Agency to Bolster Controls in Hollywood Plan : Changes Would Strengthen Historic Preservation, Building Restrictions

Times Staff Writer

Under pressure from Los Angeles Planning Director Calvin S. Hamilton, officials of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency have agreed to strengthen historic preservation and building controls in the redevelopment plan proposed for Hollywood.

But planners for the two city agencies still differ on other development and preservation issues and do not expect to resolve them before the city Planning Commission reviews the redevelopment plan in February.

"We don't expect to see any more compromises in the immediate future," said city senior planner Emily Gabel. "Both sides are pretty adamant, at least for now."

The most recent compromises worked out by the redevelopment agency's planning staff would make demolition of many of Hollywood's historic structures more difficult. The changes would also make it tougher for developers to exceed the redevelopment plan's proposed limits on building densities.

'Comfortable With Changes'

The redevelopment project, expected to cost between $572 million and $920 million and take up to 30 years to complete, is designed to transform Hollywood's blighted commercial core and outlying residential slum neighborhoods into a thriving 1,100-acre community of offices, hotels, theaters, parks and new apartments.

Redevelopment agency planner Richard Bruckner said earlier this week that his agency "feels comfortable with the changes." Bruckner made his comments at a Monday meeting of the Project Area Committee, a Hollywood citizens' advisory panel that has spent more than 18 months developing the renewal plan.

Bruckner said the agency's governing board still must approve the changes. He said that approval will probably come soon after the city Planning Commission reviews the redevelopment plan at a Feb. 6 meeting. After the commission makes its recommendations at a Feb. 13 session, the plan will be sent on the City Council.

The changes affecting preservation received faint praise from Frances Offenhauser, an architect and preservationist who is a member of the Project Area Committee.

"They're Band-Aids, but they're Band-Aids that we definitely needed," she said, adding, "There's still a lot more that could be done for (Hollywood's) historic buildings."

Grace Periods

One change states that any threatened demolition of buildings registered as national historic landmarks--or those appearing to be landmarks--could be delayed up to a year.

Such grace periods, normally granted by the city's Cultural Heritage Board, are often used by preservationists to find new, preservation-minded buyers for buildings threatened by demolition.

According to Gabel, about 160 buildings on Hollywood Boulevard and elsewhere in Hollywood's central business district will now be eligible for the grace periods. "We felt the language on preservation in the redevelopment plan needed to be toughened and more specified," Gabel said.

But the planning department and the redevelopment agency still differ over Hamilton's insistence that developers be deprived of any building "bonuses" if they demolish historic buildings.

Under the redevelopment plan, builders would be eligible for bonuses that would include such things as additional density allowances. "Our position is that if a building is demolished, we want to get the best possible development at that site," Bruckner said. "Bonuses are good tools to bring in the kind of development we would want."

But Gabel said the threat of depriving developers of those bonuses might persuade some to maintain historic buildings that would otherwise be razed. "The plan doesn't have any real incentives for preservation," she said. "We feel that it should at least have a disincentive for demolition."

The planning department won at least one major compromise from the redevelopment agency on development issues.

'Mitigating' Requirements

In Hollywood's commercial core, the plan had previously stated that developers could exceed a 4.5-1 floor-area ratio (4.5 square feet of building for every square foot of land) only if they satisfied one of four "mitigating" requirements: concentrating development in areas near public transportation, providing development that is architecturally compatible with nearby historic buildings, providing entertainment or tourist-related facilities or providing housing.

Under the compromise, developers will now have to satisfy the public transportation requirement and at least one other mitigating factor.

But the two agencies remain at odds over another development issue that is expected to be the hardest to settle. The planning department is insisting that no development in Hollywood should exceed a 6-1 floor-area ratio; the redevelopment agency believes that in some cases, greater densities may be required.

"It comes down to flexibility," Bruckner said. He said that if a cap were placed on density, exemptions could be obtained only through a City Council amendment, a costly and time-consuming process that could take up to a year. "That would be a significant amount of staff time and delay," he said.

Despite the remaining differences, Bruckner said the plan is proceeding on schedule. Some members of the Project Area Committee expressed some dissatisfaction with the latest compromises, but the advisory committee agreed to meet before the Planning Commission hearing next month to discuss the latest changes.

"It seems to me these are fairly complex and involved changes," said committee Chairman Marshall Caskey. "I don't think we need to be in a great hurry to approve these changes."

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