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L.A. City Council gives OK to long-stalled Hollywood office project [Updated]

March 9, 2011 |  7:13 pm

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a major new Hollywood office project after years of delay and controversy centering on dueling land appraisals, the ability of the developer to deliver and the future of a popular burger stand on the site.

With council President Eric Garcetti championing the plan, the council voted to approve the 1601 N. Vine Office Project, to be constructed at Vine Street and Selma Avenue, in the heart of Hollywood, next to the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. The names of movie stars who are part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame are embedded the sidewalk in front the lot of where the building is to go up.

Garcetti labeled the project the “best chance to build some Class A office space that Hollywood has seen in 25 years.” He and other supporters decried a lack of quality office buildings in the historic entertainment district.

[Corrected, 10:04 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted Garcetti as saying this was the “best chance to build some Class A office space that Hollywood hasn’t seen in 25 years.”]

The eight-story project will cost $60 million, Hal Katersky, the Santa Monica-based developer, told the council. Katersky said he hoped to break ground in the fall.

Several union officials also praised the project for the jobs it will create during the roughly two years of construction.

During debate on the project, Katersky defended his ability to construct a first-class structure amid reports of lawsuits, financial problems and runaway production surrounding his business, Pacifica Ventures. Katersky’s attorney, William Delvac, called the council action “a big step forward in a long process in creating a very important project.”

Garcetti said his doubts about the plan had been allayed, but he pledged that the project would be “aggressively scrutinized.”

The blueprint dates from 2006, when the city's redevelopment agency moved to purchase the land for $5.45 million. But officials later learned of a second appraisal that put the value at $4.07 million. The differing appraisals continue to raise questions about the conduct of redevelopment officials.

Further fanning doubts is the fact that the plan calls for the parcel to be sold back to the developer for $825,000, more than $4 million less than the redevelopment agency paid for it. Katersky says he has already invested more than $4 million for design, architecture, legal fees and other costs.

On Wednesday, Garcetti said he was convinced that the city paid a “defensible” price for the land, despite the two appraisals.

The site is mostly a vacant lot, but one tenant is a busy hamburger stand. Molly’s Charbroiler, a 20-stool eatery, has become a neighborhood fixture but would be demolished under project plans.

As part of the agreement, Molly’s owners will receive about $1.1 million in compensation, including $700,000 from the developer and $400,000 from the city redevelopment authorities.

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Taking a burger stand

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall

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