The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan that would radically alter the Hollywood skyline despite warnings from state officials about the project's proximity to a major earthquake fault line.
The 13-0 vote Wednesday in favor of the Hollywood Millennium project allows New York-based developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space on several vacant parking lots surrounding the iconic Capitol Records building.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a leading champion of new development in Hollywood during his three terms representing the neighborhood on the City Council, announced Wednesday that he would sign the deal.
Newly elected Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who replaced Garcetti after he termed out this year, said the project will create jobs and new tax revenue for the city and draw new residents and tourists to Hollywood's eastern edge.
"It's a game changer for the Hollywood area," O'Farrell said. In recent days, he had been silent on whether he would support the project, which has drawn opposition from neighbors who complain that it is out of scale with the surrounding architecture and will worsen traffic gridlock.
When O'Farrell asked his colleagues Wednesday to join him in supporting the development, dozens of community members who had packed City Hall to voice opposition erupted in shouts and boos. A large contingent of supporters, including many from the business and labor community, also showed up at the hearing and cheered when it was approved.
In recent days, opponents have raised concerns about the project's proximity to the Hollywood earthquake fault line. They point to a letter sent to Council President Herb Wesson by the head of the California Geological Survey, alerting Wesson that the project "may fall within an earthquake fault zone."
In the letter, John Parrish said his agency launched a study of the Hollywood fault after several independent studies suggested it may be active. He said the study may not be completed until 2014, but noted that if the fault is found to be active, the city would be required by state law to withhold permits for new development projects until testing could prove that there is no risk.
The project's developers say extensive testing has shown that the complex would not be built on an active fault. They pointed out that they will have to secure permits from the city's Department of Building and Safety before any construction can begin. Department officials say they have asked the developer to conduct additional seismic tests to ensure the safety of the site.
Philip Arons, a founding partner of Millennium Partners, called the development "a dynamic mixed-use project that pays tribute to the past and paves the way to the future."
He said it was "foremost a preservation project" that would protect views of the Capitol Records building and the Hollywood sign. "Hollywood is constantly changing," he added.
The project's only vocal opponent at City Hall, Councilman Tom LaBonge, was not present at Wednesday's meeting because of a death in his family.
O'Farrell read a statement from LaBonge. In it, LaBonge said he would not have voted for the project if he had been present. "I feel the height of the two towers is too tall and out of scale with the character of Hollywood," he said. LaBonge added that he worried about the impact of traffic in the Hollywood Hills, a large swath of which he represents.