Boulevard of dreams
THE CORNER OF HOLLYWOOD and Vine hasn’t always been as glamorous as it is famous. But for six decades, the Bernard Luggage store has been at or near the legendary intersection, through years when the star-studded sidewalks were dirty, businesses struggling and the prospect of revitalization remote.
Now things have picked up. Streams of free-spending club-hoppers pour out of the Metro, and red carpets are regularly unrolled on the boulevard for concerts and TV tapings. Bernard Luggage is again at the hottest intersection in town. So after everything has been spiffed up, along comes the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency to declare the area “blighted” and evict property owners such as Robert Blue, whose family has owned Bernard Luggage for 60 years. To build a luxury hotel.
It’s a heavy-handed government grab for private property -- to make way for a private project. There may be some rare instances in which such grabs are appropriate. This isn’t one of them.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that government can take private property from one person and give it to another. The prospect is chilling, and over-reaching redevelopment is now a greater danger, especially by elected officials who often rely on contributions from the same types of folks who build big projects. Unlike the development at issue in the Supreme Court case, the Hollywood and Vine project is not taking anyone’s home, just commercial property -- in which Blue, his family, his employees, his tenants and his neighbors have invested their lives.
Sure, the proposed project could bring some great things to Hollywood, which, away from the boulevards of glitz, still needs infusions of cash and business to keep the revitalization on track.
And yes, it would be great to have assurance that the hotel would pay union-standard wages to its employees. But watch out: On similar projects, organized labor is only too happy to line up with developers if they can hammer out a union-hire pact. An affordable-housing plan and a local hiring agreement that dictates jobs go to Hollywood residents looking for work would be great, too.
But those plums are not enough to justify seizing Blue’s property, the adjacent building and the businesses they contain to make way for a hotel and 150 luxury apartments. The city, the CRA and the developer can move ahead with their planning and their innovative benefits packages. But if Blue’s land is so important, they should get it the old-fashioned way: Make him a fair deal. If he doesn’t go for it, redraft, redraw and build around him.
It’s the same as with Ralph Horowitz. The government can’t simply kick out property owners just because it likes gardens better than warehouses, or big developers better than luggage-store owners.