Clarett Group faces stiff opposition to its initial plans to develop a 7-acre site near the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose 13th District includes the site, said he is disappointed that developers are proposing six-story buildings instead of towers, and that they have not included other uses, such as offices, performing arts theaters or enough affordable housing and open space.
"This is a world-class site and it deserves a world-class development," Garcetti said. "I don't think we're there yet."
Helmi Hisserich, administrator for the Hollywood project area of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, said that Clarett has turned down her offer to have the agency help finance community-serving elements that aren't economically viable. "We are losing an opportunity to do something really grand and very important for the Hollywood community," she said.
Garcetti said he is also disappointed that Clarett executives have resisted altering their plans to take into account his concerns, along with those of the CRA and community groups.
"In my four years in office, this is the least flexibility I've seen from a developer," he said. "I have faith that Clarett is a good developer. It's not a question of ability, there's just less flexibility than I would like to see."
Executives have been showing plans to community and business groups for a project containing 1,000 apartments in four low-rise buildings spanning both sides of Hollywood Boulevard between Argyle and El Centro avenues.
The project, designed with Moderne elements by Santa Monica architecture firm Van Tilberg Banvard & Soderbergh, would contain 157,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and have between 2,500 to 3,000 underground parking spaces. Two public plazas each roughly the size of the courtyard at Hollywood & Highland would be located at the entrance to the developments.
Clarett executives said they will consider feedback once more groups have had a chance to review the plans.
Frank A. Stephan, a Clarett Group managing director who heads up the company's L.A. office, says that the project, as proposed, would generate $4.5 million in tax revenues for the city. Of that, $500,000 would go toward building affordable housing.
Additionally, Stephan said Clarett has voluntarily offered to set aside 5 percent of the project for families who fall between 80 percent and 120 percent of L.A. County median income.
There are no city ordinances that require developers of privately financed projects to provide low-income housing, said attorney Benjamin Reznik, a partner with Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP, who is representing Clarett Group.
"We have asked for no government subsidies and we don't require eminent domain," said Victoria Hackett, Clarett's managing partner. "No one is being displaced because of our project."
The land that Clarett wants to develop has belonged to Nederlander Producing Co. of America Inc., which owns the Pantages Theatre and manages other nearby venues. After turning down developers for nearly two decades, few believed that Nederlander would sell the land, which is currently being used as parking lots for theatergoers.
Hackett had an inside track with company owner Jimmy Nederlander from when the two worked on revitalizing Times Square in New York. At first, Hackett brought a developer interested in the Hollywood site to Nederlander, but then realized she could do a better job. "I understood Jimmy would never sell the land," she said. "It was a matter of tailoring a project to fit."
The solution was a long-term ground lease. However, the lease creates some of the problems that Garcetti and others object to, including the lack of high-rise buildings and the project's large amount of parking, which critics say discourages public transit use.
Only condominiums support the construction cost of building a tower and buyers of condos would only own their units for the length of the ground lease. As for parking, Clarett says it has to provide enough spaces for its resident and retail tenants.
Hackett said that while the project would have ample parking for residents, she hoped tenants would be encouraged to use the nearby Red Line subway station. "I don't think we can get Angelenos out of their cars completely," she said, "but hopefully residents will use it to commute in the day time."
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