Following all presentations and testimony, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a proposed sign district and the use of super graphics and digital displays. The Commission also voted to preserve the RKO globe that sits on top of Stage 21 at the corner of Melrose and Gower, adding language to keep the globe in a “substantially similar” position as it is now.
City Planning Dept. staff assistant Adam Villani began the meeting with a presentation to the Commission on the staff’s findings and recommendations. Only five (out of nine) members of the City Planning Commission were present for the hearing.
Villani told the Commission that planning staff was recommending denial of Paramount’s request for a special “sign district” designation for the property, and also was recommending a denial of the proposed use of super graphics and digital displays.
“It is not appropriate in the context of the neighborhood,” said Villani, adding, “[The studio] is in Hollywood, but it is outside of the Hollywood center. This property is surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods.”
Other staff recommendations included reducing the height of a proposed office tower from 240 feet to 150 feet and a requirement to preserve on site the historic RKO Globe. Before taking action, Commissioners debated the proposed office tower height, but in the end the majority voted to support its staff’s recommendation to limit the height to 150 feet.
Applicant and appellant
Representing Paramount Pictures, Sharon Keyser, a senior vice president, gave a presentation on the project and told the Commission that the Master Plan is critical to the studio’s future.
“It will help us meet our business needs, keep pace with evolving technology and allow us the flexibility to grow and invest in Hollywood.”
Following Paramount’s presentation, Beth Dorris, an attorney representing Larchmont Village resident Mary Ann Biewener, told the Commission her client largely supported planning staff’s recommendations, but felt they didn’t go far enough: “These changes alleviate some of the most significant concerns, but do not eliminate all of them.”
Dorris argued the proposed building height would be “more consistent and compatible with the neighborhood” at 135 feet, not 150 feet, tall. And she said the proposed construction schedule — ranging from 22 to 25 years — is too long: “A whole generation will come and go while construction is still going on,” she said, requesting the Commission consider shortening the construction schedule.
Participating in the public comment period of the hearing, dozens of residents from Hancock Park, Hollywood and Larchmont Village were allotted one minute each to provide testimony to the Commission.
Representing the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC), Karen Gilman shared the group’s resolution with the Commission:
“The GWNC joins with surrounding neighborhood organizations in expressing great concern regarding the height of the two proposed office towers, the impact of additional traffic, the digital and electronic signs and super graphics, in particular,” she read.
A former candidate for city council who previously served as a board member on the GWNC, Fred Mariscal, told the Commission that he lives two blocks south of Paramount’s main gate and “thinks it’s extremely important to encourage the studio to invest in improvements. “New jobs that are created for skilled workers will benefit the community far beyond its gates . . . I think the Master Plan deserves our support,” he said.
A final report of the Planning Commissions action will be published in the coming weeks. The matter will then be referred to the City Clerk for review by City Council.
By Billy Taylor