Councilwoman asks Playa to back down
Community leaders were quick to jump to DreamWorks’ defense Tuesday in the studio’s war of words with Playa Vista developers.
Following DreamWorks’ threat to back away from the project, City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and other supporters of the studio called for developer Playa Capital Co. to bow to the studio’s terms for moving to the site.
Negotiations between the studio and Playa Capital have stalled over a number of issues, chief among them the question of which side would own the soundstages intended for the proposed Entertainment, Media & Technology campus.
“The owners of Playa Vista have made a number of promises to their neighbors and to the city of Los Angeles, most importantly their commitment to bring the new DreamWorks studio to the Playa Vista site and to restore the Ballona Wetlands,” said Galanter, in whose district the project lies.
“Their recent statements that DreamWorks doesn’t fit their vision for Playa Vista make me suspect that they plan to return to their earlier plans to build hotels and office complexes,” she added. “This is contrary to the vision they promised us.”
The owners, a consortium headed by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. that took over the project last October, insist that they have every intention of restoring the nearby wetlands and that hotels are not part of their program.
Playa Capital spokesman David Herbst insisted Tuesday that “a deal with DreamWorks is one of our highest priorities.” But he said the developer will build a studio lot “however any negotiations come out.”
“Playa Vista will have soundstages and studio support facilities, and we are currently moving ahead with the campus,” Herbst said.
The developer has proposed a deal under which DreamWorks would own six soundstages and Playa Capital would own several more — a plan the studio has rejected. Playa Capital gave DreamWorks a deadline of todayto accept or reject the plan.
Now, Playa Capital’s decision to run its own studio lot regardless of whether DreamWorks is part of it has galled not only the studio but some community activists. Having DreamWorks on the site, they feel, will help keep the larger development — set to include housing and commercial properties — from becoming unwieldy and environmentally destructive.
“I’m very surprised by the apparent view that Playa Capital and not DreamWorks is supposed to be running the studio,” said Joel Reynolds, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The breakdown in negotiations may suggest some hidden agenda that has nothing to do with developing that site as its been approved.”
Joyce Foster, a former president of the Westwood Homeowners’ Assn. who is active in Westside issues, said it would be “preferable to have someone there who’s responsible, like DreamWorks.”
“They have a reputation for quality,” Foster said. “I think it would be a shame if it was just left up for grabs. I was really sad to hear they’re making it harder for DreamWorks.”
Foster — who is also president of the city’s Building and Safety Commission but was not speaking in that capacity — said the new owners “obviously feel they can make more money by opening up the site to other ventures.”
Mark Gold, executive director of the environmental organization Heal the Bay, said if DreamWorks abandons plans to move to Playa Vista, “some of the politicians on the City Council will not be as supportive of the project.”
City officials have extended about $70 million in tax breaks and incentives to the project — so long as DreamWorks was attached to it.
“The city council and the mayor of the city of Los Angeles have made it clear,” Galanter’s statement said, “that we expect the owners of Playa Capital to follow through on the promises that have been made to both the city and the community.”
Herbst, the Playa Capital spokesman, said he was “not going to get into a tit-for-tat” argument about the merits of the developer’s position versus that of DreamWorks.
“We hope to have them here,” he said. “I acknowledge that DreamWorks would be a cornerstone anchor tenant to the EMT district. We would love to have them here.”