August 8, 2013 / 1:07 AM / 6 years ago

Foes of Hollywood skyscraper plan allege earthquake coverup

* Opponents fear project sits on earthquake fault

* City says it has ordered more tests

* Developer of Hollywood towers calls allegations “baseless”

By Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Opponents of a project to build two skyscrapers in Hollywood on Wednesday accused the city of Los Angeles, and the building developers, of conspiring to hide their concerns about an earthquake fault that may run underneath the site.

Citing emails and internal documents they received from Los Angeles City Hall through California’s Public Records Act, the group claims that city building safety officials and developers of the Millennium Hollywood project discussed last year the possibility that an active earthquake fault ran under the site.

The group, led by environmental attorney Robert Silverstein, also accuses the developers, Millennium Partners, of conducting a geological earthquake study in November last year, and then failing to include the study in a subsequent Environmental Impact Report.

The $664 million Millennium Hollywood project includes construction of two high-rise towers that would dwarf the landmark Capitol Records building. It would add more than a million square feet of office, hotel and retail space to Hollywood.

The project was approved by the Los Angeles City Council last month and is supported by the city Mayor Eric Garcetti. But opponents object to the radical change it will mean for the Hollywood skyline, and claim it is dangerous because the nine-mile Hollywood Fault runs through the area.

“The Hollywood Fault is considered active and appears to exist in the vicinity of the subject,” a Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Official wrote in a letter to a city planning official, according to one internal letter.

The letter, dated May 23, 2012, was one of several internal communications provided by Silverstein, acting for a coalition of 40 community groups that oppose the project.

Silverstein also released an email exchange between a city official and an attorney for the developers in which they discussed a 2010 California state survey that showed a fault could run under the project site.

“These are smoking gun emails,” Silverstein said. “The city and developer have been claiming that no evidence shows an earthquake fault across the property.”

One problem is that nobody knows for certain exactly where the Hollywood Fault lies. A state survey to properly map it is not due to be completed until the end of this year.

Luke Zamperini, from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, denied Silverstein’s allegations.

“No one is trying to hide anything,” he said. “We have seen no evidence that the project is on the fault. But if it is, they will have to move it.”

The city has asked the developers to conduct further geological tests and will review the results of the state survey when it’s complete.

Millennium Partners, the developers, say they did their own geological testing and found no evidence of the fault underneath the site.

In a statement, Philip Aarons, founding partner of Millennium Partners, called Silverstein’s allegations “baseless.”

“We have agreed to do further subsoil investigations,” he said. “We are 100 percent committed to building a safe project.” (Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Ronald Grover and Lisa Shumaker)

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