The new Master Plan for Paramount Pictures received its first public hearing on May 16 as part of the city’s approval process, with more than 100 people in attendance.
Held at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, the three-hour meeting was a chance for the Dept. of City Planning to obtain testimony on the project’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and land use entitlements before a final report and recommendation is sent to the City Planning Commission.
Guests arriving at the hearing were greeted by Paramount employees offering “YES” stickers, to be worn as a show of support for the project. By this reporter’s count, nearly half of the attendees were wearing stickers.
During the hearing, more than 40 people testified, with the majority of comments focused on size and compatibility of new buildings, traffic and parking issues, and a proposed sign district.
“My family has had a business in front of Paramount since 1964,” testified Patricia Casado, whose parents founded Lucy’s El Adobe Café on Melrose Ave. “This project can only benefit our neighborhood,” she said, adding: “I think about the impact if the studio is abandoned.”
Representing the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association (LVNA), Charles D’Atri said the reality is that Paramount does need to make updates and that, within the proposed plan, there are substantial amounts of construction they can and should do.
“But at the same time, in the context of 25 years’ worth of entitlements, there are a couple of egregious and unacceptable facets that they either added to the plan late or refused to compromise on,” said D’ Atri.
In written comments from the LVNA, D’ Atri elaborated on these facets, objecting to the previous loss of a “vibrant neighborhood corridor” following entitlements given to Paramount in the late 1980s/early 90s, resulting in a “dead zone” of parking lots, 18-foot hedges and security walls. The LVNA also objects to the height of a proposed 15-story tower and the continued use of Gower St. north of Melrose to park production vehicles. The LVNA reserved its strongest language for the proposed sign district:
“We cannot and will not ever accept an electronic sign district in this area.”
The proposed project will allow for the construction of up to approximately 1.9 million sq. ft. of remodeled or new stage, office and retail uses. Even including the proposed demolition of nearly 540,000 sq. ft. now existing, there will be a net increase of nearly 1.4 million sq. ft. of additional facilities.
Perhaps most controversially, the plan also seeks permission to make Paramount’s property into a “sign district.” This includes replacing current billboards on Melrose and Gower with electronic signs that change images every eight seconds, as well as the use of “super-graphics” to hang from a new 15-story office tower to be built inside the main lot near Melrose.
Paramount’s senior vice president of real estate, government and community relations, Sharon Keyser, told the Chronicle she is both very happy to reach this milestone, and to see so much support for Paramount Pictures.
“We’re pleased to see our neighbors acknowledge the strong working relationship and dialogue we have with the community, and we’ll continue to work with them as we have done for nearly 100 years. We look forward to completing the approval process,” said Keyser.