With Hollywood in the midst of an extensive makeover that could reestablish its place as a major consumer and tourist destination, the biggest single obstacle standing in its way is inadequate parking. That's the conclusion of a team of experts from the Urban Land Institute who recently spent nearly a week examining the community for potential obstacles to its emerging gentrification.
While parking woes may seem inconsequential, seeing as they are so pervasive in Los Angeles, they can be absolutely devastating to a retail destination, as evidenced by Westwood Village and commercial sections of West Hollywood.
Right now, Hollywood seems to have endless plains of asphalt parking lots dotting its landscape, most owned by Grant Parking Inc. But many of those are expected to steadily disappear as development heats up.
Consequently, business leaders and city officials are concerned that, as major Hollywood projects are completed and more get approved and break ground, motorists will find themselves cruising in vain for a parking spot. Many will likely get frustrated and drive away, local boosters fear.
"The major thought is that we have a window of opportunity now to do something about it," said Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. "If we wait five years, we've lost the opportunity."
Lack of parking is already a problem along Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, where several hip nightclubs such as Beauty Bar and the Burgundy Room have sprung up.
The boulevard has always had a sparse sprinkling of parking lots. But when the Greyhound bus depot moved to Cahuenga from its old location, to make way for an expanded Cinerama Dome project, one of those lots was lost. Also, bus patrons began taking up parking areas.
More parking spots were lost when Alexander's Stationers, also on Cahuenga, went out of business several years ago and its lot was closed to monthly parkers.
All told, 300 parking spaces have been lost on this major thoroughfare in recent months, leaving local business owners such as David Gajda, whose Hollywood Software company is located on Cahuenga, frustrated.
"We used to park kitty corner from our office at Alexander's Stationery, which used to rent parking on a monthly basis," said Gajda, who nonetheless noted that the street has improved drastically since he bought an old, dilapidated building at 1604 N. Cahuenga Blvd. a few years ago. "Now we have to park three blocks away at a lot at Selma and Vine. When we used to park there two years ago, there were about 20 cars in the parking lot. Now there are 100 cars and it only holds 80. They have to double and triple park cars. And if you go for lunch, there's no space when you get back."
If conditions are getting tight now, just wait until the crown jewel in Hollywood's newly polished tiara is in place. The mammoth Hollywood & Highland project being developed by TrizecHahn Corp. is to be completed in November. It will have oodles of retail stores, a 4,400-seat theater to house the Academy Awards, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and a 640-room hotel. The new project has 3,000 parking spaces on site, which should accommodate many of the new visitors to the area.
But the spectacular development, which looms over Hollywood Boulevard next to the Mann's Chinese Theatre, is expected to jump-start additional development and spur further revitalization in Hollywood.Signs of action
Already signs of that are in the works.
---Amoeba Music, a hip purveyor of used and new records, is moving to a 50,000-square-foot building at 6400 Sunset Boulevard.
---A $60 million entertainment complex with a 12-screen theater, health club, restaurants and shops is being built adjacent to the Cinerama Dome. The project has been designed with 1,700 parking spaces.
---The Pig n'Whistle, a hip new restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, opened its doors March 19 after renovating an old building next to The Egyptian Theatre.
---The recently renovated Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard has been showing "The Lion King" to nearly sold-out crowds since it opened late last year. It's scheduled to run through at least October.
---The James A. Doolittle Theatre at 1614 N. Vine St., which has been closed for two years, is being converted into the Ricardo Montalban Theater, with a full theatrical season scheduled to start in 2003.
---AsiaLA, a San Francisco-based Asian restaurant and nightclub with nightly performances, will be coming soon to Hollywood, as will the Hollywood & Vine Diner at the corner of that famous spot.
---Sunset & Vine, a development with 300 loft-style apartments and ground-floor shops, is to be developed at the corner of Sunset and Vine.
Most of the new developments are required by L.A.'s Planning Commission to have adequate parking. But several historic buildings undergoing renovation pose a problem because they were built in the 1920s with little thought to parking.
And that is what is generating concern among Hollywood boosters who are increasingly realizing that parking is emerging as a major potential obstacle to the area's economic growth.
"I think that parking is at the top of many people's list," said Gubler. "It is a serious problem. It's not a problem where the big projects are including their own parking, but as we rehab the historic structures that were grandfathered in, there's going to be a lack of parking."
Traffic consulting firm Kaku Associates of Santa Monica was hired to do a parking survey of Hollywood. The study, which took into account the Hollywood & Highland project and the Cinerama Dome expansion, concluded that the area had an inventory of 24,000 parking spaces. Of those, 4,000 were metered parking spots on the street and the rest were located in off-street parking lots. Of the 20,000 off-street spaces, only 5,000 were not tied up by monthly parking commitments.
"We estimated that there would be 7,000 public spaces needed for public use on the weekends and a weekday demand of 8,600," said Paul Taylor, vice president of Kaku Associates. "We (previously had done a similar) parking study for Santa Monica. And the lesson is, you have to have the parking to get the trade."
One factor working in Hollywood's favor is that the community has two subway stations smack in the center of all this development. One stop for the Red Line subway empties out in front of the Hollywood & Highland project. A second subway stop delivers passengers to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
One factor working against Hollywood is that 80 tour buses pass through the area each winter day, and 200 tour buses line the boulevards each summer day.
Well aware of the bus parking problem, chamber officials are trying to find an on-site location for tour buses to park during peak season.
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