Millennium Hollywood (illustration: Millennium Partners and Argent Ventures)
When it comes to building skyscrapers in earthquake fault zones, the state proposes and the city disposes.
So, although the California Geological Survey shows the Hollywood fault from West Hollywood to Atwater Village, down the Sunset Strip, to be active, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety has accepted evidence to the contrary and declared it safe enough to build Hollywood’s tallest buildings upon. It’s their call.
“The zone maps have done exactly what they’re intended to do—focus the attention on where we think the faults lie,” state engineering geologist Tim McCrink told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s in the city of L.A.’s hands at this point.”
That quote probably won’t be in brochures advertising the proposed $1-billion Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project that triggered the debate over where exactly the fault lies and how long it’s been since the last earthquake. Developers want to build twin towers—39 and 35 stories high—with housing, stores, restaurants and hotel rooms. They would sit astride, and dwarf, the iconic Capitol Records building.
They would also increase the area’s density considerably, transforming neighborhoods and exacerbating noise, traffic and parking problems. Mayor Eric Garcetti and most of the City Council are all for increasing the density of Hollywood and have pledged not to let the bad stuff happen. They approved the project, pending other considerations, in 2013.
The project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is one of those considerations and is being reworked after opponents successfully challenged it in Los Angeles County Superior Court in May.
The draft EIR had found that the massive development would have no significant effect on traffic. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) said the conclusion was “not based on any credible analysis that could be found anywhere in the DEIR.” The agency said the intensified traffic congestion would be inconvenient and unsafe on surface streets and the freeway.
The state had not previously examined the Hollywood Fault “because of budget limitations (pdf) and because the city already had established a special zone,” according to a Department of Conservation press release last November announcing that the mapping had been expedited and finally completed. State seismic maps are rarely challenged, according to LA Weekly.
Back in November, Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, whose district includes Hollywood, was quoted as saying, “There is clearly a disconnect between the [developer's] data and the state's final map, which must be reconciled.”
It was not. They just agreed to disagree and let history dictate who was right or wrong— lucky or cursed.