The Target Store Shell Still Haunts the Corner of Sunset and Western … Here’s Why

INSIDER VIEW--After Target tried to construct a patently illegal store at the corner of Sunset and Western in Hollywood, the courts ordered Target to stop construction. 

Upset that it could not build a 75 foot store in a zone which limited the height to 35 feet, Target decided to continue the legal fight while changing the law so that its illegal building would be legal. 


Attorney David Bell representing a local man who took his time and his own money to appeal Target’s behavior, emphasized that there is only one reason that Judge Fruin stopped the construction the Target – The project breaks the law. The basic issue is whether our society operates by the rule of law or by the rule of who has the most money. 

Who wouldn’t love to live in such a world, where they could go back after breaking the law and change the law. Did you run a red light? Well, if you were Target, all you have to do is have the City retroactively change the law so that running a red is okay. 

But, you are not Target. Therefore, you pay the fine for running the red light, but Target gets to re-write the law and then re-write it again. 

How Los Angeles Lets Developers Dictate Zoning Laws 

Changing Los Angeles’ law to satisfy developers is nothing new, as CCLA’s attorney, Richard MacNaughton, expressly told the PLUM Committee. As far back as 2006, former Director of Planning Gail Goldberg had warned the City Council that Los Angeles was headed for disaster if it allowed developers to change the law to fit their projects rather than having developers tailor their projects to the existing law. In fact, this practice of letting developers dictate the law resulted in Council District 13's driving out so many residents that by 2010, CD 13 had lost so many residents that it no longer qualified as a legal council district. That is the literal definition of a disaster.

How Target Prolongs the Litigation Rather Than Build the Store 

Attorney MacNaughton made clear the public’s desire for the Target store to open as soon as possible without needless delays. He pointed out that had the Target constructed a By Right store, the Target store would have been opened sometime in 2010. No one is against the store; they want Target to open the store. Target, however, is the one who is continuing the case in the appeals court. Target took the case all the way to the Supreme Court once before and Target lost. Yet. Target insists on more litigation because the law is not precisely worded the way Target wants. 

Target is Again Breaking the Law 

Attorney Dan Wright, attorney for La Mirada, pointed out that Target is again breaking the law by trying to amend SNAP to add a new Subarea F, but without following the legal amendment procedures. SNAP is not an old law; it was enacted in 2001. When Target first decided to ignore the law, SNAP was about 5 years old. The City had determined just a few years beforehand that a Subarea F was wrong for this neighborhood. Although the community recently went through an exhaustive process to formulate SNAP and each of its Subareas, Target now is re-writing the law while ignoring all community in-put. 

What issue now delays the project? Target still does not want to pay for child care. 

Target’s Efforts To Avoid Child Care 

About a year ago, Target had found SNAP’s child care provisions were not to its liking, and thus, it wanted them changed to satisfy its whims. Target demanded that SNAP’s child care provision be re-written so that Target could either (1) construct a child care center as part of the project or (2) reimburse the parent-employee for the cost of child care. So, the City dutifully rewrote the child care provisions to make Target happy. But, Target is not happy. It wants the law changed again – back to what SNAP had originally said. 

After that child care change had been approved, Target apparently discovered that child care reimbursement can cost up to $25.00 and hour, and it only pays its employees minimum wage. 

What a horrible prospect! Target would have to pay about 2.5 times more for child care per hour than it pays its minimum wage employees. I guess Target had thought it could dump the little tots in an empty room and let them play with the dirt on the floor. 

So now, Target is again postponing the project because it wants to revert to SNAP’s old child care rules.   Target prefers to pay a fee rather than provide childcare, but Target itself wants to decide what the fee will be. 

Naturally, PLUM and the City Council thought that delaying the project longer and returning the Project to the PLUM committee for approval of the new cheaper childcare provision was a most excellent idea. Thus, on Wednesday morning, 3-23-2016, the City Council unanimously voted to send Project back to PLUM. 

Target Ignores The Harm it is Causing The Community 

Target clearly does not care one iota what the public wants, nor does it seem to have any concern for its shareholders. The Target corporation has lost six years of profits, and it does not care if it loses another six years of profits as long as it can fine tune the law to be exactly the way Target wants. Meanwhile, the residents have been deprived of any commercial use of the property, which formerly had a grocery store, a drug store and some other shops. Because Target could not follow the law, and now, it cannot decide exactly how it wants to re-write L.A.’s zoning law, the neighborhood has had nothing for years and will have nothing at this site for several more years. 

Target Could Start a Legal Store Tomorrow 

Here’s the kicker. Target could start a ‘By Right’ store tomorrow and by the end of 2017, Hollywood could have a new Target store. Instead, Target is too busy wiggling out of the law’s child care requirements to give a hoot what Hollywoodians want. 

The vision of Councilmember Huizar’s dutifully writing down the instructions as the Target dictates the newest version of the SNAP ordinance makes one wonder why we don’t just put Target on the City Council?


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)