Millennium Towers: City 'concealed' Hollywood fault details, opponents charge

Attorney Robert Silverstein and opponents of the Hollywood Millennium Towers gathered Wednesday on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.
Attorney Robert Silverstein and opponents of the Hollywood Millennium Towers gathered Wednesday on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.
Sanden Totten / KPCC

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Opponents of the Hollywood Millennium Towers released emails Wednesday that they say prove Los Angeles city officials had concerns about an earthquake fault running through the area around the proposed development. 

Those concerns were not included in the Environmental Impact Report created for the project, says Robert Silverstein, attorney for a coalition of 40 community groups opposed to the development.

The report was presented to the city Planning Commission, which approved the project this Spring, as did the L.A. City Council late last month.

Philip Aarons, founding partner of Millennium Partners, released a statement calling the allegations of opponents "baseless" and noted that his group previously conducted a survey of the site that found no evidence of a fault.

"We are 100 percent committed to building a safe project," Aarons said.

In an email dated March 15, 2012, Department of Building and Safety General Manager Raymond Chan says "there is a Hollywood Fault trace mapped by the California Geological Survey." In an email from the following day, he notes the fault "could potentially be crossing the [Millennium] property."

The Environmental Impact Report, however, says that the fault is 0.4 miles from the site.

"These are smoking gun emails," said Silverstein, who obtained the documents through the California Public Records Act. "It's completely opposite of everything the city and the developer have publicly claimed."

Building and Safety GM Chan did not respond to a request for comment. The department's Luke Zamperini said Wednesday the agency is concerned about any project being built near a known fault, but that it is unclear where exactly this fault is located.

"We have strong suspicion that there is a fault in the proximity of the proposed project," he said, adding "we don't know that it crosses into the property there."

The Department of Building and Safety has asked the developer to do a second, more intensive study to determine if the fault is directly under their property.

Legally, developers cannot build on top of an active earthquake fault due to a California law known as the Alquist-Priolo Act. In addition, the law states all buildings must be at least 50 feet from the fault line.

The California Geological Survey is responsible for determining whether a fault is "active" and unsafe to build on. While some studies have shown the Hollywood fault is active, including a 2010 survey done by the state, state officials have yet to officially designate the area as a Alquist-Priolo zone, which would prohibit any construction.

John Parrish, state geologist and head of the California Geological Survey, said last week the fault is active and that his agency will conduct a thorough investigation to determine if it indeed runs under the development site. That study is likely to be completed in early 2014.

The city council unanimously approved the $665 million project late last month. The developers plan to erect two 30-plus story towers near the Capitol Records building that would serve as both residential and business spaces.

Before Millennium Partners can break ground, the company needs to secure building permits from the Department of Building and Safety. The department says it has not yet received applications for those permits.