Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Smart Growth" comes to Hollywood


Facelift Project for Hollywood Stirs Divisions
By Adam Nagourney
NY Times
March 28, 2012

...A far-reaching rezoning plan that would turn parts of Hollywood into a mini-city — with residential and commercial towers rising on streets like Vine, Hollywood and Sunset — has won the support of key Los Angeles officials. And it has set off a storm of opposition from residents fearful that it would destroy the rakish small-town charm of their community with soaring anodyne buildings that block views of the Hollywood Hills (and its iconic sign) and overwhelm streets with traffic.

“More is not better, bigger is not better,” Sarajane Schwartz, the president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association, told City Council members and planners at a lively three-hour hearing on Tuesday. “Hollywood needs limits, protections and preservations, not destruction and high density. Please save Hollywood. Once it’s lost it will be gone forever.”

...The overall plan seeks development that could accommodate 244,000 new residents by 2030; the current population is 198,228. Opponents note that the population in Hollywood has declined by 6 percent over the past 10 years, and that even if builders responded to the lure of easier zoning, the result would be a series of empty towers.

“This is a low-rise city,” said David Bell, the president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. “Wherever you are in Hollywood you can look up and see the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood sign. If they put 20-, 30- or 40-story skyscrapers on Sunset Boulevard, it is going to change the nature of Hollywood and not for the better”...

For Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and Eric M. Garcetti, a council member who represents much of Hollywood, the Hollywood Community Plan reflects the latest attempt to move Los Angeles away from its reliance on cars, creating a concentrated urban area along a thriving subway line where people would work, live and shop — by foot, no less...

“You love to write about this being the city of sprawl and how we are not like New York and other cities that are more vertical,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an interview. “This is L.A.’s opportunity to match the growth of our transit system with the jobs and housing that is critical to smart growth.”

“From the beginning, I said we are going to move away from our single-passenger automobile system,” he said. “We are going to remake what the city looks like”...

Yet while the plan has considerable institutional support — business groups turned out to testify for it at the Tuesday meeting — it has stirred anxiety among people who live in the neighborhood and have long been loyal to its unique charms and hidden treasures. To opponents, the plan is a sop to real estate developers who see an opportunity to make fast money.

“It’s gotten kind of nasty here in Hollywood in the last few days,” said Richard MacNaughton, a lawyer who has lived in the area for 40 years and is one of the opponents of the effort. He said the changes would result in a real estate free-for-all. “You’ll destroy the flatlands, you destroy the quality of life. Tourists come here to see the dream. They don’t come to see some high-rise.”

Richard Platkin, a planner who used to work for the city, argued that upper-middle-class residents who could afford the kind of apartments envisioned would not want to give up, say, living in the hills or near the ocean for a still gritty area notable for its lack of parks, wide sidewalks or other amenities.

“I’m not opposed to the philosophy here,” he said. “I’m only opposed when it’s imposed as a pretext for real estate speculation. The plan is designed to make it easier to build big buildings. It does nothing to improve amenities”... 

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