side look like the north side. But what is proposed is ludicrous."

Candidate Christopher Landavazo writes to the Weekly, "This is a huge project and I appreciate many of the amenities proposed such as the movie theater, amphitheater, and mixed use residential and hotel, MTA housing and new Sheriff's station, but I would say that on the surface there are many concerns which I would want answers for."

He says that traffic issues "would need to be completely flushed out" and the project "could leave us in a worse traffic situation. Not to mention its attract-ability would mean a need for more security to patrol the area."

Landavazo adds, "I am a huge proponent in civic engagement. Engagement of the community would be a priority for me before moving forward with a project of this magnitude. I would want to strategically explore the impacts this development would have on our community."

Candidate Sam Borelli sounds off in his own email to the Weekly, "The proposed project raises a lot of questions that I share with many other residents: How did we get to this point without any information about this process being shared with the community? What do our city councilmembers know, when did they know it? What does the city manager know, and when did he know it? Is this just another train that has left City Hall Station and will be dictated to the residents that this is "good for us"?

Sounds as if a big political scandal is brewing.

Borelli adds, "While I am for measured development, that makes sense for our community, there needs to be a much more open process that includes community input."

Candidate Steve Martin says, "It's naive to believe Charles Cohen, with his long history in West Hollywood, didn't give City Hall a heads up about moving forward with the project." He says there's been a "huge amount of blowback" about the proposed mall.

In the WeHo News, an anonymous source close to the negotiations between Cohen and Metro says the hubbub about the project is "all much ado about nothing." Coming from an insider, that's usually a sure sign that there's much going on about everything.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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