Planning Commission OKs Hollywood Community Plan Update Draft
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission Thursday voted 5-3 to approve the draft Hollywood Community Plan Update with a few recommendations, including one that would require some hotel projects in part of Hollywood to get a conditional use permit.
The commission did not vote to add tenant protections that many residents and advocates had pushed for.
Though the community plans would theoretically be updated every six years, the reality is that many of them are more than a decade old and, because of a legal challenge, the one guiding Hollywood dates to 1988. The neighborhood has changed dramatically since then, though there is great disagreement about whether the changes have been for the better.
The neighborhood is now home to streaming services and boutique hotels, and as more investment comes in, many advocates and city planning commission members argue that longtime residents are feeling the squeeze.
It makes sense, then, that among the most heavily debated points of the almost seven-hour meeting were related to anti-displacement measures in the form of tenant protections within the plan area, which covers a huge swath of land approximately bounded by Hoover Street, Melrose Avenue, Franklin Avenue, Mulholland Drive and Fairfax Avenue.
“This is the plan that we’ve had and it hasn’t worked,” Commissioner Helen Leung said.
Among the measures discussed were a ban on conversions of apartments to condos and a change to the requirements for replacing rent-stabilized units in new projects.
But some commissioners worried that the policies could have a spillover effect.
“While it will no doubt make more positive outcomes for people within those [Hollywood Community Plan] boundaries, it’s kind of like squishing a balloon,” Commission President Samantha Millman said. “My real concern is that, for people outside of the areas with those protections, you’re going to put an even heavier pressure on those really vulnerable communities.”
The majority of commissioners ultimately voted not to include these measures in the plan, saying that they felt it was an issue that was best handled on a citywide scope, not at a neighborhood level. A representative for the Housing and Community Investment Department told the commission a plan to implement such policies across the city was in progress but did not have a firm timeline for implementation.
ACT-LA Director Laura Raymond said she was really disappointed that the commission declined to add the anti-displacement measures.
"While of course we want to see strong citywide tenant protections policies, we can't wait," Raymond said.
The discussion around displacement of working-class renters from Hollywood and how to stem it has intensified in the last few years but many residents and community groups operating in the area noticed the budding trend in the 2000s.
Hollywood in the late 1980s and 1990s was struggling. In 1986, it was named a community redevelopment area, a designation that allowed it to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage new development. But after so much disinvestment, it was also a place that offered low rents, making it a frequent landing place for working-class people and vulnerable populations, including immigrants and refugees.
As new hotels rose and new investment began to flow into the neighborhood, some argued redevelopment was causing residents to be pushed out of the neighborhood.
Demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that between 2000 and 2010, Hollywood (defined as roughly between La Brea, Melrose, Western and Franklin avenues) lost 6,000 Latino residents, a 2013 LA Weekly story found. Neighboring East Hollywood, home to Thai Town and Little Armenia, lost 5,000 Latinos. In both Hollywoods, the Latino population declined 17% in that 10-year span, while the city’s Latino population overall grew 10%, according to the Weekly.
Many residents and tenant advocates who called in to the digital meeting to give public comment held up this information and personal accounts as evidence that a wave of mass displacement out of the area was taking place as development flourished. They advocated for a series of changes to the plan proposed by a group called the Just Hollywood Coalition.
The coalition, which includes Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles, officially came together early last year, motivated by the coronavirus pandemic, and had a focus on pushing the city to make additions to the Hollywood plan.
In addition to advocating for added renter protections, one of their suggestions was to require a conditional use permit for new hotels, which would be an extra hurdle over which to jump on the road to project approval.
Commercial property owner David Gadja, who owns properties in Hollywood including the building housing St. Felix on Cahuenga Boulevard and in Hollywood, told the commission he headed up a group four or five years ago that was trying to get hotels to come to Hollywood because “there were zero.” He said he didn’t understand where the anti-hotel sentiment was coming from.
“The thing that brings people to Hollywood is Hollywood,” Gadja said. “It’s not only affordable housing, it’s the commercial infrastructure. If we do away with that, nobody’s going to come to Hollywood.”
Planning staff had recommended that hotels only be required to get a conditional use permit in the event that they were proposed for a certain area within the plan, if they were going to directly displace existing residential uses. Planners said that hotel uses were already fairly restricted, as they are not permitted in residential areas and need a conditional use permit in other areas in the plan. The planning commission voted in favor of accepting the staff recommendations as they related to hotels.
Community plans guide development in neighborhoods across the city, outlining which uses are allowed and where they can go down to the city block level. Hollywood, Boyle Heights and Downtown Los Angeles’ plans are among those being updated now. But the Hollywood Community Plan has unique circumstances.
The city approved an update to the plan in 2012, but faced a legal challenge to it after it was adopted. Three groups — Fix the City, the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association and SaveHollywood.org — said that the updated plan relied on outdated demographic data and that the alternatives proposed in the environmental impact report were not adequately looked into.
The plan still has to go before the full Los Angeles City Council.
CORRECTION, MARCH 19, 10:30 A.M. PT: An earlier version of this story did not correctly identify the plan update as the draft. This story and headline have been updated.