Paramount Plans Continue to Concern Residents
HOLLYWOOD—After the release of a final report outlining the potential environmental impacts of Paramount Pictures’ plan to modernize its facilities on Melrose Avenue, some community members are concerned by what they see as problematic issues that remain in the plan despite their previous protests.
Most immediately impacted by Paramount’s plans are residential areas directly adjacent to the studio, including Larchmont Village.
Charles D’Atri, the president of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Assoc. (LVNA) said he recognized Paramount’s need to modernize, but not at the cost of materially changing the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
“The reality is that [Paramount] does need to update and there’s a substantial amount of this construction that they can and should do,” said D’Atri. “However at the same time…there are a couple of egregious and unacceptable features.”
The key features of the final plan, which were identified by D’Atri as unacceptable in a draft version of the report released last September, yet still remain, are the proposals to construct a 15-story building, to create an electronic signage district and to display supergraphics—signs that cover multiple stories of a building.
An additional concern of D’Atri’s was the potential traffic impacts in the neighborhood. In the draft version of the report, the city of Los Angeles deemed that the streets south of Melrose would not be affected, which D’Atri described as “ridiculous.” The city’s position has not changed, but Paramount has stepped forward to mitigate possible impacts.
On May 4th, at a meeting of the LVNA, Sharon Keyser, Paramount’s Senior Vice President of Real Estate, Government and Community Relations, told those gathered that even though the city did not identify the area south of Melrose Avenue as a potentially impacted area, Paramount, of its own accord, would give the neighborhood the same compensation it would give to neighborhoods that were identified as being impacted by the city—$100,000 towards traffic mitigation measures, if they are deemed necessary.
On the subject of traffic, one resident at the meeting asked Keyser how many people are on the lot on a given day and how many were projected to be there when the project is completed. Keyser answered that currently the number was between 5,000 and 6,000 and an additional 5,000 were projected.
“You’re doubling the amount of employees,” the resident said. “You’re going to crush the area.”
In regards to the 15-story building, Keyser said the final design was still under discussion, but explained the reasoning behind the height was to save room for historic structures on the lot.
“We have gone vertical,” said Keyser. “I know that’s an issue that some people still have concerns about.”
Keyser additionally clarified that the supergraphics would not be digital.
As to the digital signage, Keyser said the brightness levels previously proposed would be cut in half, similar to the static signs currently displayed on both sides of Melrose Avenue.
She also said that Paramount believes digital signage is a growing trend, but that they have no interest in leading it.
“If we were approved today, we would not pull a digital sign permit for 5 years,” she said.
Although the majority of the Paramount property is within Los Angeles City Council District 13, there are two parking structures planned for the south side of Melrose Avenue that fall within Council District 4, represented by Councilmember David Ryu.
In response to public comments, Keyser said that the setback—the distance a structure is set back from the street—for these structures had been doubled from five feet to ten feet.
At a public hearing before senior staffers of the Los Angeles Dept. of City Planning on May 16th, Julia Duncan, Planning Deputy for Ryu, thanked Paramount for the setback concession, but noted that the design of these parking structures has not yet been determined.
“Our office requests additional language be added to the specific plan relating to design regulations,” said Duncan, specifically, except for openings necessary for access, the south side of a parking structure on Bronson Avenue should be enclosed to reduce noise, light and exhaust to its southern neighbors.
Additionally, Duncan requested both parking lots be designed with architectural techniques and landscaping that will make the buildings more cohesive with the surrounding neighborhood.
Finally, Duncan said the council office “reiterates” the LVNA’s concerns regarding signage and traffic.
At the hearing, a roughly even number of speakers spoke for and against the plan. Those in favor pointed out that Paramount is a job creator and economic engine for the community and it needs to modernize to stay competitive and viable.
The Paramount Pictures Master Plan calls for the modernization of its 56-acre lot on Melrose Avenue and six adjacent properties over the next two decades. The studio plans to demolish approximately 537,000 square feet of older facilities and build 1.9 million square feet of new stages, offices and retail for a net increase of approximately 1.4 million square feet of floor area.
The public comment period on the Final Environmental Impact Report was scheduled to end May 23rd, with a hearing scheduled for the City Planning Commission on July 14th. Written comments should be sent to email@example.com.