A geotechnical consultant for the Millennium Hollywood project has announced that its subsurface trenching investigation has yielded no evidence that an active earthquake fault runs underneath the proposed site of the 1.1-million-square-foot development.
According to a press release, the study by Group Delta scientifically proved that “there are no active faults on the Capitol Records site or any property adjacent” to one of the proposed project sites at Argyle Avenue and Yucca Street.
“We applaud the extensive efforts of the city and the state to ensure public safety within Hollywood, and we look forward to working with the city of Los Angeles and the local community to build an incredible development project on the site,” said Philip Aarons, the founding partner of Millennium Partners, which is looking to develop the site with Argent Ventures. “We are pleased that the thousands of area workers and residents now have definitive proof that no active faults exist on this site and the iconic Capitol Records building will remain the critical center of Hollywood’s music industry for the foreseeable future.”
Project opponents are not convinced. Attorney Robert P. Silverstein, who is representing a coalition of neighborhood groups in a lawsuit to stop the project, said the announcement means little. He said he is anticipating the release of the finalized report, which is expected to be issued later this month.
“The Millennium developers’ press release claiming no seismic dangers is another falsehood from this project proponent,” Silverstein said. “Remember that this was the same developer that claimed in the (environmental impact report) that the Hollywood Fault was a full half-mile away. Now, they grudgingly admit that evidence of faulting is all around, but continue their shell game by claiming the fault is not ‘active.’”
Given the developers’ track record, they have “zero credibility,” he said.
“Compare their predictable conclusion with the independent scientific evidence from Professor James Dolan of USC, experts hired by Metro and the California Geological Survey,” he said. “All of those neutral scientists have found the Hollywood Fault to be active. Millennium can’t deny the truth and can’t deny Mother Nature. In comparison with those neutral scientists, Millennium and their consultants are profit-driven and lack credibility. This announcement is a bunch of empty hype by the developer. They still think they can pull the wool over the public’s eyes. The review process by the state of California needs to occur, and that is the information that the public cares about.”
California Geological Survey (CGS) representatives said they could not speculate as to what impact — if any — the report will have on the survey’s official zone map.
“When CGS has had a chance to examine the actual data in the Group Delta report and integrate that data into the overall geological picture, then we will be pleased to release our interpretation and data-supported justification,” Dr. John Parrish, chief administrator of the survey, said in a statement. “CGS integrates data from many reports to obtain the most accurate and complete picture of the situation in compiling a zone map. We have not been informed as to when CGS might receive the data upon which Group Delta has based its summary letter, but we look forward to incorporating it into the overall geological setting.”
He stressed that Alquist-Priolo zones are not created to hinder development; rather, they are intended to protect property and benefit public safety.
“The law requires project proponents to do special, site-specific studies of known fault traces to determine whether the faults are active,” Parrish said. “If a fault is determined to be inactive, the project can proceed as planned. If a fault is determined to be active, it’s incumbent upon local authorities and the project proponent to perform due diligence to protect the public. Regardless of the special study’s ultimate findings, the goal of ensuring public safety and increasing scientific understanding of local earthquake threats is achieved.”
According to the developers, the trenching occurred this summer in conjunction with “similar” investigations at three adjacent sites. The subsurface investigation “followed a collaborative work plan” across the sites with active participation by representatives of the city and the survey. The trench was 150 feet long and 35 feet deep.
The release states that Group Delta conducted more than 80 closely-spaced cone penetrometer tests up to 60 feet deep, drilled approximately 22 continuous soil/rock cores to 60 feet deep and drilled and “down-hole logged two bucket auger borings” to 30 feet deep. The consultants also excavated and logged four fault evaluation trenches up to 35 feet deep.
“Each trench was geologically logged in detail, including at selected locations by a paleo-seismic soil dating expert,” the release states. “Selected samples of charcoal observed in the trench walls were also obtained and tested in the laboratory for radio-carbon age.”
A summary of findings was sent to the California Geological Survey and the California Department of Conservation’s State Mining & Geology Board, according to the release.
“As we have said repeatedly over the last year, Millennium Hollywood is steadfast in its commitment to build a safe project that conforms to the highest earthquake resiliency standards, and getting the best information possible allows us to start planning toward that reality.”
George Abrahams, of StopTheMillennium, one of the groups suing the developers, said the announcement will not alter the opponents’ approach to stopping the project. He said the lawsuit is based on issues that existed prior to the seismic issues coming to light.
“It’s a nice thing to have, but if we don’t have it, there are still major issues [because] the city is approving projects that are too dense for Hollywood,” Abrahams said.
However, he said he believes that the Hollywood Fault is “very, very close” to the project site — if not directly underneath.
“The Hollywood Fault is a continuous and contiguous line, therefore it can’t just disappear in a two block segment by Argyle and Ivar,” Abrahams said, adding that the study is also “suspect” since it does not come from an independent source.
Due to spray paint markings at the site and other “indirect information,” Silverstein said the opponents believe that Group Delta has previously conducted studies on the site that were never made public.
“We demand that that be made public by Millennium,” he said.
A representative of the developers declined to respond to that claim.
Luke Zamperini, Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety spokesman, said the city will examine the report when it is finalized and look for inconsistencies. He said the department will either approve the study or issue a correction notice.
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