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AIDS nonprofit sues L.A. over planned Hollywood towers

AIDS nonprofit sues L.A. over planned Hollywood towers
A rendering of the Palladium Residences. (Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects Inc)

A nonprofit that has launched a campaign to crack down on "mega-developments" is suing the city of Los Angeles over its approval of two residential towers next to the Hollywood Palladium.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation wants the courts to invalidate city approval of the Palladium Residences, which would be built next door to its Hollywood headquarters. The towers, near a Metro stop on Sunset Boulevard, are expected to rise as high as 30 stories.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, argues that Los Angeles violated the city charter, the California Environmental Quality Act and other laws when it gave the green light for the project. The City Council allowed the project to move forward last month by changing existing zoning and height limitations.

The suit against the Palladium Residences, which opponents argue are too tall and too dense for their location, also names the developer.

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"City Hall, in cahoots with the Palladium developer, has run roughshod over L.A.'s zoning laws in approving this monstrous project," AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said.

The suit challenges the broader practice of "spot zoning," which Weinstein described as altering city rules for a particular site to allow development that otherwise would be barred.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, declined to comment Friday other than to say that that city lawyers would analyze the complaint.

Backers of the $324-million Palladium project have argued that the towers are similar in size to other buildings along major boulevards in Hollywood. They say they will provide sorely needed housing, including some affordable units, in walking distance from a subway stop.

Steven Afriat, a spokesman for the Palladium Residences, said attorneys for the development company saw the suit as "baseless."

"Their criticisms are completely unfounded," Afriat said, contending that the project had undergone "an extraordinarily thorough environmental process" and "a thorough public hearing" at City Hall.

Afriat also accused Weinstein of improperly spending nonprofit money meant to help people with HIV and AIDS, using such funds as "his personal piggy bank" to maintain the view from his Hollywood office.

Weinstein shot back that Afriat was trying to divert attention from legitimate concerns and that the fight against the Palladium Residences project — and mega-developments across the city — was in keeping with the nonprofit's mission.

"I cannot understand why nonprofits shouldn't have as much to say about the future of our community as developers," Weinstein said. "For us, gentrification is a social justice issue.

"Luxury housing does not benefit the homeless, the poor or middle-income people," he said.

The nonprofit has become a major player in the battle over the size and scale of development in Los Angeles, gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would put a two-year moratorium on many developments that don't fit existing planning and zoning rules.

Such new developments are replacing older apartments that fall under rent control, forcing out tenants, the AIDS nonprofit and other supporters argue. Opponents counter that the proposed ballot measure would end up hurting renters by clamping down on new construction, worsening the housing crisis.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its allies in the Coalition to Preserve L.A. aim to put their proposal on the March 2017 ballot.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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