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Judge deals major blow to Hollywood growth plan

Laws and LegislationEnvironmental IssuesCrime, Law and JusticeCourts and the JudiciaryMike Feuer

A judge has dealt a major blow to Los Angeles' efforts to spur larger development in parts of Hollywood, calling a new zoning plan for the area "fatally flawed" and saying that the document should be repealed.

In a tentative 41-page ruling issued Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman said city leaders failed to comply with the state's environmental law when it approved an update to the Hollywood Community Plan, which mapped out new limits for development in that neighborhood.

The plan sought to allow construction of larger buildings in some parts of Hollywood, particularly around transit stops. Three civic groups sued the city over the plan last summer, saying that the council and city planners had relied on inaccurate data and failed to properly consider alternatives to the plan.

“It’s a clear-cut victory for all three plaintiffs and the community,” said Frank Angel, one of the attorneys for Save Hollywood.org, one of the three groups.

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said his office had not been notified of any tentative ruling on the Hollywood plan. A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supported the plan as a councilman before becoming mayor, said he was looking into the matter.

Robert Silverstein, who represents the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. of Hollywood, described the tentative ruling as a "significant setback" for Garcetti, who represented portions of Hollywood for 12 years.

"His 'vision' includes height- and density-busting projects that push out longtime stakeholders, harm neighborhoods, overtax our infrastructure, and overburden our already gridlocked streets and freeways," Silverstein said in an email. "And he intended to emulate this plan citywide."

In his tentative ruling, Goodman said the city's plan, and its accompanying Environmental Impact Report, contains "errors of fact and of law."

The decision, Angel said, means the city will need to start over with its approval process, provide more accurate population data and improve the analysis of alternatives. In addition, it will prevent the city from relying on the zoning changes that were part of the plan, including provisions that allowed for greater density on certain streets, said Beverly Palmer, attorney for the group Fix the City.

The council voted to update the Hollywood Community Plan in June. At the time, supporters described it as a visionary document that would allow Hollywood to complete a 20-year transformation from a hotspot of criminal activity into a vibrant center of jobs, residential towers and public transportation.

Critics warned that the new growth would snarl notoriously bad traffic and destroy views for those who live in Hollywood's hillsides. They also said the city did not have the proper infrastructure to support the increase in population planned by the city's elected officials.

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