Hollywood Renewal Wins 1st Round, Facing 2nd

After fending off the first legal challenge to the $922-million Hollywood Redevelopment Project, the city and Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency are preparing to defend against a second lawsuit.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Warren H. Deering ruled last week that the environmental impact report prepared a year ago for the project was valid.

Hollywood businessman David Morgan had sought to invalidate the report, claiming that it was insufficient on 31 grounds and that he was denied a fair hearing on his objections.

Challenge to Legality

A second suit challenging the legality of the redevelopment plan itself is scheduled for a series of pretrial hearings this month, said attorney Fernando Villa of the law firm of Weiser, Kane, Ballmer & Berkman, hired to represent the city and Redevelopment Agency.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Morgan and Save Hollywood Our Town, a coalition of Hollywood residents, business people and environmentalists.

Villa said an adverse ruling against the city on either lawsuit would halt the project. The 30-year redevelopment program involves rebuilding the community's commercial core, building new housing, rehabilitating old housing and preserving historic structures.

"Obviously," Villa said, "we are pleased with the first ruling. It's one less hurdle the city has to jump to start the revitalization of Hollywood."

Attorney Christopher A. Sutton, who is handling both cases against the city, said the second suit is far more important.

"It is extremely difficult to strike down an environmental impact report," said Sutton, whose law firm, Gronemeier, Barker & Huerta, has sued other redevelopment agencies in the Southland.

The Hollywood Redevelopment Project was approved by the city last year and will be paid for by tax increment financing. The project is bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, La Brea, Franklin and Serrano avenues.

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