Judge tosses bid to block Hol­ly­wood tow­ers plan

AIDS non­profit plans to ap­peal rul­ing on de­vel­op­ment near the group’s head­quar­ters.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By David Zah­niser

A judge has re­jected a bid by the non­profit AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion to block the con­struc­tion of two res­i­den­tial tow­ers next to the group’s Hol­ly­wood head­quar­ters, hand­ing a vic­tory to the city of Los An­ge­les and the project’s de­vel­oper.

In her 18-page rul­ing, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue said city of­fi­cials fol­lowed the state’s en­vi­ron­men­tal law when they ap­proved the two tow­ers, which are ex­pected to reach 30 sto­ries and house 731 apart­ments. Hogue also said the city prop­erly de­ter­mined that the project’s “aes­thetic im­pacts” were not sig­nif­i­cant.

Michael We­in­stein, who heads the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion, said his group will file an ap­peal of the rul­ing. “We feel that the [project’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact report] is wrong,” he said in an in­ter­view. “It doesn’t take into ac­count the im­pacts on the area.”

The City Coun­cil voted to ap­prove the project, called the Pal­la­dium Res­i­dences, in 2016. We­in­stein and oth­ers aligned with the non­profit called the project too large for its location and said it would worsen traf­fic. We­in­stein also said the project, which is planned next to the Hol­ly­wood Pal­la­dium, would fuel gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

A spokesman for the de­vel­oper, Cres­cent Heights, re­sponded at the time by ac­cus­ing We­in­stein of im­prop­erly us­ing his non­profit as a “per­sonal piggy bank” to fight a de­vel­op­ment that could block views from his 21st-floor of­fice. Cres­cent Heights also called the al­le­ga­tions in the law­suit “base­less.” On Thurs­day, rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the de­vel­oper had no com­ment on the rul­ing.

A spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a state­ment that the rul­ing shows that city of­fi­cials com­plied with the law when they ap­proved the project.

The AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion has be­come a ma­jor com­bat­ant in L.A.’s real es­tate bat­tles. The group spent more than $5.5 million to sup­port a March 2017 bal­lot mea­sure that would have put new lim­its on the City Coun­cil’s abil­ity to change plan­ning and zon­ing rules for de­vel­op­ment projects.

Vot­ers de­feated the mea­sure by a 2-1 mar­gin. But the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion has also fought real es­tate projects on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Two years ago, the foun­da­tion sued over plans for an of­fice building in Hol­ly­wood roughly half a mile east of its head­quar­ters. The group dropped that law­suit af­ter the de­vel­oper, Hudson Pa­cific, agreed to shave the height of its building from 15 sto­ries to 13.

We­in­stein said his or­ga­ni­za­tion also paid the le­gal bills of one of the groups that sued over a 27-story res­i­den­tial tower planned in Kore­atown. A judge struck down the coun­cil’s ap­proval of that project three months ago, say­ing the city should have pre­pared a full en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact report.

In ad­di­tion, We­in­stein said, the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion paid for a por­tion of the le­gal costs in­curred by foes of the Cu­mu­lus project at La Cienega and Jef­fer­son boule­vards. The coun­cil ap­proved that de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing a 30story tower, in 2016.

We­in­stein said his group is also fight­ing the de­mo­li­tion of Parker Cen­ter, the old down­town head­quar­ters of the Los An­ge­les Po­lice De­part­ment, and op­poses the re­de­vel­op­ment of the Bald­win Hills Cren­shaw Plaza, a mall in South Los An­ge­les.

In the Pal­la­dium law­suit, lawyers for the AIDS group made an ar­ray of claims. They ar­gued that four mem­bers of the plan­ning com­mis­sion im­prop­erly met with the de­vel­oper’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in “ex parte” meet­ings — con­ver­sa­tions that were not part of the panel’s sched­uled pub­lic ses­sions.

Those pri­vate meet­ings showed that the com­mis­sion, whose mem­bers are ap­pointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, had a “dis­qual­i­fy­ing bias” in fa­vor of the project and that its de­ci­sion was “fun­da­men­tally un­fair,” the AIDS group said.

Hogue dis­agreed, say­ing the op­po­nents failed to iden­tify ev­i­dence of bias in­volv­ing the com­mis­sion.

The judge also dis­agreed with the AIDS non­profit’s claim that it had been de­nied a fair hear­ing be­fore the coun­cil’s Plan­ning and Land Use Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee. And she re­jected the group’s argument that the city had failed to prop­erly an­a­lyze green­house gas emis­sions ex­pected from the project.

The project’s en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact report ‘is wrong. It doesn’t take into ac­count the im­pacts on the area.’ — Michael We­in­stein, head of the AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion

Stan­ley Saitowitz Natoma Ar­chi­tects Inc

A REN­DER­ING of the Pal­la­dium Res­i­dences, a pair of 30-story tow­ers. Op­po­nents called the project too large for its location and said it would worsen traf­fic.

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