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Handel Architects’ Hollywood Center could be endangered by seismic faults

It's a New Millennium

Handel Architects’ Hollywood Center could be endangered by seismic faults

The $1 billion Hollywood Center complex may be resting on top of up to four active fault lines, according to state surveys. (Courtesy MP Los Angeles)

The double tower complex set to rise around Hollywood’s historic Capitol Records building may be at risk from multiple earthquake fault lines under the development, according to the California Geological Survey.

Handel Architects and developer MP Los Angeles first revealed their plans for the $1 billion Hollywood Center in 2018. The project, befitting its price tag, is appropriately large; 35-story and 46-story towers, the city’s tallest, would flank and bend in towards the round Capitol Records building, while another set of 11-story residential towers, linked by a James Corner Field Operations-designed landscape and civic plazas, would round out the 4.5-acre site. Once complete, Hollywood Center would bring new 1,005 residential units, 133 of which will be set aside as affordable housing for seniors, to the city.

When the project was first unveiled, it looked like Handel and Millennium Partners (MP Los Angeles is a subsidiary) would avoid the controversy that’s plagued their “sinking” Millennium Tower in San Francisco. In 2018, MP Los Angeles claimed that the site had undergone extensive geotechnical testing and that there were no active fault lines running below the site, even though geologists were reportedly concerned as far back as 2014.

Now, according to records obtained by the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, the California Geological Survey expressed their concern to L.A. city planners about the possibility of an active fault that’s believed to run under the site. In their letter, the state team cited a May U.S. Geological Survey that discovered four potential fault lines to the east of Hollywood center, which may extend under the development. The update comes courtesy of new evaluation methods previously unavailable to the survey teams, namely guided wave testing, which uses long-range acoustic waves capable of penetrating deeper into the earth. While only a single fault was thought to run through the property in 2014, the ability to paint a more accurate picture of what’s going on underground revealed the other three.

Constructing a building directly over an active fault line would prove dangerous in the event of an earthquake as it could cause the structure to sheer in half, and by-and-large, California disallows such construction for obvious reasons.

However, Philip Aarons, one of Millennium Partners’ founders, told the Los Angeles Times that his company disagreed with the state’s findings, arguing that they had already conducted a thorough draft environmental impact report for the project earlier this year that included a geological survey.

“It is clear that the data relied upon by the state is significantly inferior in quality to the data acquired from the extensive trenching done on our site,” Aarons told the Times in a statement. “We will continue to work diligently with the city to review any and all data with the goal of assuring the construction of the most seismically safe structure in the history of Los Angeles.”