LOCAL POLITICS - Television City (formerly CBS Studios) sits at the corner of Beverly and Fairfax, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that is both historic and trendy. The studio has been home to over a hundred productions, including The Carol Burnett Show, Hollywood Squares, and The Price is Right. Now its new owner, Hackman Capital Partners, has hatched a redevelopment proposal that preserves the iconic studio but wipes out the neighborhood.
Hackman’s proposal takes the form of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), to be followed by a final EIR. These are the standard documents on which the city bases its permitting decisions. But Hackman’s DEIR is far from standard. Ordinarily, a DEIR describes a proposed development in considerable detail. It sets out uses and dimensions of structures, specifies the placement of structures on the site, and provides studies of the project’s impact on the environment and community.
Not this one.
Apart from the original buildings already in place, no specific structures. No uses and dimensions. No site plan. Just parameters: square footage not to exceed X, height not to exceed Y, and some modest setbacks. Running to more than 500 pages, the DEIR for TVC 2050 does not include an actual building project. Old hands say they’ve never seen anything like it.
In community outreach meetings and on its website, Hackman floats glamorous, gauzy renderings of a world-class studio, with enticing prospects for thousands of high-skill high-wage jobs. But the DEIR does not commit to building a studio. In Hackman parlance, the studio is a “concept,” merely one of several “development scenarios.”
Hackman is asking for a 20-year construction contract to decide what to build on the site. But they’re pretty sure it will be big. Their DEIR seeks the right to build almost two million square feet, some part of it running to 20 stories. For reference, picture something more than twice the size of Staples Center crammed onto a site between the Original Farmer’s Market and established residential neighborhoods.
But wait, there’s more. Hackman is raising the stakes, right on up to the city limit. They want the city to designate the site a Regional Center, like DTLA. That’s the city’s most intense development category, and it would allow Hackman (or a subsequent owner) to build structures with three times more mass than they are already asking for. Options could include a 3,000-seat stadium, arena, or theater, to name just a few.
Rendering of New CBS TV City
Located in a Regional Center, development projects would be subject to far less public input. Then there’s the “external signage.” As a Regional Center, the site would qualify as a Sign District. Hackman’s DEIR asks for rights to put up more than 30,000 square feet of highly lucrative billboards visible along Beverly and Fairfax. And Hackman’s Regional Center would open the door to aggressive development all around it.
Hackman is proposing a mammoth construction site located three miles from the nearest freeway. They are forecasting high-wage employment for 8,000 people and contending that many of them will rely on LA’s legendary public transit. This despite a 30 percent drop in ridership since 2019. The study they commissioned concludes that TVC 2050 would have just modest impact on traffic in the area. Go figure.
The area already struggles with power outages, tired roadways, traffic congestion, and flooding. From the community point of view, the added load on aging infrastructure and the challenge of maintaining viable emergency response raise serious alarms.
Pushback on Hackman’s proposal ran to a remarkable 400-plus comment letters to the Planning Department, taking issue with their, um, unique DEIR. Here in the ‘hood, a small and admittedly anecdotal sampling of public opinion suggests a rising tide of skepticism. It seems that the more folks know about Hackman’s audacious proposal, the less they like it.
Our community is asking for a process that is straightforward and transparent and for a vision that builds on the strength, cohesion, and character of our neighborhoods. Instead, Hackman is offering a concept without a commitment. A scenario instead of a project. Over 30,000 square feet of billboards. Twenty years of construction. Epic traffic congestion. Zoning that all but begs for massive overdevelopment.
TVC 2050. In Taylor Swift’s phrase, a nightmare dressed like a daydream.
(Shelley Wagers is Co-chair of Neighbors for Responsible TVC Development, a grassroots community group raising issues of concern about Hackman Capital Partners’ proposed redevelopment of the old CBS Television City property.) fixtvc.org