25
Sat, May

The Real Reason Hollywood Has No Target Store

LOS ANGELES

CORRUPTION WATCH-The reason Hollywood has no Target Store can be summed up in one word: Garcettism. Without the interference by Eric Garcetti, first as councilmember for council district 13, and then as mayor, the Target Store would have been completed and operating several years ago. (see unfinished store above) 

I happen to live within walking distance of the Target location and I like Target. I also like the rule of law and I detest corruption. If any member of the Citizens Coalition Los Angeles (CCLA) dislikes Target or does not want a Target store, I have never heard them even hint at such feeling. Everyone I know believes that we need to be a society based upon the law and not on the whim of one politician. 

The Zoning for Target Was Brand New 

There have been false claims that Hollywood’s zoning is out of date and it was unfair to apply old laws to a new project. The “zoning” law governing this Target Store is called Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Specific Plan (SNAP) and it went into effect March 1, 2001. 

SNAP had been based upon years of study involving every parcel within its 2.2 square mile area and each parcel was designated as fitting into a Subarea. There were five Subareas A through E. The Target proposed to build on a Subarea C parcel. The City and local community had considered whether they wanted retail stores taller than 35 feet and they expressly decided not to permit a retail store to be higher than 35 feet. 

“Commercial Only Project. Projects comprised exclusively of commercial uses (not Hospital and Medical Uses) shall not exceed a maximum building height of 35 feet and a maximum FAR of 1.5 ... ” (SNAP page 24) 

Target admitted in court that it could have constructed a store which did not violate SNAP’s 35 foot requirement. But in order to construct anything, however, Target needed to obtain a building permit. As CCLA heard from various sources, Councilmember Garcetti wanted a 75 foot Target store. So Target could get City Council’s unanimous approval for a 75 foot store, but no approval for a legal 35 foot store. 

If Garcetti had allowed The Target to construct the legal store with its parking underground, as is the parking for the adjacent non-profit Assistance League, then the Target store could have been operational by end of 2009. 

As Judge Fruin found in 2014, there was no basis for the Target to claim hardship in order to violate the SNAP ordinance. Thus, Judge Fruin rejected Target’s 75 foot store. (July 17, 2014 Judge Fruin Decision page 5.) 

Judge Fruin ordered Target to stop construction on the illegal store – construction that had begun with the blessings of Eric Garcetti. People need to stop and think about the mess Garcetti created by interfering with the construction of a legal Target store in the first place … and then giving Target a permit to build an illegal store. 

In July 2014, Target was free to revert to the original 35 foot store, but it was coerced into appealing Judge Fruin’s decision. First, it went to the appeals court to overrule Judge Fruin and allow it to continue building an illegal store. 

We need to pause here and look at that utterly ridiculous request. No permit should have been issued for a 75 foot store since that height was more than double the maximum 35 foot height. The trial court had just ruled the obvious: 75 feet is illegal. Based upon a double illegality, Garcetti asked the appeals court to allow the construction to continue. It said No. 

Then Garcetti had the City and Target petition the Supreme Court to allow the construction to resume, but the Supreme Court would not even consider the matter. 

Thus, Target was a three time loser. So why did it not make the prudent business decision and follow the law? Target has said that it is losing $100 million in sales per year, for each year this Target store is not built. 

If the Target could have gotten a permit from the City to construct a legal store staring in 2014, there would be a Target Store operating at the corner of Sunset and Western. 

Garcetti is the Obstacle to the Store’s Construction 

Let’s emphasize a crucial point: neither CCLA nor La Mirada filed any appeal to prolong the litigation. CCLA can see no obstacle other than Eric Garcetti to Target having been able to build its store in Hollywood at some time during the past eight years. In our opinion, the fault rests with one person: Eric Garcetti. 

Rather than allowing Hollywoodians to have a Target Store, Garcetti had the City Council approve a material change to SNAP by adding a Subarea F which would allow a superstore at the Target location as well as elsewhere in SNAP. A major change to a new Specific Plan to add a Subarea which had been previously rejected requires an EIR. But none was done. Thus, the City Council knew for an absolute fact that its approval of the Subarea F would result in additional litigation. Illegally changing the law is what CCLA calls illegal. This is not a complicated concept. 

By the way, did you realize that Target’s store will not be on the ground level, but it will begin on the 3rd floor? So if this plan were to be built, shoppers would have to go up three flights before even reaching the store itself. They call this pedestrian friendly? 

More False Propaganda 

As soon as the City Council approved the change to SNAP in May 2014, Mitch O’Farrell -- who pretends to be councilmember for CD 13 but who, from what we can ascertain, is in reality only administering the district according to the wishes of Eric Garcetti -- claimed that the construction would soon resume. 

Apparently Garcetti believed that the City Council’s decision trumped the court order halting construction. But neither Target’s attorneys nor the City Attorney suffered from such hubris. They knew that Judge Fruin’s order will remain in effect until he or a higher court reverses it. 

Thus, Target and the City asked the appeals court to dismiss their appeal so that construction could resume. On August 16, 2016, Division Seven of the Court of Appeals said that Judge Fruin’s stop order remains in effect. 

Writing the unanimous decision for the appeals court, Justice Perluss reminded Target and Garcetti that they LOST in trial court. Then, Justice Perluss explained that when one loses, one does not then get to ignore the court order and continue construction.

We should remember that Garcetti has trouble following court orders. After Judge Chalfant had ordered the developer at 5929 Sunset not to demolish the facade of the Spaghetti Factory, Garcetti’s office – or so the story goes – hand walked the demolition permit through Building & Safety so that the facade could be destroyed overnight between Friday and Saturday. As a result, Judge Fruin had occupancy permits from 5929 Sunset pulled and the tenants had to move out. 

Target is now at square one – at the same place it was in 2008. Target has probably lost well over $800 million, and Hollywoodians have not had a Target Store for eight years. All this trouble just because Garcetti thought that he could just kick aside the law and do whatever he wanted. 

What Will the Future Bring? 

Target and Garcetti now have to ask Judge Fruin’s permission to resume construction. No one knows how Judge Fruin will rule. In fact, Judge Fruin himself should not know how he will rule since none of the legal papers with the facts and arguments have been submitted to him. 

It seems that one pivotal issue is whether the City can make a drastic change to a new Specific Plan which had previously chosen not to have a Subarea F, without the City first conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR.) 

That raises another issue for Judge Fruin. Should he allow the construction to resume before the case’s final determination? If he allows a 75 foot store to be built and then he finds that the Subarea F amendment to SNAP required an EIR, he will have encouraged economic waste. 

Who knows what weight Judge Fruin will give to the fact that Target can still construct a legal store under the original SNAP ordinance? Since litigation has already taken eight years and future litigation could take an additional eight to twelve years, Target can solve its financial problem right now by constructing the legal store. It is not Judge Fruin’s concern whether or not Garcetti will issue a permit for a legal store. 

CCLA has no objection to a legal store and urges Target to ask the court for permission to proceed with a store which is compliant with SNAP as of July 17, 2014. The May 2016 SNAP amendment does not mandate a 75 foot store. 

Update: On August 23, 2016, the City and Target went to Judge Fruin and asked that they be allowed to resume construction. Judge Fruin said, “No.” The jurisdiction remains in the appeals court until October 17, 2016, and until then Judge Fruin will not have jurisdiction to do anything.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. Full disclosure: The author is a member of Citizens Coalition Los Angeles (CCLA,) one of the two petitioners in the litigation involving the Target Store on the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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