Quake Threat Puts Hollywood Skyscraper Project on Hold, Raises Questions about Others

Monday, August 12, 2013
Artist’s conception of twin Hollywood Millennium towers by Gary Handel Architects and Roschen Van Cleve Architects.

Nearly 40 years after an earthquake destroyed most of Los Angeles—in a movie—the city continues to consider large building projects in poorly mapped areas thought by many to be at risk.

One twin-tower project, Millennium Hollywood, was abruptly put on hold two weeks ago when California’s state geologist said that a nearby earthquake fault is active and might be running under the site. The city of Los Angeles had approved the project, which would flank the iconic Capitol Records building, the week before although state law bars construction on an active fault.

The 1-million-square-foot project, near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, is on hold while developers and the authorities do some digging and try to flesh out maps that everyone agrees are woefully lacking in information about where the fault lines actually extend. In the meantime, critics have raised the spectrum of coverup, alleging that “smoking-gun” emails show the developer and people at City Hall knew about the fault danger, but chose to keep it quiet.  

LA Weekly reported that one email cited by Robert P. Silverstein, a lawyer representing about 40 groups opposing the project, was reportedly sent to Building and Safety General Manager Raymond Chan and Millennium attorneys by city “case manager” Charmie Huynh. It said:

“City Geologist Dana Prevost ‘met with the project team to discuss the Hollywood Fault line that could potentially be crossing the property.’ Prevost also discussed with the project team that ‘he has granted one modification in the past on another project that allowed them to build right adjacent to the fault line.’ ”

Silverstein also produced a November 22, 2011, map by Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, a private firm hired by developer Millennium Partners, that puts the project on the fault line. The map was not included in the project’s required Environmental Impact Report. A nearly identical map, dated May 10, 2012, shows the project slightly to the north of the fault line, technically out of harm’s way.

The Millennium towers are just one project on tap in earthquake country, as Hollywood seems poised to embark upon a skyscraper building fest. Other proposed projects include a 22-story residential tower and two office buildings on Sunset Boulevard and a 15-story apartment building near Millennium.

A $200 million commercial and residential project next to the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is already under construction. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that no one did a seismic evaluation of that project, although it too sits, at the very least, right next to an active fault. Instead, a 2010 map of fault activity that lacks block-by-block precision was consulted.

The development was approved by the city council in 2007.  

John Parrish, the head of the California Geological Survey, told the Times that earthquake maps are too general to rely on when determining if a site is safe and that trenches should be dug to locate the paths of specific fault lines.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Hollywood's Blvd6200 Project Escaped Review Despite Fault Threat (by Rosanna Xia, Doug Smith and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times)

Millennium Towers: City “Concealed” Hollywood Fault Details, Opponents Charge (by Sanden Totten, KPCC)

Millennium Hollywood Fault Coverup? Emails Show City Knew (by Gracie Zheng, LA Weekly)

Garcetti Defers to Seismic Experts on Hollywood Skyscrapers (by Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times)

Skyscraper Site in Hollywood May Sit on Active Fault, State Says (by Rong-Gong Lin II, Rosanna Xia and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times)

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