Category Archives: Hollywood

Thinking BIG About the Hollywood Sign

This past summer our family visited Switzerland and northern Italy. During the trip, we had numerous opportunities to ride their amazing transit systems, including several aerial trams. Because of the interest in building an aerial tram to the Hollywood Sign, I was particularly interested in how these facilities operated, and I was impressed. Not only were these aerial trams able to move a large number of people quickly to otherwise inaccessible spots, but they were able to do it with very little impact on the environment. Only a few towers to hold the cables were required, as well as stations at the beginning and end of each line. Despite moving a lot of people, the areas surrounding the stations were also well maintained with little obvious impact from the visitors to the area.

We have searched for years to find a solution for the neighborhoods below the Hollywood Sign that have been inundated with tourists since the advent of automobile navigation systems and Waze. It is my belief that if tourists were offered an attractive alternative way to reach the Hollywood Sign, they would take it. An aerial tram offers an experience that I believe would have a real impact on reducing traffic in those neighborhoods.

The City seems to agree with my assessment. A report issued earlier this summer by the Chief Legislative Analyst and Recreation and Parks Department stated:
“Recreation and Parks strongly believes that this strategy would have the most impact on visitor behavior to both Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign. If done correctly, this could potentially eliminate traffic from the western side of Griffith Park, areas that include Bronson Canyon, North Beachwood Canyon, Lake Hollywood Drive and Vermont Canyon.”

Although suggestions to install an aerial tram to the top of Mt. Lee date back as far as 1905, people never really considered it to be a serious option until recently. Many thought it was “pie-in-the sky” and could never be financially viable. Now, however, the City has received a concrete proposal from Warner Bros to access the Sign from their parking garage along Forest Lawn Drive, and we know that there are other people interested as well. This week, the L.A. Arts, Entertainment, Parks & River Committee approved and forwarded to the City Council a recommendation to begin a feasibility study of an aerial tram. Suddenly, what many thought was a pipedream looks like it really could become a reality. The City report stated: “Implementation of this option is feasible, but will require environmental clearances, the design and installation of a potentially complex transit system, identification of a vendor to operate the system, and the establishment of start and end points for the system.”

Here are a few things I discovered by surfing the internet. Aerial trams, which are technically known as aerial ropeways, have been around for centuries. In ancient India and Japan, the ropeways were used to cross rivers and were originally made of hemp or rawhide rope. Now they are made from steel cables and towers, but their function is not much different from these original ancient transportation systems. The first ropeways in the U.S. were used for transporting materials to and from mines in the West and were first introduced in 1868.

Today, most of the ropeways in the U.S. are ski lifts. They have rarely been used in urban settings. However, there are three successful applications that can be used as examples – in New York City, Portland, Oregon; and in Telluride, Colorado.

A study by West Virginia University (WVU) concluded that ropeways have seldom been used in urban settings, primarily because engineers are generally not familiar with ropeway technology and specifications. The study concluded that engineers tend to exclude aerial ropeways as an alternative even though there may be advantages in certain applications.

The Hollywood Sign may be one of those possible applications. Bringing an aerial tramway to the Sign is not going to happen overnight – and it shouldn’t. There needs to be a vetting process involving the community and neighborhoods, environmental interests and City departments, and that will take time. But isn’t it great to see that our leaders are thinking big to try and resolve some of the seemingly intractable issues concerning access to our City’s greatest landmark? Special congratulations to Councilmember David Ryu for his leadership on this effort. There is a real win-win opportunity here – solving neighborhood congestion issues, creating new jobs, and enhancing the visitor experience in Griffith Park. The Hollywood Sign will turn 100 in 2023. Wouldn’t it be nice if an aerial tramway could be in place (or at least approved) in time for the Sign’s centennial?

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 26 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Hollywood Reinforces its Entertainment Reputation

Last week, the CIM Group and the Pantages Theatre made a very significant announcement for Hollywood.  The two companies announced that they have signed an agreement to bring Broadway productions to the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, beginning in 2020.

The Hollywood Pantages Theatre, owned by the Nederlander Organization, is truly one of the treasures of Hollywood. The visual splendor of the theatre complements the wonderful Broadway productions produced there.  An evening at the Pantages makes for a magical and memorable evening.

The stunning Dolby Theatre is known worldwide as the home of the Academy Awards and other award shows, but this announcement is very good news for Hollywood.  The agreement between these two legendary venues means that Southern Californians will be able to enjoy more Broadway productions and lengthier runs on popular productions.

This will especially be beneficial for Hollywood restaurants and retail businesses as more people are drawn to our community on a nightly basis.  It also “further cements Hollywood as the entertainment capital” for Southern California, as the press release making the announcement stated.

As the President & CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce I follow what is happening elsewhere that might pose competition or create problems for our community.  Recently, I have started seeing press releases and news stories from Downtown L.A. boosters hoping to supplant Hollywood as the “entertainment capital”.   Downtown is truly going through an amazing renaissance, and we wish them well … BUT, let me tell them that Hollywood does not plan to roll over and play dead so that they can take our place.

There is only one Hollywood.  We are the entertainment brand – in fact, one of the strongest brands in the world.  Over the years, we have worked hard to maintain that brand.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame, for example, is one way we constantly reinforce our entertainment reputation.  We have the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre, the Pantages, the El Capitan, the Egyptian, the Dolby and so many other entertainment venues.  Japan House, our unique new cultural center celebrates its grand opening this weekend.  Just as Downtown is undergoing a renaissance, so is Hollywood.  Having been here for 26 years, I have truly witnessed the amazing comeback of this community.   Three new hotels opened last year and three more are under construction this year that will provide even more opportunities for entertainment.

I am optimistic about Hollywood.  There is a lot going on here, with more office construction currently than any other community in Los Angeles County, and thousands of units of housing under construction.  Even with that, it is critical that we not “rest on our laurels” but seek to stay competitive with new attractions.

I feel confident that Hollywood will continue to have a bright future, because of companies like the CIM Group and the Nederlander Organization that recognize the opportunities here and which are investing millions of dollars to enhance our entertainment offerings.  Nothing like a little friendly competition to keep us on our toes, but so long as Hollywood continues to attract major investors and new stakeholders, I don’t think we will have to worry.  After all, we are HOLLYWOOD!

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 26 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Innovative Japanese Stores Help to Revitalize Hollywood

As the year winds down, it is nice to be able to share some very positive news. Hollywood will soon be the home of two very innovative Japanese concepts, Japan House and Miniso, that are both scheduled to open within the next couple of weeks.

Japan House is a unique project of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is a world outreach effort to promote Japan’s best art, cuisine, design, entertainment, fashion and technology. Three world class cities where there is a strong Japanese influence – Sao Paulo, Brazil; London, and Los Angeles – have been selected as the sites for the program. Because of its heavy pedestrian and visitor traffic, Hollywood was chosen as the site in L.A.

Yuko Kaifu, president of Japan House L.A., explained that the aim is to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan, by creating a hub from which to showcase and communicate Japan as a country of countless charms, able to enrich the rest of the world.

Japan House will occupy a total of 14,000-sq.ft. at the Hollywood & Highland center on the second and fifth floors. Its various elements include a retail shop and small café on the second floor that will carry an expertly-curated selection of unique Japanese products, scheduled for a soft opening on December 20th. Also on that floor will be a gallery space, which will feature as its first exhibit “Anrealage: A light un light”, showcasing works of innovative fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga, who uses photosensitive fabrics in his collections. That exhibit is set to run from January 19 through March 21, 2018.

The fifth floor will open in summer 2018 and will house a library, a salon and restaurant, where visitors can browse books on Japanese culture, attend lectures and demonstrations, and dine on fine Japanese cuisine. According to Michael McDowell, Executive Vice President of Japan House L.A., the 40-seat high-end restaurant will rotate in top chefs from Japan.

Miniso

Set to open a flagship store in Hollywood in January is Miniso, a rapidly-expanding Japanese seller of lifestyle products. Miniso is occupying 4,757-sq.ft. of space on Hollywood Blvd. that was previously occupied by American Apparel. The firm specializes in providing simple high-quality products at competitive prices. The majority of their items range from $1.99 up to $30.

The company has opened 1,000 stores around the world in the past three years, and its revenues doubled from $750-million in 2015 to $1.5-billion in 2016. Five stores are set to open in California. Besides Hollywood, there will stores in Santa Ana, Lakewood, and Moreno Valley. A store in Pasadena has already opened.

The location of these two unique concepts in Hollywood is encouraging. Especially with other retailers retrenching, there is a need for to rethink retail. The type of retail that can still succeed is experiential, one-of-a kind concepts. Japan House and Miniso both fit that model. We will be watching to see how both stores (and the fine dining restaurant) perform. Their success would pave the way for other similar concepts to come to Hollywood.

What is particularly encouraging to us is that they both recognized the potential of locating in Hollywood. We have been expecting to see an upswing in retailers. With the rapid revitalization that is occurring in Hollywood, we have seen new residential, office and hotels, but have yet to see a significant turn-around with retail. Hopefully, these stores will lead the way.

I’m planning to visit the new stores as soon as they open. I hope you will also!

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 25 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

The Elephant in the Room

The legislative season is over, and we finally have begun to see our California legislature act on the housing crisis in this state. The Governor signed 15 bills that were intended to smooth the way to more housing being built.

Over the past year, you have heard me discuss the importance of addressing California’s housing crisis. So, I think it is appropriate to commend the legislature and the Governor for taking steps to start addressing what is an enormous problem.

Among the bills that were passed was a $4-billion bond measure to provide new affordable-housing units, a provision to streamline housing requirements in cities that aren’t building to state-mandated goals, incentives for cities to plan new neighborhoods, and prod local governments to get shovels into the ground, and giving the State the ability to review any action or failure to act by a city or county that it deems out of compliance with its housing element.

According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the State is currently falling about 100,000 units short each year in what it should be building to meet the demand. Under the best-case forecasts, the 15 new measures will only make a dent in the shortfall.

Our representatives admitted this is only a down payment on what is needed to really have an impact on the housing crisis. The fact is, the one way to resolve the housing shortfall in a big way is to spur the private sector to build more units. The only way to do that is to address the “elephant in the room” which is to reform the California Environmental Quality Act – more commonly referred to as CEQA.

Achieving CEQA reform is a monumental task because of the many special interest groups that have grown a cottage industry of using CEQA to squeeze developers for money, concessions, or to outright stop needed projects. The Hollywood Chamber was a part of a broad-based statewide coalition that worked for years to reform CEQA. A couple of years ago, we thought reform was finally doable. However, amendments were tacked on to the reform bills that would have ended up making CEQA compliance even worse, so the reform effort was dropped at that time.

Before that, in 2011, our Chamber convinced then-State Senator Curren Price to introduce SB735 for us. We thought we had the perfect solution – a measure that would strengthen the timelines for judicial consideration of CEQA cases. The idea was to require the courts to meet stricter administrative deadlines, enabling judges to decide cases as was originally the intent of the CEQA law.

However, our effort died when the State Judicial Council opposed our efforts, saying they did not have the wherewithal to speed up the process. Because we were just coming out of the Great Recession, there was no chance of providing the funding that they needed to expedite the process at that time.

So, when the Legislature takes this issue up again next year, I have a few suggestions. Why not provide more funding for judges to review CEQA cases and also to provide an expedited litigation schedule for resolution of an action and stricter timelines for appeal of a judgment for all projects? While we appreciate that the State extended an expedited schedule for court review of large Environmental Leadership Development Projects, this should apply to all projects – especially housing. Providing more funding for the courts review process might be the best investment the State could make in speeding up the construction of new housing.

This wouldn’t solve all CEQA-related problems, but it would be a start. While it wouldn’t please those whose goal is to delay and delay and delay, I believe the majority of Californians would support common-sense action that would still allow CEQA challenges but speed up the litigation.

And here is another suggestion. Rather than just encourage cities to meet their housing goals, why not add some teeth to hold cities accountable to meet the mandate of their housing goals? Just last month, the news media reported that the city of Redondo Beach approved a moratorium on new multifamily units even though they had only achieved 41 percent of their housing goals. If there are no penalties, cities will continue to consider meeting housing goals as a suggestion rather than a mandate.

There will be other suggestions made, but I thought I’d get a head-start out of the gate. Let’s encourage our legislature to take the hard steps to resolve the housing crisis.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 25 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Building a Prosperous Hollywood

Hollywood has always been associated with new ideas. If you think about the early entertainment industry that located here, it was all about creativity and creating stories that would be compelling.

Here we are 100 years later, and creativity continues to rule in Hollywood, even as the entertainment industry undergoes a major transformation due to new technologies that are opening new opportunities. And so, it is logical to assume that Hollywood would be one of the places in Southern California popular with the new media and tech industry.

One example of the draw that Hollywood has become for new start-ups is with our shared workspace providers. The first to come to Hollywood was We Work, which opened its first Los Angeles location here in Hollywood in 2011. They will be opening their third Hollywood facility on Vine Street this fall. Among their 1,900 Hollywood “members” are entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups and small businesses. They provide work space for businesses, ranging from one employee up to 100 employees. Many of these entrepreneurial and tech start-ups may over time grow significantly – creating a lot of jobs. In addition to We Work, other shared workspace concepts have invested in Hollywood, including Neuehouse at Columbia Square, and HClub, which will open next year in the former Redbury Hotel. We expect this critical mass of new businesses to have a profound effect on Hollywood going forward.

One of the exciting new companies that has located in Hollywood is Pavemint – a company that is rolling out its app and services this month. The company relocated from Houston to Los Angeles in 2015, finding a home in a historic building on Hollywood Blvd. Today, they have 40 full and part-time positions.

Probably, the easiest way to understand this company’s model is as the “Airbnb” for parking. Their goal is to unlock the inventory of parking spaces in Los Angeles through a peer-to-peer marketplace.

For the past two years, they have worked on refining their app to work seamlessly for those looking for parking spaces. At the same time, they have been building up an inventory of parking within Los Angeles. Although not the first parking app to hit the market, Pavemint already has the largest peer-to-peer parking network in the U.S.

They chose Hollywood as their base for several reasons: first, they were able to find cool office space on Hollywood Blvd.; second, Hollywood was centrally located, and finally, Hollywood has a parking problem. They are continuing to expand their inventory of parking spaces here and throughout L.A., and later expect to expand to other cities.

This is a job-creating concept that wouldn’t have even been imagined a few years ago.

We want to continue attracting cutting-edge, creative companies like Pavemint to Hollywood and to have them grow here. In order to do so, we need to build an environment that is conducive for these growing firms, with incubator shared working spaces available to get them started and then an inventory of additional office space to grow into, workforce housing, shopping, easy transit access and entertainment. And we need to preserve the “cool” factor of Hollywood.

What is noteworthy is that a lot of what is occurring in Hollywood has happened organically, without a lot of “priming” from the government. Where the government must step in is to provide the services and security needed to keep this an attractive business location. That means being business friendly, addressing issues such as homeless encampments and providing needed services for mentally-ill homeless persons, which I’ll address in a future column.

Hollywood is well positioned to truly become a live-work model for the entire region. If we can demonstrate how to make this work successfully here, we can show other communities the way to facilitate growth and prosperity.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 25 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

New Hotels Enrich Hollywood and Los Angeles

Two new hotels opened in Hollywood last month – the Kimpton Everly with 216 rooms and the Hampton Inn Hollywood with 112 rooms. Together with the Dream Hotel that opened in July, we have added more than 500 rooms to the Hollywood market this year. This is a 15-percent increase in the number of hotel rooms in Hollywood, bringing our total rooms to 3,926 in 51 properties.

By my count, there are another 15 hotels proposed for Hollywood. I’m sure some people are asking if we can support all of these hotels. One important thing to remember is that the hotels do not all come online at once. It is a long-way from a hotel being proposed to under construction. There is no guarantee that all the proposed venues will be built. The marketplace will be the final determinant of what is actually built. The interest in building new hotels in Hollywood is a nice problem to have!

I recall back in the year 2000 when our chair-of-the board, Oscar Arslanian, and I trekked to Beverly Hills to meet with a representative of Hilton Hotels to convince them that they should come to Hollywood. At the time, we had a boutique hotel task force and were trying to get new hotel construction in Hollywood. It had been 25 years since a significant hotel had opened in Hollywood. Hilton turned us down, saying that the timing wasn’t right for a hotel in Hollywood. We were ahead of our time.

It was a frustrating period for us. Hollywood was the top tourist draw in Los Angeles County, and yet no new hotels were coming to our community. They were locating in neighboring cities, which meant transient occupancy taxes (TOT) collected by those hotels were also going to other communities. TOT taxes can be an important component of a city’s budget, so this was potentially a huge loss for Los Angeles. In L.A. during its last fiscal year, the city received $230.8-million in TOT taxes and another $27.5-million from short-term rental taxes. With Los Angeles facing a budget gap of over $200-million, finding new sources of revenue are key to its survival and maintaining services. Each new hotel that opens in the city helps fill the budget shortfall.

Aside from providing tax revenue to a city, there are numerous other benefits that new hotels bring to the community – one of which is jobs. The Dream Hotel and its associated restaurants employ about 800 people. The Everly Hotel has a staff of 125 and the Hampton Inn employs another 40. These are all new jobs, on sites where there were few jobs before. To be able to add this many jobs to our employment base is exciting. Yes, many of these jobs are entry level positions, but in this community with all income levels, we need both entry level and executive positions.

New hotels also add to the ambiance of a neighborhood. Infill development helps to activate the street. The areas around the Dream Hotel and Everly were previously “dead” as far as pedestrians. There was no reason for anyone to walk there. Now, you see people walking to and from these venues, which creates more interest but also makes the neighborhood safer. It is impressive to now see people walking in Hollywood, not just on the major thoroughfares, but also on the side streets. Hollywood is a model for the entire City on how to activate a neighborhood.

And hotels also are great public gathering spaces for locals – with lobbies, restaurants, meeting rooms, and in some cases, rooftop terraces that overlook the Hollywood Hills and urban L.A. As we all know, Hollywood has the unfortunate distinction of having little park and open space. This makes it even more important to have places where people can gather. The general manager of the Everly Hotel related to me that they are positioning their hotel as one that is serving the local neighborhood. Since this new hotel lies in close proximity to many of our hillside neighborhoods, it only makes sense.

The fact is new hotels enrich a community in many ways. Downtown Hollywood is becoming an even more attractive urban neighborhood by having these hotels to complement the residential, retail and office components that are coming online. The Hollywood hotel boom is a very good thing for our community and for the City as a whole.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Does the Middle Class Have a Future in Los Angeles?

Recently I read Richard Florida’s book, The New Urban Crisis. Among the critical issues he identifies is the decline of the middle class in our urban centers. What his research found was that the middle class is the smallest in the most economically vibrant places, in particular, what he defines as “superstar cities” and tech hubs. Los Angeles was identified as one of these urban areas where the middle class is the smallest.

At a meeting we held last week with Mayor Eric Garcetti, he voiced what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging issue facing Los Angeles – will our children be able to stay here and enjoy the prosperous community that has been built over the last generation. “We need a middle class and not just a service class,” said the Mayor, emphasizing that it is essential that the middle class not be squeezed out. The Mayor was right in highlighting this challenge.

If we cannot provide an opportunity for our children to remain here, what kind of a legacy have we provided? It does not matter if Los Angeles is able to provide middle-class jobs, if the cost of living is such that they cannot get ahead. I think each of us know of young people who have left the state as it has become increasingly unaffordable. I have two nieces, third-generation Angelenos, who moved to Colorado, in order to be able to purchase a home. I’m sure you can name a few.

Let me share a few statistics that I have seen over the last few months. The New York Times reported earlier this month that housing prices in L.A., San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego have jumped as much as 75 percent over the past five years, making California the toughest market for first time home buyers. The median cost of a home in California is now over $500,000, twice the national average. California’s homeownership rate of 54 percent ranks last in the nation.

A recent article by Elijah Chiland noted that the real estate website Redfin reports that just 6.6 percent of homes listed in the greater L.A. region are considered affordable to residents making the median income. The problem is that while there have been significant increases in home values, wages in Los Angeles have risen less than half a percent since 2012.

On top of this, there is the issue of taxation. When you consider the compounding effect of the taxes levied at the state, county and local levels, it adds up to a huge disincentive for the middle class and young people to remain here. In an article published last month, Chris Nichols of Politifact, responding to the question of whether California taxes were really among the highest in the nation, provided the following facts: On a per capita basis, Californians pay $1,991 annually in state income taxes, which ranks fourth highest in the country. California has the highest-in-the nation sales tax rate of 7.25 per cent (and that is before local levies recently passed for such worthy causes as mass transit and homeless services). When the recently-approved 12-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax goes into effect on November 1, 2017, it will make the California gas tax second highest in the nation.

Now, I am not arguing against the need for these new taxes and fees to address serious state and local problems. What I am saying is that the compounding effect of these taxes threatens our middle class.

Even property taxes, which we tout as low because of Proposition 13, create a heavy burden for those just starting out. Since median housing prices are twice the national average, the property taxes are still a hurdle, especially when compounded by additional parcel taxes and fees charged to property owners in a specific area to pay for special needs and public improvements.

The state legislature has introduced 130 housing measures this year to address the affordable housing issue. The City is considering linkage fees to fund affordable housing. The problem with many of these proposals is that it is impossible for government to solve the housing crisis with new fees to develop affordable housing. The amount of housing they could fund is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.

Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics recently said that California would need to add between 800,000 and one-million additional residential units to move the state to national norms for housing stock and vacancy rates. In L.A., we would need a total of 180,000 to 200,000 residential units.

The only way to meet these type of numbers is to stimulate the private sector, which is now weighed down with government regulations that make it impossible for the free market to work the way it is supposed to. Our public officials are going to have to make some tough decisions if they really want to address the housing crisis.

Here are a few suggestions. At the State level, our representatives are going to finally need to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to stop egregious abuses of this law that can kill or delay needed projects for years. They need to approve language that treats infill development in urban areas differently than pristine open space. State and city officials need to incentivize developers to build low and moderate income housing units. There are ways to do this, such as increasing density for targeted units or reducing parking requirements, which would bring down costs on a per unit basis. And the courts need to be directed to accelerate the review of legal challenges to housing projects.

It took a long time for this housing crisis to develop, and it may take a long time to work through a solution, but we cannot afford to delay. Our legislators need to start acting now to solve this problem. If they don’t, the California dream may be a thing of the past for our vanishing middle class.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Hotel Complex is a Dream for Hollywood Jobs

When one thinks about the visionaries who made Hollywood what it is today, there are a lot of candidates to consider: Sid Grauman who dreamed up the picture palaces and movie premieres, C.E. Toberman, who built most of the grand buildings on Hollywood Blvd. and made the Hollywood Bowl a reality, the Chandler family and their associates who put the huge Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee, Johnny Grant, who built the Hollywood Walk of Fame into an international icon – the list could go on and on.

And in fact, the list continues to grow. Last week, the long-awaited Dream Hotel opened its doors – the culmination of a 10-year dream by Richard Heyman and Grant King of the Relevant Group. These two gentlemen looked at a very nondescript stretch of Selma Avenue just west of Cahuenga and imagined something no one else saw – a thriving entertainment complex.

Their original vision was to convert an old industrial building into a hotel and to activate the adjacent derelict alley with restaurants. Over the years, that vision grew. They now envision up to four hotels within a two-block area. This is a case study in “place-making” if ever there was one. The two partners envision a vibrant neighborhood something akin to the Meat Packing District in New York. Looking at what they have already created, we can only imagine what another three hotels might do for that neighborhood.

What is especially noteworthy is that the new hotel and the four adjacent restaurants have created 700 jobs. That is significant in a stretch where the previous structure on the site probably provided less than 10 jobs. Not only do the venues provide employment, but they will also offer new entertainment opportunities for Hollywood residents, and will act as a magnet, drawing guests from throughout Los Angeles. It will help to perpetuate Hollywood’s image as the entertainment center of Los Angeles.

If you talk with Grant and Richard, they will tell you of the many challenges they faced to make their dream a reality. When they couldn’t get financing locally for the project, Grant went to China where he successfully raised the needed funding.

They simply did not take “no” for an answer. They wanted to bring the “A-game” to Hollywood, and they did. Besides Dream Hotels, they brought in the Tao Group, one of the most successful restaurant groups in the nation. These unique restaurants in the Dream Hotel complex are already receiving rave reviews, so be sure to check out Tao, The Highlight Room, Beauty & Essex, and Luchini.

When you visit the Dream, you will agree that it will be catalytic not only for that stretch of Selma Avenue, but for Hollywood in general. This type of project perpetuates the excitement about the revitalization of Hollywood. I often speak with developers who remark that they can feel the energy here and that they want to be part of it. They have heard through word of mouth that things are happening in Hollywood. When they come to visit, they experience it.

Hollywood did not become the name synonymous with the film industry by thinking small. It has always been associated with “dreamers” – but dreamers who made things happen.

As the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, we congratulate Richard and Grant on their success and express our appreciation for their faith in Hollywood. We can hardly wait to see their next project.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

 

Studio Purchase Is Good News for Jobs

Earlier this month, Hudson Pacific Properties, Inc. announced that it had finalized a $200-million acquisition of the historic Hollywood Center Studios. This is the third studio acquisition in Hollywood by Hudson Pacific. Based on their track record, it is very good news for Hollywood.

Hudson had previously acquired Sunset-Gower Studios and Sunset-Bronson Studios. They will now own a combined 1.2-million square feet of facilities at the three studios, including 35 soundstages on 41-acres. The acquisition makes Hudson Pacific the largest independent owner-operator of sound stages in the nation.

I first became acquainted with Hudson Pacific when they purchased Sunset-Gower Studios in 2007. They were in a competition against several other firms for the property. Theirs was the only proposal to keep Sunset-Gower as an independent studio. The other developers planned to replace the studio with housing.

While there certainly was the need for housing, I was very concerned about the potential loss of industrial space, especially since Hollywood only has about 200 acres zoned for industrial uses. It was a time when Hollywood’s future hung in the balance. Many entertainment-related firms had exited Hollywood in previous decades, including almost all of the television stations. We were very concerned that Hollywood might lose its historical role as a commercial center.

Fortunately, Hudson Pacific did get the property, and they followed up by investing in the infrastructure and revitalizing the studio. Technicolor moved into a new 115,000-sq.ft. building at Sunset-Gower, making it their North American headquarters. This was the first major entertainment firm to move into Hollywood in decades.

In 2008, Hudson Pacific acquired the Sunset-Bronson lot. At that lot, they have built 423,000-sq.ft. of office space, all leased to Netflix. Their projects, along with others completed by Kilroy Realty and J.H.Snyder, have helped reestablish Hollywood as a commercial center. With 2,800 housing units under construction and another 7,200 in the pipeline in Hollywood, these projects will help us to maintain an important jobs-housing balance.

So the announcement that Hudson Pacific has acquired the historic Hollywood Center Studios bodes well for Hollywood. Hudson, in making the announcement of the purchase, also stated that they plan to move forward with a new 100,000-sq.ft. creative office building and a 350-space parking garage at the lot, which will be renamed Sunset Las Palmas.

For those not familiar with this lot, it is one of the most historic and oldest operating studios in Hollywood. It was founded in 1919 by a partnership formed by C.E. Toberman, John Jasper and C.W. Bradford. At the time, C.E. Toberman, who was the “Mr. Hollywood” of his day, had plans to convert Hollywood Blvd. (which was a mishmash of residential, retail and industrial uses) into a grand street and wanted to remove all industrial uses from the boulevard. The creation of the lot, christened Hollywood Studios, Inc., helped accomplish that goal. Over the years, the studio became home to iconic television shows like I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, Jeopardy, and legendary films like Hell’s Angels, When Harry Met Sally, and The Player.

Hudson Pacific has been responsible for bringing hundreds (if not thousands) of jobs to Hollywood. They have played a major role in the revitalization of Hollywood. On June 22nd, they will be honored with our Excellence in Economic Development Award at the annual Hollywood Economic Development Summit. The honors are well-deserved. On behalf of the Chamber, let me say that we appreciate having such great partners as Hudson Pacific in our community.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

A Few Observations about Measure S

 

With only two weeks to go until the election, there has been a lot of “ink” written on the topic of Measure S. You’ve heard the statistics about how this measure is going to cost our economy $1.9-billion and 12,000 jobs for each year it is in place. You’ve heard about its devastating impact on affordable housing, especially in light of the passage of Measure HHH to build permanent supportive housing that Measure S would make difficult to build. And you have heard the claims of the proponents that only five percent of the proposed construction within the City will be impacted.

With the debate drawing to a close, I would like to share a few of my final observations. Here are my thoughts:

  1. The idea for this initiative sprang from a small group of activists in Hollywood, who were not able to stop development here, and thought they would have a better chance by enacting a citywide moratorium. They have cloaked their real intent under the cover of popular terms such as “updating community plans” and “ending spot zoning”. They continue to minimize the impact of this measure (far below what real studies have shown). In reality, their goal is not to update community plans, but to stop all significant development that adds traffic near their homes.
  2. Almost everyone agrees that the City of Los Angeles project approval process leaves much to be desired and needs reform. The one positive result of the initiative is that it spurred the City Council to vote on February 8th to update L.A.’s 35 community plans every six years, which is realistically about as fast as the City can move in updating all of its plans. That vote has triggered creation of a new ordinance that will mandate these updates. If the ballot measure sponsors really cared about updating the plans, they would declare “victory” at this point and move on. The fact that they haven’t done so, tells you that they really have another agenda.
  3. The proponents of Measure S are disingenuous when they say that the moratorium will only last for two years. They know that it is impossible for the City to update all of its plans within that timeframe. They also know that there will be lawsuits challenging the approval of new updated community plans, which will prevent their implementation. It has now been five years since the Hollywood Community Plan Update was approved and then blocked by a lawsuit. We are still waiting for it to be reconsidered. This is a good example of what is in store if this measure passes. Voters need to understand that the moratorium likely will be in effect for years.
  4. In an ideal world, no exceptions would be granted to zoning rules. However, in the real world, that is not possible for various reasons. There are cases where spot zoning is needed, and where it demonstrably is a good thing. Probably the best example in Hollywood is our beautiful new Emerson College campus on Sunset Blvd., which has won numerous design awards. Under the previous zoning, about all that could have been built on the site was a hamburger stand. I don’t think anyone would argue that a hamburger stand was a better usage for that site. Until such time as community plans are updated to reflect today’s circumstances, there is a need to allow legislative bodies to exercise judgment to consider the issues in addressing development at specific locations. And, even after a plan is adopted, there is a need for flexibility. Changing circumstances, new opportunities that may never have been contemplated, or mistakes in classification require some flexibility in allowing exceptions. Granting exceptions to the rules should be infrequent, but blanket prohibitions of “spot zoning” without considering real life situations are not in the public’s best interests.
  5. Measure S is really a case of “the haves” versus “the have nots”. If you already own a home and don’t care about the larger community’s interests, then you may be inclined to vote for Measure S, but if you truly care about those who are just getting started in L.A. or who are forced to commute in from outlying regions, then this measure is not for you. Last fall I spoke with Councilmember Nury Martinez, who represents the 6th District, stretching from Van Nuys to Panorama City. She said it is a challenge to bring development into her district and that the Measure S moratorium would harm her efforts to do so. Her concerns are echoed in many communities across this great city. Other than Hollywood, Koreatown and Downtown L.A., most areas of L.A. are not seeing a great deal of new development. Many communities want and need development. As I have said before, developers are not the enemy. They are the ones who help to revitalize older neighborhoods. Our opponents forget how bad Hollywood was 20 years ago. It has been primarily through new development that we have been able to turn this historic film capital around. Where you see no new development is where you most often see communities in a state of decline. Measure S will perpetuate that problem and make it more difficult to revitalize communities.
  6. Measure S is about the future of Los Angeles. I remain convinced that one of the main goals of the proponents of this measure is to stop the addition of density near mass transit centers. The Palladium Residences project that seems to have been the genesis of Measure S (at least for the largest contributor to their campaign), is only one block from a subway station. Opponents of that project do not want density near transit centers, and yet they have suggested no alternative. The horizontal city model with connecting freeways may have worked when we had three million residents in this county, but it does not work when we have 10 million residents. In city after city, we have successful models on how development has been focused along mass transit lines in order to avoid increasing congestion elsewhere. That has also been the plan for Los Angeles. With the passage of Measure M last November, we have an opportunity to truly accommodate growth and new residents in a logical fashion. To not allow density where it makes the most sense will create future chaos for this region. It will result in a lot of housing and businesses moving outside Los Angeles, and it will force many new residents into peripheral areas, only worsening commute times. We cannot go back to the 1950s.

I add my voice to those who say that Measure S is the wrong remedy for Los Angeles. Now that the City Council has committed to regularly updating community plans, our energy would be much better spent on seeing that we get visionary, well-thought out plans adopted for each area of our city. Let’s work to see that good developments are added along future and existing mass transit lines, and that they contribute to making this a more livable city. That way, we will all be winners.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.