• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:48pm

Quake fault concerns plague building of Millennium towers in Los Angeles

Construction of Millennium towers suspended pending outcome of lawsuit amid safety worries

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:30am

The proposed Millennium towers, two skyscrapers that would soar against the Hollywood Hills, were supposed to be a powerful symbol of the campaign to transform Hollywood into a bustling urban hub.

But, these days, as Los Angeles emerges from a steep economic decline, the project has instead become a symbol of something more worrisome: whether ambitious development plans can overcome the complications that come with constructing new buildings and protecting old ones in a region crisscrossed with dozens of earthquake faults.

The Millennium towers project was suspended this autumn, before ground was broken, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by opponents citing warnings that the property might straddle a fault. At the same time, two reports, one by the University of California and a second by The Los Angeles Times, found that up to 1,500 concrete buildings built before 1975 were structurally vulnerable to collapse under the powerful force of a big earthquake.

This confluence of events means that Los Angeles is caught in the kind of emotional debate that typically takes place only in the immediate aftermath of a powerful earthquake. The issues involved are the widely acknowledged deficiencies in earthquake preparation here and the obligations of government and landlords to protect old and new buildings. The last major earthquake rumbled through here in 1994.

"The whole city of Los Angeles has faults running through it," said Mitch O'Farrell, a city council member who represents Hollywood and voted in favour of the towers, known as the Millennium Hollywood. "The hard question is: do we halt all development in Hollywood? Do we wait for that 11,000-year earthquake? We are going to go down a very slippery slope if we halt all construction for an earthquake fault that hasn't been defined."

Lawmakers are considering a number of steps, including embarking on a survey of vulnerable buildings, appointing an official in charge of earthquake preparation and examining what can be done about the slow pace of the state geologist's mapping of earthquake faults here. The city's new mayor, Eric Garcetti, has found himself balancing two constituencies: business owners worried about the cost of reinforcing old buildings, and geologists who warn of large-scale and preventable casualties.

"From the outset, my administration has been working on the full spectrum of issues, including structural engineering, emergency services and the preparedness of our residents for when the 'Big One' comes," Garcetti said.

The Millennium towers have run into trouble, because they could fall within 15 metres of a fault line, which would violate the earthquake safety law that was passed after the 6.6-magnitude San Fernando Valley earthquake in 1971. The key word is "could": the uncertainty reflects the inability of state geologists, struggling with state budget cuts, to complete maps of faults in many parts of Los Angeles, including the one in Hollywood.

A coalition of homeowners filed the suit against the project, asserting that the developers knew about and were hiding the dangers of the fault.

"They are creating an earthquake hysteria," Philip Aarons, one of the Millennium developers, said of the homeowners.


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On December 10, 2013, the Honorable Allan Goodman, Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, issued an injunction against all projects approved under the updated Hollywood Community Plan or June 19, 2012. The Millennium Towers were approved a year later. Thus, the injunction also stops the Millennium Towers as well as all other projects which would have relied on the June 19, 2013 Hollywood Community Plan.
This court decision is very beneficial to potential investors who now only know that these mega-projects are on hold, but that Hollywood Plan was fatally flawed and was based on false information which the City could have corrected by chose not to rectify. As result, the public and potential investors were deceived by the Hollywood Community Plan. Hollywood has been steadily losing population and the population loss has been greatest near the subway and the mixed-use projects.
His Honor ordered the City to prepare a revised EIR based on correct data and to study a reasonable range of alternatives which should include a DownSizing and DownZoning Alternative as Hollywood has lost so much population.
The Hwyd earthquake fault line has the ability to rip apart the surface and any building straddling it. The city knew about the fault line running through this property in 2011, but nonetheless, the city concealed the danger.
These huge mixed use projects have a problem far more immediate and far more serious than an earthquake which might not occur. The subway and projects built in Hollywood since 2001 have caused a dramatic population exodus. These developers were lured to construct their huge projects near the subway stations (Transit Oriented Districts - TODs) by the grand lie that Hollywood was experiencing a population surge and that Hwyd would have 250,000 people by 2030.
It is all a fraud. As the US Census shows, Hwyd is crumbling. By 2030, it is likely to have 190,000 or fewer people, and they will be poorer, less educated young transients. The data shows that the population loss is greatest next to the subway stations. It is one financial failure after another. The State abolished Garcetti's corrupt CRA so that avenue to funnel tax payer dollars to developers is gone.
People who do not completely understand Americans do not realize that over 80% of us hate subways, hate apartments and hate population density. There are a few exceptions like Manhattan, but Los Angeles is not Manhattan. A great way to lose 100% of your investment is to finance another mixed-use project in Hywd. No CRA, no new sales tax, Prop 13 is in place = no developer bailout $
george abrahams
Hollywood is an investment graveyard. The Hollywood-Highland project lost $450 million in only a few years. The Hollywood-Vine project is floundering with only 20% of the condominium units sold. The Hollywood-Western project still has a 50% commercial space vacancy rate after 10 years. The Hollywood-Argyle project is at risk of never being able to receive a certificate of occupancy from the City of Los Angeles after the developer has almost completed the construction because the Hollywood Fault has portions running directly under the project site. The California State Geologist is due to release the official fault map next month. Yet the politicians and Hollywood Chamber of Commerce are still trying to lure more investment capital to Hollywood. They are pied pipers leading potential investors to their doom. Investors and insurors would be crazy to commit any money to development in this earthquake zone with a geological history of severe magnitude 7.0 Richter scale earthquakes. Hollywood is where investment capital goes to die.
Things deteriorate so rapidly in Hollywood that Mr. Abrahams is behind the times. The CRA Project on the S/E corner of Hollywood and Western, not only never rented more than 50% of its retail, but is also lost it major tenant, a second hand clothing store. I was just there a few moments ago, and Out of the Closet, which left a few months ago, has no indication that any new tenant is coming. I should think not; what fool would set up shop in a ghost town? With a bank occupying only 20% of the retail space, I took the last parking space. That's the huge attraction Garcetti makes to lure new developers. we've got a subway; no need to build parking spaces. The reality is this -- limited parking = limited tenants.
The Hollywood-Highland project did not cost $450 Million to construct, it LOST $450 M on construction costs of $625 M. It too cannot hold on to tenants. After paying $30 M to rehab the new Kodak Theater for Circ d' Soleil to be a 20 years tenant, C d S left after two years. Why? No one would come to that horribly dangerous place with no decent parking.
Take the subway and you risk your life! Crime is sky high. The only thing greater than the Hwyd crime rate is Garcetti's big lie that Hwyd has been revitalized. If by "revitalized," you mean "devastated," then . . .
Any investor who believes anything Garcetti says, should acquaint himself with Accounting Control Fraud. Google William K. Black to see how LA is run .


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