The Los Angeles City Council approved today a major redevelopment of the Paramount Pictures campus at 5555 Melrose Avenue, despite residents’ worries about gridlock traffic, the construction of an office high-rise and a deceptive change of use of the property.
“This [project] is office-park development,” Hollywood activist Doug Haines told Council members. “This isn’t really a studio-expansion development.”
For months, Paramount Pictures officials have promoted the $700-million mega-project as a crucial effort to “modernize” studio facilities. But the gigantic development includes 92,000 square feet of retail space and 733,300 square feet of office space, which includes the high-rise. The entertainment giant sought profitable spot-zoning favors — a General Plan amendment and zone change — from the City Council.
Larchmont residents pushed back, saying the over-sized high-rise at Paramount Pictures is out of character with their low-slung, single-family-home community and the mega-redevelopment would generate an enormous amount of gridlock without any substantive traffic mitigations. In response, the L.A. City Council pulled a number of suspicious, insider moves to get around neighborhood opposition.
First, the City Council’s powerful Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) Committee cancelled a public hearing for the Paramount Pictures mega-project on August 28 — screwing up citizens’ plans to give on-the-record testimony at City Hall.
Days later, on September 8, PLUM utilized another controversial tactic by waiving consideration of the mega-project, effectively fast-tracking City Hall approval. Soon after that, when Larchmont residents more aggressively opposed the project, City Council shifted gears yet again and postponed another public hearing.
After bobbing and weaving and drawing out the approval process to wear out the community, City Council members finally delivered Paramount Pictures its profitable spot-zoning favors. It was yet another example of the City Council manipulating L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system — and why it desperately needs reform.
“I am in the neighborhood,” said resident Kathy Simanek, “and this didn’t go the way the neighborhood wanted it.”
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