Millennium Hollywood Hearing Continued Until June 18th

June 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

The June 4th hearing of the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee regarding the Millennium Hollywood Project was continued at the request of the developer. The new hearing date is Tuesday, June 18th at 2:30pm in City Hall. The meeting is open to all.

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The Millennium Hollywood Project’s Upcoming Hearing

May 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

Artist's Rendering of the Millennium Hollywood Project/Courtesy LA Times

Artist’s Rendering of the Millennium Hollywood Project/Courtesy LA Times

A public meeting will be June 4th at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., L.A., 90012, in Room 350. All are welcome to attend.

More info.:

The Millennium Hollywood Project’s Historical Precedent: M. H. Sherman, the Water Board and the Development of the San Fernando Valley

April 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

M. H. Sherman (center) and the Board of DWP/Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

M. H. Sherman (center) and the Board of DWP/Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Security Pacific Collection

The most striking thing about the Millennium Hollywood Project is not the height of the towers or its sprawling size, but a tidbit that was revealed during a hearing on March 28th, almost as an aside. It seems the head of the Los Angeles Planning Commission, architect William Roschen (of the firm Roschen Van Cleef Architects), is also the project architect for Millennium Hollywood. He recused himself from the meeting–but not, oddly, from his dual role in the creation of Millennium Hollywood.

As it happens, there is a precedent for this circumstance in Los Angeles’ civic history. While doing research for my documentary Under the Hollywood Sign, I learned that one of Hollywoodland’s key developers, Gen. M. H. Sherman, was buying up huge tracts of agricultural land for development in the San Fernando Valley during the same period–the late teens and early 20s. At that point, Sherman–for whom Sherman Way and Sherman Oaks are named–was also serving as Water Commissioner on the board of DWP, thereby controlling the commodity that was essential to the Valley’s transformation. Conflict of interest? Of course! But no one suggested he recuse himself from civic office, and we all know what happened to the farms and orchards that once filled the Valley. By wearing two hats, Sherman enriched both himself and his legacy as a City Father.

Until now, I thought such shenanigans were a thing of the past, yet here we see William Roschen about to benefit from the very project he is in the process of approving. Conflict of interest? You might think so, but at City Hall it’s only business as usual–just as it was a century ago.

Related article:

The Millennium Hollywood Project: A Highrise Future For a Gridlocked Little Town

March 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

Artist's Rendering of the Millennium Hollywood Project/Courtesy LA Times

Artist’s Rendering of the Millennium Hollywood Project/Courtesy LA Times

As readers of this blog know, Hollywood was once an independent city, culturally and politically distinct from Los Angeles. In fact, it was the anti-Los Angeles: religious, semi-rural and dry. From 1903 to 1910, Hollywood passed its own laws and collected its own revenues. It not only outlawed alcohol but forced Los Angeles to send liquor westward in a circuitous route around it. Life would have probably continued in that vein for a few more years if not for the matter of water. In an arid region, Hollywood’s survival depended on water from the California Aqueduct, then under construction. But the only way for Hollywood to tap into the Aqueduct was to become part of Los Angeles, so like a lot of other little towns, it did.

Change came immediately. There was massive new development in the form of movie studios and houses for the new stars and moguls of that industry, and by 1920 Hollywood had surpassed downtown Los Angeles as an urban hub. Its glory days were shortened by the Great Depression, and over the decades Hollywood became a seedy and crime-ridden place. Despite various attempts at rejuvenation, things didn’t really turn around until a decade ago, with the completion of Hollywood and Highland in 2002.

Since then, Hollywood has became not only a tourist destination but a kind of Nightlife Ground Zero for suburbanites from miles around, drawn here by restaurants, clubs, theater and concerts. Anyone attempting to drive through Hollywood on a weekend night can see the difference: streets that not so long ago were the nighttime domain of panhandlers, hookers and homeless people are now thronged with young women in tight dresses and stiletto heels and the men who want to meet them. Hollywood Boulevard, once so blighted that the average tourist spent only 20 daytime minutes there, is now vibrant, glittering and packed with pedestrians–and lots and lots of cars.

Unfortunately, the major aspect of Hollywood that hasn’t changed is the streets–essentially the same ones laid out by Harvey and Daeida Wilcox in the 1890s. The exponential increase in traffic has overburdened them to the point where certain streets such as Franklin Avenue are now congested day and night. During rush hour, gridlock is common, and on Franklin drivers often jump the median line in an attempt to gain some advantage, terrifying the oncoming traffic.

Given the evidence, it’s safe to assume that few of Hollywood’s visitors arrive by public transport, yet this is what Mayor Villaraigosa thinks will happen if a massive new project call Millennium Hollywood is built. Occupying a large swath of land north of Hollywood and Vine, the development features two towers over 50 stories (dwarfing the current tallest building in Hollywood, at only 20 stories) as well as numerous other buildings. Where all the cars for the new residents and workers are supposed to go is anyone’s guess–certainly the developers and City Hall haven’t given it much thought. The objections of 40 neighborhood organizations have just been dismissed, and it seems obvious that some version of the scheme pictured above will be built.

Of course there’s so much more to the story–including a clear conflict of interest at City Hall that uncannily mirrors one of a century ago. The more things change in Los Angeles, the more things stay the same: needless to say, I’ll be writing more about Millennium Hollywood and its antecedents in the future. In the meantime, I’m taking a couple of weeks off to do other, non-Hollywood things, and will be blogging again in mid-April.

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