Developers file complaint over seismic assessment

Wave Wire Services

HOLLYWOOD — The development team of the Hollywood Center, a planned campus of buildings including two high-rises, has filed a complaint with the California Natural Resources Agency that claims the California Geological Survey mishandled its assessment of seismic safety for the project.

Millennium Partners is the owner of the center and leads the development team, which said in its complaint that the California Geological Survey made “false and misleading statements” regarding the mixed-use developments that would be built adjacent to the Capitol Records Building on Vine Street.

This highly inflammatory claim misconstrues the (U.S. Geological Survey) study, ignores basic scientific standards and sadly represents yet another example of a concerted, years-long effort from somewhere within the California Geological Survey to push a preordained conclusion at the risk of the agency’s reputation and basic scientific principles,” the letter to the agency stated.

The Hollywood Center team said it is demanding the California State Mining and Geology Board conduct an investigation of the California Geological Survey assessment.

In particular, the team said the California Geological Survey sent a letter to the city Planning Department in July claiming new evidence from the U.S. Geological Survey that hypothesizes a strand of an active fault runs through the project site.

“These studies strongly support the presence of an active southern fault strand entering the eastern Hollywood Center property in the vicinity of the alley at Argyle,” the California Geological Survey letter from May stated.

The Hollywood Center contends that through California’s Alquist-Priolo Act, it is the state’s responsibility to identify and map potential fault zones and local government’s duty to closely examine each development proposal in those zones for active faults to determine whether a site is safe to build.

The developers said the Hollywood Center has met that protocol “time and again.”

Plans for the development include a 46-story building to the west of the Capitol Records Building and a 35-story structure to the east. They also include two other smaller buildings that would be 11 stories each.

The developments altogether would include 1,005 residential units, comprising 872 market-rate and 133 senior affordable units, and up to 30,176 square feet of commercial uses within the four mixed-use buildings, according to the city Planning Department.

The California Geological Survey “still refuses to accept the science and continues to chase a preordained conclusion that has been repeatedly disproven by the facts,” said Philip Aarons, the founder of Millennium Partners. “When the science does not support an active fault, that science should be respected, not undermined by repeatedly disregarding the exhaustive, reliable data that demonstrates no active faults exist on the site.”

The Hollywood Center said a team of geologists, including representatives of the city and California Geological Survey, entered the fault trenches at the site to observe whether there was any Holocene-age fault movement. Following this inspection, all participating geologists unanimously concluded that there was demonstrable evidence of no active fault.

A coalition of local stakeholders voiced their opposition in July to the Hollywood Center, after a recent California Geological Survey study showed earthquake-causing fault lines run through the proposed site.

Attorneys for the Stop the Millennium Hollywood Coalition said they believe the most recent environmental reports that developer Millennium Partners submitted to Los Angeles planning staff left out critical data related to possible earthquakes.

We have much more evidence, in fact bombshell evidence, that the project site … is riddled with earthquake faults,” Robert Silverstein, the attorney for the Stop the Millennium Hollywood, said in July. “If Los Angeles City Hall has any integrity, it will listen to the preeminent United States Geological Survey and California Geological Survey and not approve Millennium’s dangerous new proposal.”

The arguments over whether the site is safe to build the skyscrapers go back to 2013, when the City Council approved the projects. But it has been challenged in court multiple times by the coalition.

The most recent decision came from the U.S. Court of Appeals last September, which deemed the that the draft environmental reports for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act because the project description was not stable and finite.

A new 13,000-page EIR was published for public comment by the city Planning Department on April 16 and closed June 1, and people may not have been able to adequately comment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Silverstein said.
A final EIR will be made available during public hearings before the City Council, the City Planning Commission and the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, Millennium Partners stated on its project website.

The group hopes to start construction on the Hollywood Center by 2022.