Planned Hollywood high-rise would sit atop earthquake fault, state says

By Sharon Bernstein

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - A potentially violent earthquake fault system runs beneath the planned site of a massive high-rise development project in Hollywood and along the edge of a new apartment building, California's top geologist said Thursday.

The release of a new map by the California Geological Survey showing fault lines through a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of Hollywood, however, may not put an end to protests lodged by developers in the rapidly gentrifying area, who have been lobbying for months to get the state to back off.

On Thursday, the state pushed back.

"We have a rule around here," said California State Geologist John Parrish. "We don’t allow geologists to practice law and we don’t allow lawyers to practice geology."

The Hollywood fault, he said, is capable of producing a magnitude 7 earthquake, which would rip the earth beneath any building that was built above it or one of its network of ground fractures.

"It could be quite strong and quite violent," Parrish said.

The fault system runs below the planned site for the $665 million Millennium Hollywood project, a pair of towers that would flank the famous Capitol Records building near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, Parrish said.

To build there, developers Millennium Partners and Argent Ventures would have to either prove the state wrong or move the buildings away from the fault line, Parrish said.

Millennium founding partner Philip Aarons said Thursday the company's research indicates that there is no fault, and that proof would soon be submitted to the city of Los Angeles, which must approve any construction.

"We are confident that any further testing will corroborate our previous investigations," Aarons said.

The project, which would include offices, apartments, a hotel and other businesses, is supported by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. But it is opposed by some Hollywood residents, who say it will dwarf the quirky Capitol Records building and worsen traffic.

A spokesman for Garcetti said construction would not be allowed unless the buildings are safe.

"They have not yet applied for a building permit and no permit will be issued if the project is unsafe," spokesman Yusef Robb said.

The fault system also runs along the edge and through the back yard of a new building on Hollywood Boulevard, making construction there legal though damage from a quake could still be dangerous, Parrish said.

"It’s dangerous to build anywhere near active faults," Parrish said.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)