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California

Hollywood Target, still dormant, remains at the center of furious legal fight

Hollywood Target
The partly built Hollywood Target shopping center, as seen in February.
(Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times)

For a fleeting moment, it looked as if the long-stalled, partly built Target shopping center in Hollywood might finally be in the clear.

L.A. city lawmakers voted in May to resurrect the project, changing the zoning for the site in response to a judge’s decision invalidating the building’s permits. At the time, the local councilman said he expected construction work to restart within weeks.

Three months later, the building remains an empty husk. The city’s lawyers now say that, in the wake of a new ruling, Target will need to obtain permission from a Superior Court judge  to resume construction. Meanwhile, foes of the three-story shopping center, at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, have promised to keep that from happening.

“We will oppose any request” from Target to restart construction on the current building, said lawyer Robert P. Silverstein, who represents the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Assn. of Hollywood, which has been fighting the project for eight years.

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The Target shopping center has been stalled since August 2014, when a judge ruled the city improperly allowed the retail giant to build a 74-foot-tall shopping center in a spot where such structures were supposed to stay within 35 feet. As part of that decision, Target was ordered to stop work on the building.

Target appealed the ruling. At the same time, the company worked to persuade the City Council to amend the city’s zoning so that its taller building would be allowed at the site automatically.

La Mirada filed a new lawsuit in June challenging the new zoning, saying the city engaged in a “sham environmental review process.” Opponents also said, among other things, that the city improperly gave Target permission to sell alcohol.

“The new approvals are still so riddled with violations of the law that it just shocks the conscience,” Silverstein said.

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Appearing in court earlier this month, Target attorney Richard Schulman said he was “very confident” the new zoning would be upheld by a judge.

Schulman acknowledged the new case could consume another three years in court. Target is looking to finish the building in the meantime, according to a legal filing submitted by the company last month.

“Target already knows that resuming construction will be at its own risk,” Schulman wrote. “Given the meritless nature of the next round of lawsuits, though, Target is willing to take that risk.”

Target had suggested the 2nd District Court of Appeal order the lower court to dismiss the earlier case, allowing construction to proceed. Instead, the three-judge panel dismissed Target’s appeal but left it to the Superior Court to decide how, and whether, to amend its original ruling in the wake of the new zoning.

A Target spokeswoman would not directly address the court’s decision, saying in a statement that the company “remains committed” to opening its new store. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the area, said city officials are reviewing the latest ruling to “determine the best approach to allow Target the ability to move forward.”

At the bus stop across from the hollowed-out Target structure, some residents were baffled by the ongoing legal saga. Alonzo Patterson, 88, said the neighborhood already has plenty of buildings that are taller than the planned Target.

Patterson, holding an umbrella for shade, said he shops at Target in West Hollywood and would prefer to have a store closer to home.

“It’s really a shame they can’t finish it,” he said. “It would really help the area.”

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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