CONTINUING FOLLY-On September 25, 2017, Target’s opening brief is due in the Second District Court of Appeals. Sometime after that, the court will have a hearing and then several months later the court will issue another opinion. Since Judge Fruin ruled 100% against the City and Target in his April 2017 decision, the injunction on construction will not be lifted during this phase of litigation.
What Will the District Court Decide?
The function of the District Court is to assess whether Judge Fruin followed the proper procedure and law. At the appellate level, the court does not hold a new trial – it only reviews the case to see if Judge Fruin made a reversible error.
If Judge Fruin did not make a significant mistake, impairing the rights of the City or Target, then his April 2017 decision will remain. If Judge Fruin made an error, the Court will explain the mistake and what steps Judge Fruin needs to take.
What If the District Court Agrees with Judge Fruin?
If the appeals court agrees that adding Subarea F to SNAP required the City to do a CEQA EIR, Target can construct a store. If the appeals court rules that there was no need for a CEQA EIR, Target can construct a store. (When significant changes are made to land use laws, the city needs to conduct an Environment Impact Review, (CEQA EIR) -- which the City refused to do in this case.)
Yes, that’s Correct – Either a Yes or a No Decision Means Target May Build
Few people realize that no matter what the court rules, Target will still be able to build a store. That was also true in April 2017 after Judge Fruin’s prior decision. Target did not have to appeal; it could have built its store. In fact, every day since Target decided to open a store in Hollywood -- over a decade ago -- it could have constructed a store.
No One Is Stopping Target from Constructing a Store
Other than Mayor Garcetti, no one is stopping Target from building a store. Like all other businesses and people, however, it must conduct itself within the bounds of the law. I can drive to DTLA, but I cannot drive on the sidewalk. Following the law is not a difficult concept, except, that is, for our mayor and city council.
What Will Happen?
While the past is prologue to the future, it is not predictive. We know that Target could start building a legal store ASAP – in fact, they could start now. The question is what will Target do?
Mutatis Mutandis - Life changes
If this were 1970, the hulking monstrosity at Sunset and Western might make sense, but in 2017, it is worse than a white elephant; it like a herd of dying dinosaurs clumped together at a dried-up watering hole.
The retail business today is undergoing the most dramatic change in its history. Although Target is number two in retail today, by tomorrow it could be dead, gone and forgotten. But Target has taken some significant steps to remain alive. Among its plans are (1) downsizing customer walk-in stores, (2) making all stores distribution centers, and (3) making all stores pick-up centers for on-line orders.
The hulk that looms over Sunset and Western, however, has no Target store on the first floor. So, forget about getting off a bus and walking directly into Target. There is no Target store on the second floor, either. One must climb to the third floor to reach a Target store. Nothing says convenience like climbing three flights of stairs.
Is this pedestrian friendly? While drivers do not care if they drive up or down to park, pedestrians care if they are forced to walk up three flights to the store.
Reviewing the present structure, one can see that it is not designed to be a distribution or a pick-up center. The configuration needed for such facilities is still evolving, but this present nightmare is probably as ill suited to being a distribution and a pick-up center as it could be.
For some reason, billionaires are convinced that whatever they envision comes from divine inspiration. More accurately, this mess on Sunset and Western is the demon child of Hollywood-Highland and Egotistical Hubris.
The Hollywood-Highland Lesson No One Learns
Hollywood-Highland cost $625 million to construct and within only a few years, it was sold off for only $201 million -- a loss of close to half a billion dollars for one project. Thirty million dollars was the devoted to rehabbing the new Kodak Theater to bring in Cirque du Soleil as a 30-year anchor tenant. But Cirque du Soleil moved out after two years. The project has been a retail disaster since day one and no one has calculated its retail sales losses.
This Target store’s losses have already surpassed Hollywood-Highland’s half a billion-dollar loss in terms of lost sales -- without even counting the extraneous millions spend on the mortgage (rumored at $2 million per year) and attorney fees. Would $7.5 million be too high for the attorney fees to the petitioners? These finance and attorney costs are bupkis compared to other horrendous losses. What was to be the store’s annual profit? The Home Depot next door was that company’s highest grossing store for years. How does Target management explain their never-ending financial loss at this location when its property is next door to one of the largest money-makers in the entire nation? It takes a special genius to turn a guaranteed cash cow into one of the country’s largest retail fiascoes.
Furthermore, Target seems to be oblivious of another overwhelming loss: lost opportunity. This site could be a flagship store, famous worldwide. Instead, we have edifice that is a monument to incompetence.
What Is Target’s Alternative to this Continuing Folly?
First, Target could start constructing legal store. Then it could design a 21st century facility with a first floor Target, a distribution center and a pick-up center. No one is stopping Target. Except Garcetti.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.