Academy Museum gets preliminary OK
Objections also are heard by a city panel. Full Council is slated to vote today.
Unlike Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” planners and backers of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be delighted if Wednesday is a repeat of Tuesday.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences received a thumbs- up for its $ 300- million museum from the Los Angeles City Council’s planning and land use management committee in a hearing Tuesday afternoon. The full Council is scheduled to vote on f inal approval Wednesday morning.
The committee’s chairman, Councilman Jose Huizar, presided alone Tuesday because the two other members were absent. At the end of the 45- minute hearing, Huizar said he will support the project and recommend it to fellow Council members. If approved, the academy could begin construction this summer; it aims to open the museum by the end of 2017. Bill Kramer, managing director of the Academy Museum project, said that about $ 250 million in cash and pledges has come in.
The museum would occupy a former department store at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, at the western end of the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. LACMA is leasing the building and adjoining land to the academy for $ 36.1 million, with all the payments already made upfront for a 55- year lease that the academy can double at no additional cost.
But not all developments were rosy for the academy. A lawyer for Fix the City, a nonprofit L. A. activist group that has vowed to sue to stop the project, sent a scathing email to the panel Tuesday, accusing city officials of ramrodding the f ilm museum through without enough analysis and discussion of its effect on traffic and parking in the Miracle Mile.
Fix the City Vice President James O’Sullivan said many are concerned about the process.
“Rules matter,” said O’Sullivan, who’s also president of the Miracle Mile Residential Assn. “The law matters, even for museums.”
Fix the City is a potentially muscular adversary, with a 2013 victory over the city in a suit that overturned zoning changes for development in Hollywood. O’Sullivan said Beverly Grossman Palmer, the attorney who wrote to Huizar’s committee Tuesday, also handled the Hollywood case.
O’Sullivan had a few allies among more than 30 speakers at the hearing. Most favored the project, which is led by Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the museum and who is stepping down next week because of term limits. O’Sullivan said in an interview that the review of the museum plan should be slowed to give LaBonge’s successor, David Ryu, a chance to weigh in.
Some neighbors are concerned because plans call for the f ilm museum to share LACMA lots, with no additional parking of its own. The academy has responded by securing leases for about 800 parking spaces in neighboring garages, including the Petersen Automotive Museum. Kramer said that would be enough to handle the overflow when the museum hits its estimated peak attendance of 5,000.
Representatives of the Beverly Wilshire Homeowners Assn. and the Mid City West Community Council joined the Miracle Mile Residential Assn. in opposing the museum. They said they would support the project if not for its domed cinema, which they fear will clog streets for movie premieres and other events. But a residents’ association for a condo development across Fairfax Avenue voiced support, as did the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce.
Kramer said talks with O’Sullivan aimed at deter- ring a suit have been “productive, and I’m hopeful.” But O’Sullivan said, “I’m not optimistic.”
The email from the attorney for Fix the City complained there has been no time to sift through an 828page document submitted by the Academy Museum and dated June 11. It detailed changes to the plans the L. A. City Planning Commission had approved in May.
“This project has departed so far from accepted standards [ as] to constitute a violation of my clients’ and the public’s right to due process,” Palmer wrote.
But the gist of the changes is in the first seven pages, academy attorney William Delvac told Huizar. Among the changes:
Scheduling film screenings as early as 10 a. m., instead of the 2 p. m. starting time previously envisioned. Kramer said the early shows would be “kid- friendly.”
Keeping the museum cafe open until 11 p. m. instead of shutting it down at the museum’s 6 p. m. closing time on most days.
Enlarging the cafe by 50% to 6,000 square feet. To expand the restaurant, the nearby museum store would be reduced to 3,000 square feet from 5,000 square feet.
Adding terraces to an outdoor deck atop a domed cinema, the Sphere. The earlier plan had kept the deck enclosed. Kramer said the openings are for air circulation and are too small for people to gather outside and bother neighbors with noise.