The City of Los Angeles Planning Commission moved the Paramount Master Plan forward yesterday, approving some but not all of the entitlements the studio is seeking. After several hours of presentations by Paramount executives and neighborhood groups, the appointed members of the Commission voted to accept some of the City Planning Department’s staff recommendations, including denying Paramount’s request for an electronic sign district and reducing the height of a proposed office tower from 240 feet to 150 feet.
“It was a very good first step,” said Beth Dorris, the attorney representing a neighbor who filed an appeal to the initial approval of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). “The Planning commission addressed some of the biggest issues: the height of the monstrous office building that would tower over this low-lying historic neighborhood and the electronic signage with scrolling digital images that would have made this neighborhood look like an amusement park.”
But Dorris would still like to see more done to address the traffic and construction impacts that are considered significant, according to the EIR.
“Paramount is almost doubling the square footage of the lot,” said Dorris. “They are replacing studios with high intensity uses such as retail and office. Between Paramount and Hollywood Forever Cemetery there is almost 120 acres with no East-West cross street. The traffic burden is already exceptionally hard. It will become unbelievably hard, so we need more mitigation efforts.”
Dozens of residents from Hancock Park and Larchmont Village urged the commission to accept the Planning Department’s recommendations yesterday, and urged them to go further to protect the neighborhood from increased traffic and density and what could be 25 years of construction. Karen Gilman, GWNC Board member and a board member of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association, presented the Council’s resolution opposing the master plan at the packed hearing. Hancock Park HOA ’48 President Cindy Chvatal said her neighbors oppose plan for the 240-foot office tower, super graphics on any buildings and the electronic sign districts.
“This is not an entertainment district,” said Chvatal. “Paramount is located in a historic neighborhood. We are also very concerned about density and traffic.”
Ellie Baron, a teenager from Hancock Park, said she is worried about not being able ride her bike in the neighborhood. As for electronic signs, Baron said, “this is LA not New York!”
Charles D’Atri, president of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association thanked the planning staff and said, “We 100% with the [Planning Department] staff recommendations.” He urged the studio to develop a better master plan with appropriate signage, reduced height of office towers and better traffic mitigation measures for the surrounding neighborhoods.
CD 4 Councilman David Ryu sided with residents and urged the commission to accept the staff report as well. However, he added his concern that the EIR failed to provide funds for traffic mitigation measure for the neighborhoods south of Melrose. Ryu suggested $500,000 be allocated to traffic mitigation. In addition, he requested $25,000 be provided to the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association for an historic survey in preparation of their HPOZ application.
On the other side, dozens spoke in favor of the project, including representatives of several unions and business groups, noting Paramount’s importance as a local employer and significance in the entertainment industry. A handful of residents also supported the project, saying Paramount has been a good neighbor over the past 90 years and they should be allowed to modernize their facilities to stay competitive. Coincidentally, there were news reports this week day that Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, is hoping to sell a 49% stake in the studio to Daalian Wanda Group, a Chinese entertainment and real estate company.
“I am pleased with the Planning Commission’s actions yesterday and fully support the Paramount project,” said Fred Mariscal, Hancock Park resident and former candidate for CD 4.
Patricia Casado, owner of Lucy’s El Adobe, which is located across the street from Paramount, urged the Planning Commission to support the master plan.
There are still more details to be sorted out on some of the requested entitlements, following yesterday’s hearing, particularly the status of Paramount’s request for alcohol sales on the entire property, including the lots south of Melrose Avenue, and the issue of a land use exchange among the various parcels included in the entire project.
Though the final declaration of the Commission’s action won’t be published for several weeks, an audio recording of the hearing will be available online in the next few days and we will continue to update this story as more information is known.
The next step for Paramount is to secure approval from the full City Council.