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Amoeba Music tells groups suing over new complex on its Hollywood site to ‘back away’

Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood
Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

When Los Angeles officials gave their blessing to a new development to replace the Amoeba Music building in Hollywood, critics went to court to try to stop it, arguing it would destroy a “cultural resource.”

But one of the owners of Amoeba Music complained this week that the push to preserve its distinctive art “threatens the very existence of the business it is claiming to hope to preserve.”

In his statement, Amoeba co-owner Jim Henderson said that “using Amoeba without our consent in their battle against development is more likely to permanently close our doors than anything else we have faced to date.”

Henderson said that when Amoeba sold its Hollywood building four years ago, it did so in order to survive as a retailer. Its goal, he said, was to relocate to a new space that would be more affordable.

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Instead, Henderson said the public push to stop the new development and protect neon art on the site — launched last month by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Coalition to Preserve L.A., an advocacy group funded by the foundation — has made it harder for Amoeba to negotiate with would-be landlords.

Those landlords “have concerns that should they choose to develop at some point in the future, having the coalition use Amoeba as a talking point to delay or cease construction will complicate matters to the extent that they may not wish to sign a lease with us at all,” Henderson said in an email.

In addition, Henderson said he was worried that enshrining the neon art as part of a historic monument could make it harder to relocate that art to a new location. He urged the Coalition to Preserve L.A. to “back away from this effort so that we may continue to be a vital part of the very community it claims to wish to sustain.”

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Coalition to Preserve L.A. argued in their lawsuit that the city had overlooked the cultural significance of the Sunset Boulevard site and that the 26-story complex slated to rise in its place did not include enough affordable housing.

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In a statement Thursday responding to Henderson, foundation President Michael Weinstein said they had “no interest in using Amoeba and have in no way represented that we are speaking for them in any way.”

“We are fighting for the integrity of our community and to preserve what makes it interesting, whereas it seems many others are just trying to cash out and milk it for everything it is worth,” Weinstein said after noting that Amoeba had sold its building for $34 million.

“If our legal actions succeed, the Amoeba owners have the option of buying the building back and preserving it for future generations or it can be sold to another company that is interested in preserving its mission,” Weinstein concluded.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been a controversial player in development debates in Los Angeles, repeatedly suing the city over planned projects that it argues will fuel gentrification and clog streets with traffic.

This month, it filed a new lawsuit against the city arguing that it had violated federal and state housing laws by approving projects in Hollywood — including the new complex slated for the Amoeba Music site — without making sure they wouldn’t lead to the displacement of black and Latino residents.

GPI Cos., which is developing the new complex on the Sunset Boulevard site, says that its development will provide new, energy-efficient housing near public transit without eliminating any existing homes.


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