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Plan to demolish Sportsmen's Lodge clears hurdle

Plans to demolish the events and banquet center of Sportsmen's Lodge, a Studio City landmark once known as a hangout for Hollywood stars, took a step forward Tuesday as a committee of Los Angeles lawmakers rejected the objections raised by some of its neighbors.

Real estate developer Richard Weintraub is seeking to tear down the rustic collection of ballrooms and banquet halls on Ventura Boulevard that has long hosted weddings and bar mitzvahs. He plans to build a riverfront development dubbed Sportsmen's Landing that includes upscale shops, restaurants and a health club.

Project spokesman Aaron Green said the plan, which is backed by several neighborhood groups, would reinvigorate the area and produce hundreds of new jobs.

But the plan has stirred up opposition from some neighbors and the company that owns the hotel next door, which will remain on the site. They argue that the project will increase noise and provides too little parking.

Four different appeals were lodged after a Planning Commission allowed the project to move forward earlier this year. A City Council committee rejected those appeals Tuesday, sending the decision to the entire council for its approval Wednesday.

The battle over the Studio City development has also spurred a lawsuit against the city, stirred up criticism of the sale of city property to the developer and triggered an unsuccessful push to oust a Studio City Neighborhood Council board member who supported the planned makeover.

Green and other backers of Sportsmen's Landing contend that the opposition is being drummed up by a warring company seeking more money — the owners of the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel next door. Those hotel owners have been in a legal brawl with a company tied to the developer, which leases and operates the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel.

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As part of that battle, the company tied to Weintraub went to court to demand documents from two neighbors who have criticized Sportsmen's Landing, including records of any payments they might have gotten from the hotel owners fighting the project. One of those neighbors, appellant Patrice Berlin, said she has never gotten any such payments and denounced the demands as harassment.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Reznik, the attorney representing the hotel owners, pointed out in a letter to city lawmakers that Los Angeles sued the company leasing the hotel31/2 years ago for failing to pay hotel and parking taxes.

The city later settled for roughly $1.1 million paid in installments, an amount that the city attorney's office said covered the unpaid taxes and interest, but left off more than $400,000 in city penalties. Reznik said the legal dispute over the taxes raised questions about whether measures to protect neighbors would be enforced.

Green said the company tied to the developer had been delinquent on its taxes because its management company, which has since been terminated, had failed to pay them on its behalf. The hotel leaseholders "have been and continue to be upstanding and trusted members of the community," Green said.

The hotel owners have also filed a lawsuit against the city over the planned project.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Follow @LATimesEmily for breaking news from Los Angeles City Hall

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A version of this article appeared in print on December 16, 2015, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Project threatens Valley landmark - A plan to demolish Sportsmen's Lodge clears a key panel and is headed for a City Council vote. - SURROUNDINGS" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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