The long-running saga of a partially built Target shopping center in Hollywood took another twist Tuesday, with the city's latest attempt at approving the project derailed by a disagreement over a child-care facility.
Target's three-story shopping center has stood empty on Sunset Boulevard since August 2014, when a judge struck down the City Council's approval of the project. The judge said the council should not have approved a 74-foot-tall shopping center in a location where such projects are limited to 35 feet.
The council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee is weighing a proposal to change the planning rules for the Target site, increasing the height limit for the property.
City officials say that move would allow the project to move forward and withstand a legal challenge. But the committee postponed its decision for six weeks after learning that Target and the city are still at odds over the child-care issue.
Three months ago, Mayor Eric Garcetti's appointees on the Planning Commission voted to require that Target Corp. provide a 3,895-square-foot child-care facility within a mile of the Hollywood site as part of the project's approval.
In paperwork filed with the city, Target representatives called that demand "excessive, impractical, illegal, erroneous and an abuse of discretion." The company said it would rather make a one-time payment of $407,619, with other businesses at the shopping center chipping in $76,381, to support a child-care facility in the area.
A Target spokeswoman declined to comment on the child-care issue. Meanwhile, city officials say they need more time to vet Target's counterproposal.
Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who represents part of Hollywood, said through a spokesman that he backs completion of the project but declined to say whether he supports Target's child-care request. The area's zoning requires that certain projects provide either a child-care facility or funding to support one, said Tony Arranaga, the councilman's spokesman.
O'Farrell is "actively searching for solutions to fulfill this need in the community," Arranaga said in an email.
The Target project has had a tortured history at City Hall. City lawmakers first approved it in 2010, drawing a legal challenge from the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. The council then obtained more extensive environmental review and re-approved the project in 2012.
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The La Mirada organization filed another lawsuit that year, saying the city improperly spared Target from having to comply with rules covering building height, signage and other design elements. A judge agreed, ruling that city officials failed to show that Target would experience an "unnecessary hardship" if it was forced to comply with city planning rules.
Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, voiced dismay at the latest delay for the Target project. The No. 1 question asked by neighborhood residents and business owners is when will Target open, he said.
"It is frustrating to see it taking so long to resolve these issues and move this forward," Gubler said.
Development of the Target property is governed by the city's 2001 Station Neighborhood Area Plan, one of the city's earliest attempts at spurring transit-oriented development near Metro Red Line subway stations. That document states that retail projects cannot be taller than 35 feet unless they include housing.
In November, the Planning Commission recommended the council amend the zoning plan so that taller retail projects could be constructed on the site. But Hollywood activist Doug Haines, who belongs to the La Mirada group, warned he would go back to court if the council made that change.
"Instead of reconfiguring the building to conform with the law, they're trying to reconfigure the law to conform to the buildings," he said.
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