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Earthquake Risk to Giant Hollywood Project Much Worse than City or Developer are Telling Us

SHOCKER--Opponents said today that two new seismic studies by separate government agencies are “bombshells” that together warn that the proposed giant Millennium project in Hollywood, if built, would sit atop a site crossed by at least four active earthquake fault lines. 

“Now we have two independent agencies, the California Geological Survey [CGS] with its report last week, and the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] with its report two months ago, that say the seismic studies prepared for the Millennium developer and sold to the public and city officials as gospel, paint a completely false picture of the dangers of building two high-rises on this property,” said attorney Robert P. Silverstein.

The CGS July 16 report and earthquake fault map attached below.

Silverstein represents homeowner groups and activists opposed to the Millennium “Hollywood Center” project. The proposed project site includes the iconic Capitol Records building.

“Millennium Partners, the developer, paid its private seismic consultants big money and it got what it paid for – a whitewash,” said Silverstein. “Those misleading seismic studies are now the key evidence Millennium cites in its Draft Environmental Impact Report [DEIR] to support its claim that it’s safe to build on its site. But this coverup of a public safety threat has now been exposed by two independent government agencies.”

The CGS report said the new federal and state studies of the Millennium site provide “new information of importance to public safety.” “That’s a diplomatic way of warning city officials that they should not accept Millennium’s ‘see no evil’ seismic studies,” said Silverstein. A lawsuit Silverstein filed in 2014 successfully forced Millennium Partners to scrap their original project -- even after it was approved by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council – and go back to the drawing boards.

“These independent government studies are bombshells that totally destroy the developer’s new project and the narrative that there’s only one, inactive fault on its property,” said Silverstein.

In May, the USGS, using the latest technology, released a report that showed four faults at the Millennium property, these being in addition to the fault mapped by the CGS in 2014. “In effect, we may have as many as five active faults on the property,” said Silverstein.

On July 16, the CGS issued a seven-page report that agreed with the findings of the USGS’s May 2020 report and then, in addition, exposed serious flaws in the seismic studies contained in the developer’s DEIR.

“Millennium made a big deal about digging a trench to quote unquote look for evidence of a fault on its property,” said Silverstein. “But its trench was just a public relations stunt. As the CGS report notes, Millennium’s trench was not only too shallow but also it wasn’t dug in the right spot.”

In addition, Millennium used two other techniques (Cone Penetration Testing or CPT and small-diameter boreholes) to hunt for faults on its property.

“Perhaps it should not be surprising that these tests – paid for by Millennium -- did not find active faulting on the site,” said Silverstein. “But while Millennium used that testing to corroborate its case in its DEIR that its site was safe to build on, what Millennium’s DEIR dishonestly failed to disclose to the public was a third-party review, requested by the City itself but concealed until now, which thoroughly criticized Millennium’s study.

“In fact, the third-party review concluded that the data from Millennium’s CPT program could just as easily be interpreted to demonstrate ‘a distinct possibility that the southern strand of the Hollywood Fault is active beneath the project site,’” said Silverstein.

Last week’s July 16 CGS report also critically observed:

  • That Millennium’s EIR failed to provide maps that clearly showed the trajectory of the active fault CGS identified in 2014. 
  • That the DEIR contained a toothless and impractical agreement between Millennium and the city that once construction began of the skyscrapers a “project engineering geologist” would be on site to be on the lookout for any signs during the excavation of the basement of earthquake faulting. Relying on such observations “may be compromised by typically efficient construction practices,” the CGS report stated. In other words, during the hurly-burly of excavation, it would be easy to overlook or even destroy evidence of faulting.

During the news conference, Silverstein also noted that Millennium Partners built the notorious “leaning tower of San Francisco,” a structurally defective skyscraper that is now sinking and tilting. “Millennium Partners built their San Francisco skyscraper on landfill mud, not bedrock, and that turned out very badly,” said Silverstein. “And now they want to build two skyscrapers on a site riddled with active earthquake faults in Hollywood. What’s wrong with that picture?”

Silverstein says the city of Los Angeles should immediately stop processing Millennium’s land-use applications in light of the brand new CGS and USGS findings.

Moreover, because there is an ongoing FBI probe of certain developers corrupting LA city officials, and because some of those same suspect officials played a starring role in approving a prior version of this reckless Millennium project, the City Council and Mayor should join with the public in demanding a halt to any City approvals until the FBI has completed its work.

(John Schwada, of MediaFix Associates, is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.