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Long-stalled Target shopping center in Hollywood can proceed, appeals court rules

Long-stalled Target shopping center in Hollywood can proceed, appeals court rules
An appellate court's ruling Thursday allows construction to proceed at the half-built Hollywood Target shopping center on Sunset Boulevard, above. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

For four years, the half-completed hulk of a Target store has loomed over Sunset Boulevard, a project halted by litigation brought by neighborhood groups opposed to the building’s height.

As a flurry of development brought new restaurants, apartments and residents to Hollywood, the construction site remained unchanged. It inspired the Target Husk social media accounts, which post plaintive-sounding messages on Facebook and Twitter in the voice of the unfinished project.

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Now, work is slated to begin again. A California appeals court Thursday sided with the city of Los Angeles, reversing a lower court’s ruling that stopped construction.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the city complied with state environmental law and did not abuse its discretion by changing local zoning laws to allow the development.

Los Angeles city officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, cheered Thursday’s ruling, while an attorney for the opponents indicated he would appeal.

“Because today’s decision reversing the trial court could have broad ramifications for land-use approvals across the state, we believe this matter should be addressed by the California Supreme Court,” attorney Robert Silverstein, who represents the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn., wrote in an email.

Community groups opposed to dense development in Hollywood have repeatedly sued the city over the last decade, stopping projects such as the Millennium Hollywood twin skyscrapers and the Sunset and Gordon apartment complex. Opponents also successfully challenged the Hollywood Community Plan, the city’s blueprint for development in the neighborhood.

The City Council first approved the Target shopping center in 2010, drawing a challenge from critics who said the project lacked an environmental impact report. Weeks later, Target withdrew its application and agreed to prepare a more extensive review.

The project was approved again in 2012. Two groups, the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. and Citizens Coalition Los Angeles, sued to stop the shopping center, arguing that the City Council should not have allowed Target to build a 74-foot-tall structure in a location where such projects couldn’t at the time exceed 35 feet.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin Jr. sided with opponents, ruling in 2014 that the City Council’s approval of the project violated planning rules.

Fruin said Target could have complied with the city’s height rules had it constructed an underground parking garage — a move that would have added at least $5 million to the project’s cost. Fruin also pointed to a 2012 letter sent by Target’s attorney, saying the retailer originally considered a design that would have mostly complied with the city’s zoning requirements.

In that letter, Target’s lawyer at the time, Bill Delvac, said the company changed plans in response to then-City Councilman Garcetti and “key community stakeholders” who wanted the development to be more pedestrian-friendly and “conform to good planning principles.”

Council members in 2016 approved new zoning for the site, but that decision prompted another legal challenge.

In 2017, Fruin ruled that the council’s do-over on the project also violated the law. City officials, he said, failed to properly examine the environmental effects of its new zoning mechanism on the larger neighborhood.

Thursday’s decision reverses that ruling.

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Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office, said the city was “pleased with the court’s decision that the city of Los Angeles followed the law and that the project can move forward.”

Target spokeswoman Jacqueline DeBuse said that the company is “pleased with the outcome” and that Thursday’s ruling “brings us one step closer to offering an easy and inspiring shopping experience to this area.”

DeBuse said she didn’t have details about Target’s timeline for completing the store.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents Hollywood, said local residents will soon have “visual relief” from the “blight” of the stalled development.

“With this path forward, we can complete the project and bring this long, unfortunate saga to a close,” O’Farrell said.

Garcetti, who championed the project as a council member representing Hollywood, said he’s “thrilled” the store can move forward.

“This store will be good for Hollywood, the neighborhood wants it, and it’s time we get it open,” Garcetti said.

6:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background.

5 p.m.: This article was updated with reaction, background and additional details from the ruling.

This article was originally published at 12:20 p.m.

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