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LA City Council Ignores Protestors, Unanimously Exempts Hollywood Target from City Height Rules

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Once again, the LA City Council displayed its unanimous voting tendencies – and its deep connection with developers. Wednesday, they voted to permit the construction of a controversial Target shopping center in Hollywood, which seems to be one of the epicenters of runaway development. Close to two years ago, a judge ordered work at the site to be stopped but times, they are a-changin’.

Following a 13 to 0 vote, the council revised planning and zoning rules to give heads up on the Sunset Boulevard Target’s 74-foot-tall retail center … more than double what the City allows and in the face of law suits and protests from the community. The city council has been pretty liberal with zoning variances, allowing for a Wild West, anything goes environment that seems to be friendlier to commercial interests than to constituents.

In 2014, Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin Jr. put the brakes on the council’s approval of the Target center. The judge said the council failed to demonstrate that Target would suffer an “unnecessary hardship” if the retail chain complied with the city’s height rules … which limit shopping centers at that location to no more than 35 feet. The construction was halted but is now expected to resume within weeks.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes part of Hollywood, is a proponent of the vote, which he says will bring in tax revenue. Challengers to the project say they’ll file another lawsuit, charging that an environmental impact report should have been prepared on the changes to city planning rules.

Proponents of the multi-story Target also cite increased commercial revenue, employment opportunities, and convenience as reasons to support the project.

On another front, the city council faces concerns that its approvals may continue to be challenged in courtrooms, which happened when a judge struck down a 22-story apartment building that had been approved by the city council. A judge also invalidated the council’s greenlight on the Millennium skyscraper project, ruling that the city didn’t properly assess impact on the nearby community.

Target was also at the center of a controversy over a city requirement that a child care facility be included in the project. In lieu of onsite facilities, O’Farrell told the LA Times, Target will absorb a fee for childcare services near the store. The Board of Recreations and Parks Commissioners will determine the fee. According to Target, the new store will bring 250 full- and part-time permanent jobs to the community. The store is expected to be completed next year.

Although commercial development may have the upside of increased employment, the continued path of unanimously approved development projects has left Hollywood and other communities in a whirlwind of constant construction. EIRs funded by independent sources or the city should be the rule, not reviews funded by less than objective developers themselves. The fox cannot be trusted to guard the hen house. Should neighbors and activist groups bring a lawsuit to put a damper on the project once again, they’ll join a long list of community activists who aim to maintain the integrity of the city.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)-cw