Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stars of Hollywood and Vine

Stars of Hollywood and Vine
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
A decade ago, the corner of Hollywood and Vine was synonymous with blight, crime and neglect. The patina of yesteryear’s glamour still clung to it, anchored barely by the nearby attractions of the Capitol Records building and the Pantages Theater, but it couldn’t begin to live up to its status as viably the most famous intersection in the world.

Almost immediately after I took office in 2001, I began meeting with the Community Redevelopment Agency on their plans to join with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to develop the site. We believed that between Metro’s considerable property and the CRA’s economic development powers, a developer would propose a plan that would bookend the mile-long Walk of Fame, taking advantage of the Red Line station and the changes afoot on the boulevard to create something worthy of the fame.

Watching the plans take shape was exciting. After selecting Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners to combine a W Hotel with a mixed commercial-residential project over a transit hub, we asked them to meet with community leaders to develop a community benefits agreement. LAANE, LA VOICE, members of the nearby Yucca Group and the hotel workers union put together a package that funded health care career development and arts education, raised the number of affordable units at the project, and included the developers’ assurance that they would pay living wages and would not fight union organizing efforts at the hotel.

After the project won approval from the MTA, the CRA, and the council, a final hurdle appeared. The developers had been unable to come to an agreement with Bob Blue, the owner of a multi-generational business that had stood at the site through Hollywood’s mean years. The storied intersection had become a crossroads for Hollywood’s past and its future, and no one knew quite how to navigate the intersection. I brought all parties together in a series of long meetings at my field office in the old Louis B. Mayer building, and many pizzas and much midnight oil later, we reached an agreement that would keep Bernard’s Luggage in the project and move it forward.

At Hollywood and Vine, a mixed-income community of five hundred apartments and condominiums will rise; the future occupants will include the hotel workers who work at the W and the men and women whose names appear on the stars in the sidewalk alike.

Just a few years ago, in the 2000 census, people in this neighborhood reported family incomes of nineteen to twenty-three thousand dollars; soon, two hundred permanent living-wage, union hotel jobs will be held by men and women struggling to realize their own Hollywood dreams.

Construction has now begun at Hollywood and Vine, and the project will open in 2009. Los Angeles will see the blueprint for its future.