By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
The California Geological Survey released a preliminary map Wednesday showing that the site of a major skyscraper project in Hollywood straddles an active earthquake fault.
Under the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Act, “construction of certain structures for human occupancy” over traces of an active earthquake fault is prohibited, State Geologist John Parrish told reporters.
“It stands to reason that where an earthquake fault has ruptured the land surface in the past, it will do so again in a future large earthquake,” he said. “It’s nearly impossible to avoid building near an earthquake fault in the Los Angeles area, but making sure the footprint of buildings isn’t directly atop those surface faults can save lives, property and money.”
The map was highly anticipated by Stopthemillenniumhollywood.org, a group that for months has alleged that the multimillion-dollar Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project in Hollywood sits atop cracks that are part of the Hollywood Fault.
The group has sued to stop the project — approved last year by the City Council — from moving forward. The project calls for 35- and 39-story towers to be built on Vine Street, next to the iconic Capitol Records building.
In the preliminary map, which must undergo a 90-day public comment period, state geologists plotted the path of the Hollywood Fault along the Hollywood Hills. Markings on the map appear to show the
site atop the fault traces.
Red lines on the map, representing cracks in the ground that make up the Hollywood Fault, “do cross the Millennium Hollywood project sites,” Parrish told City News Service.
A fault trace lies under the Capitol Records building, but also on either side of it, where the Millennium Hollywood project is planned, he said.
Parrish said the study to produce the Hollywood Fault map had been pushed up to “provide the city with the most current information available.”
“There has been a great deal of concern in the Hollywood area that portions of a major new construction site may overlie traces of the Hollywood Fault,” he said.
The attorney for the group opposing the project said the map “confirms what my clients have been saying — that the Hollywood earthquake fault runs right through the Millennium Hollywood project.”
Robert Silverstein said he believes the map’s release would scuttle current plans by the developer, New York-based Millennium Partners.
“Maybe they can squeeze a much smaller building somewhere on this property, if at all,” he said. “But it is improbable that anything like the giant twin skyscrapers the City Council approved can be built.”
But Philip Aarons, a partner of the development company, Millennium Partners, said the map changes nothing.
City officials “long suspected that the Hollywood Fault could be located in the vicinity of our site” and had asked the developer to perform geological studies and tests, Aarons said.
“Those studies and tests were performed and showed no evidence of an active fault on the property.”
Parrish said from what he has seen, the developer’s studies do not appear to “pinpoint the exact location of fault traces on the property.”
Developers can build as close to a fault as city officials allow, as long as it’s not over the fault, he said.
“The law is they have to clearly demonstrate the location of the fault or clearly demonstrate that there is no fault there,” Parrish said.
The developer typically needs to dig a “long trench so we can see in profile what an existing fault looks like and where they’re located,” he said.
“If they did something less than that, then there will always be questions of whether they adequately studied where the faults are.”
City leaders who support the project said the map’s release merely confirmed what they already knew.
“Today we learned that Hollywood is open for business,” said City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the Hollywood area.
The map reveals that “a fault line runs along the Hollywood Hills, trace lines might extend into the business district and that any project proposed near these areas must conduct extensive testing to determine the exact location of a trace line in relation to the proposed construction,” he said.
O’Farrell said the city will incorporate the map into its city mapping system, Navigate LA.
Opponents of the project contend available information about the Hollywood Fault was not factored into the project’s environmental impact report, a document that looks at how a project would affect the surrounding community, and that geological studies were only done after the community raised concerns about the project’s earthquake risks.