Paramount expansion plan approved by Los Angeles City Council

Paramount Pictures is in the business of greenlighting movie projects, but it was the studio itself that got the greenlight Tuesday when the Los Angeles City Council approved  Paramount’s ambitious 25-year plan to overhaul and expand its historic lot in Hollywood.

The L.A. City Council voted unanimously to approve Paramount’s master plan, paving the way for the studio to add about 1.4 million square feet of space to its iconic headquarters on Melrose Avenue. The expansion was first announced in 2011 and is expected to cost the studio $700 million.

“We think it’s great for the city and the community,” said Sharon Keyser, a senior vice president at Paramount who has overseen the presentation of the expansion to the city. She said there is no start date yet for construction because the studio has been focused on seeing the project through the approval processes. 

Keyser said the project will roll out in phases over the 25-year period, based on which parts of the lot are most in need. 

At the hearing Tuesday, Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, whose 13th Council District encompasses Paramount, said the plan will help “keep Hollywood in Hollywood.”

He said Paramount has committed to making more than $7.2 million in neighborhood improvements, including enhancements for sidewalks and streetscaping.

”Paramount has found a way to grow and evolve into the future with minimum impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” O’Farrell said after the hearing.

About 1.4 million square feet of development would take place over the next two decades at Paramount's Melrose Avenue headquarters and some adjacent properties owned by the company. The internal expansion would create nearly 7,300 jobs during construction, according to proponents.

The plan underwent years of environmental review and public outreach with neighbors and local business owners. Some residents and community organizations expressed concerns about the potential impact on traffic and neighborhood views in Hollywood and surrounding areas, including Larchmont.

Of the six major film studios, Paramount is the only one headquartered in Hollywood itself. The current lot, famous for its white gates that have appeared in movies like “Sunset Boulevard,” partly owes its congested layout to the RKO studio lot that Paramount bought from Desilu Productions.

Proponents say Paramount needs to modernize its facilities to compete with rival studios and keep productions from moving to other states and countries that offer new state-of-the-art facilities and hefty tax incentives. Local labor union leaders have supported the studio’s plans. 

Some changes were made to the Paramount plan to accommodate neighborhood concerns. A proposed 240-foot building was reduced to 150 feet, and the studio agreed to forgo the electronic billboards it had wanted to erect. The studio also agreed to provide Council District 4, representing areas near the studio, with $475,000 in funds to alleviate traffic issues.  

Paramount’s expansion plans come at a time when the studio is facing some steep challenges. Led by Chairman and Chief Executive Brad Grey, Paramount has struggled with low box-office returns and dwindling profits in recent years. Disappointments have included “Zoolander 2” and “Ben-Hur,” although the studio has powerful franchises such as “Transformers” and “Mission: Impossible.”

Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore was ousted last month. Moore had supported a plan to sell 49% of the studio to a Chinese investor — an idea that controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone adamantly opposed.   

The studio’s upcoming releases include the Tom Cruise action sequel “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and the Martin Scorsese-directed religious drama “Silence.”

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David.Ng@latimes.com

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

 

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