How the Hollywood Community Plan Got So Far off Track

JUDGING HOLLYWOOD-When rejecting Hollywood Community Plan (HCP), Judge Allan Goodman wanted to know how it got so far off track and called it “fatally flawed” and “based on wishful thinking.”   1-15-2014 Decision, p 26 

Here’s the Who, the Why and the How behind Judge Goodman’s telling the City to go back to square one.  

The Who is answered in one word: Garcetti. 

The Why is answered in one word: Money 

The How is more complicated. 

The City did not make an inadvertent oopsie when it passed the HCP, but instead, the Court found a subversion of the law. 

“The failure to comply with the law subverts the purposes of CEQA if it omits material necessary to informed decision-making and informed public participation.”  

Yes, when the City violated the law in drafting the HCP, it trampled on the public’s right to know the truth.  Politicos habitually prevaricate when running for office, but when they issue official government reports based on proven falsehoods, they’ve crossed the line to where the Courts will stop them. 

The HCP declared that in 2005, Hollywood had 224,462 residents.  That was almost a 14,000 person increase since the 2000 US Census which said Hollywood’s population was 210,824 people.  

According to Mayor Garcetti, Hollywood was growing at the rate of 5,000 people per year!  If that rate of growth continued, then in 25 years by the year 2030, Hollywood would have 349,462 residents.  

Garcetti was not alone in setting the possible Hollywood population sky high by 2030.  

“So while we're not saying, asking the court and have not ourselves requested that the city pick a particular number, we're saying the city to exercise its discretion without abusing that discretion, the parameters should be to at least assess one alternatives, one alternatives between the height of 198 (198,000 ppl) and 400 (400,000 ppl), which is the latest reality-based data available, reflective also of a continuous twenty-year downward trend and a number somewhere below. And that alternative would squarely fall within the rule of reason and the rule of Goleta 2, which has expressed the rule of reason.”  

The high population projections were false.  The law required the City to use the current population data from the Southern California Association of Governments [SCAG].  In 2011, when the City wrote its Draft Environmental Report, SCAG placed the 2005 population at 200,546 people, which is about 14,000 fewer people than the City was claiming.  The City concealed this low population from everyone.  Garcetti was not only one of Hollywood’s Councilmen and President of the City Council, but he also sat on the SCAG Board. 

Everyone, who was concerned about Hollywood’s future, focused on the year 2005 as the law also requires all community plans to be based on the conditions of a “base year.”  A city cannot take the population from 2002, the traffic statistics from 2007, the fire department deployment levels from 2010 and come to any reliable conclusions.  The City chose 2005 as the baseline year, making the 2005 population the most important number for the entire plan. 

It was not until 2013 that Hollywoodians Encouraging Logical Planning [HELP] discovered that SCAG’s actual 2005 population determination had been 200,546 people.  That’s right, Garcetti knew that the SCAG estimate was not 224,462 people, but only 200,546 people.  This discrepancy between “wishful thinking” and reality is one reason Judge Goodman found that the City violated the law.  Judges are not allowed to say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” 

As HELP pointed out to the court, the crucial fact was that Hollywood had been experiencing an unbroken population decline since 1990 (213,883 ppl). By the year 2010, Hollywood was down to only 198,228 people, and by 2030, a reasonable projection is 190,000 or fewer people.  The purpose of the misrepresentation about 2005 population was to deceive people into believing that Hollywood was rapidly increasing, and thus, we needed more dense mixed-use projects like The Millennium Earthquake Towers. 

Because the population has been declining for twenty years, there was no factual, logical or legal basis to spend billions of tax dollars to subsidize more mixed-use projects in Hollywood.  The facts showed that the more the City spent on these mega-projects, the faster people left Hollywood.  Also, the more money tax dollars we gave to Hollywood developers, the less money the rest of the City has for streets, sidewalks, paramedics, etc.   Because so much tax money was squandered for such a long time in Hollywood, the city now wants to increase sales taxes by $4.5 BILLION. 

The only way for City Hall to keep the tax dollars flowing to the mega developers was to make absurdly high claims for the future population.  Garcetti projected a population of 250,000 ppl, while others put the number as high as 400,000 ppl. 

As the court said, the false data mislead the public.  Had the public known about the downward population trend and then used logic to plan for the future, Hollywoodians would have seen how destructive it was to squander billions of tax dollars on mega-developers.  Hollywood would have been far better off with no new high rises.  Instead, we should have concentrated on renovating, not destroying, the homes in the Flats. 

Renovation of the smaller craftsmen homes would have provided work for local contractors.  When the older homes between Melrose and Franklin are protected from some developer swooping in and building a 5 store mixed use project next to a 1,500 sq ft. bungalow, homeowners will invest in their homes.  That investment brings more pride of ownership and more stable neighborhoods with less crime. 

On the other hand, when the planning is based on the false premise that we must build for up to 400,000 ppl within the next 20 years, then real estate speculators buy up the R-1 homes – and the selling families move away.  Increasingly, Hollywood is filling with renters in dilapidated homes with absentee landlords with no intention of fixing anything.  The speculators are waiting for the day to replace their bungalows and duplexes with 50 unit condo projects. 

Rather than adopting down zoning regulations in order to protect the middle to lower middle class homeowners, the area became geared for the advent of UpZoning, thereby attracting speculators.  That is one mechanism which causes an exodus from the census tracts near the subway stations.  People know that their R-1 homes are doomed. 

Because the court is requiring the City to study the DownSizing-DownZoning Alternative in the new Draft Environmental Impact Report, Hollywoodians will have an opportunity to make significant contributions to show how we can plan for a better quality of life for Hollywoodians and not turn our future over to rapacious out of town developers. 

● The Hollywood Community Plan returns to the City Council agenda on Wednesday. 


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Hollywood activist and an attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected] )  Graphic credit: jwalshconfidential






Vol 12 Issue 27

Pub: Apr 1, 2014