After 20 years as mayor of the entertainment mecca, it was fitting that the last ordinance L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley signed was the final approval for 20th Century Fox’s $ 200 million expansion plan in Century City.
One would think Fox would be celebrating. However, Councilman Joel Wachs’ sole nay voteleft the studio with “mixed feelings,” according to David Handelman , senior VP external and legal affairs for Fox Inc.
Due to Wachs’ previous sole nay vote at a public hearing on June 23, a second reading was required. Fox needed 10 of 15 council members to win approval. With three absentees Wednesday, the vote was 11-1.
“After four years, we squeaked by with one vote,” said Handelman. “We have mixed feelings. We are glad we got the zoning change,” from residential to studio on the 53-acre lot, he said in measured tones.
“We are glad the Fox application was approved. We are glad it’s over. But we don’t understand why it took almost four years to be approved by the city. We don’t understand why the city has imposed conditions (in a document) that runs on literally for hundreds of pages and that will cost us in the neighborhood of $ 35 million. And I also don’t understand why Councilman Wachs voted against it. I think it’s a slap at the entertainment industry. I’d like the city and council to recognize we bring jobs and not treat us like a punching bag,” Handelman said.
There was no hearing Wednesday, but at last week’s hearing Wachs said he opposed the project because Fox will move its Channel 11 TV station, KTTV, from Hollywood to Century City (Daily Variety, June 23).
Fox plans to consolidate all its film and TV operations with a 771,000 square-foot expansion, in three carefully monitored phases. This project will be subjected to the most rigorous traffic mitigation in the history of the city, a city clerk conceded.
There were no new changes added Wednesday, so the version of the plan proposed by the Westside neighborhood’s councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and approved by the Planning and Land Use Management committee still stands (Daily Variety, June 11, 24).
“We are delighted we are through with the process,” said Yaroslavsky’s planning deputy, Ginny Kruger. “We think it’s a win-win for all, for the city and for Fox. And we will continue to work with neighborhood groups as the studio begins its development process.”
Handelman said Fox hopes the city will be reasonable about the heavy regulation, but that it plans to begin the real design and development process immediately.
“There’s a fair amount of rehabilitation that we will begin immediately,” he said. “We have to study the final version approved and we hope to have definitive plans toward the end of the year.”
At the end of the day, said Handelman, “I think this will be good for both the entertainment industry and Los Angeles. But I just think it’s a shame we had to go through such agony to get there.”