No One Can Really Tell The Truth Like John Walsh
Times Minimizes Millennium Scandal – Grand Jury Probe Needed
By John Schwada @ 12:00 PM August 20, 2013
Overview of Millennium’s intended Hollywood home.
Opponents of the Millennium Hollywood project this morning registered their strong objections to a Los Angeles Times editorial that – while admirable, in part – sadly minimizes the deceits employed by the Millennium developer and by city officials to hide the public safety risks posed by the Millennium project.
In an editorial last Friday, the Times properly said that the city must insist that developers, in the vicinity of the Hollywood Fault, immediately be required to perform more robust earthquake fault investigations “before their project[s] be approved.” The newspaper also noted that “it now appears [that three projects, including the Millennium project] … could be sitting closer to the fault line than the developers initially realized[emphasis added].”
Yes, it is time for the city to step up. But the Times’s editorial wrongly suggests the developer innocently overlooked the earthquake problem, and it ignores the disclosures being made by the Times’s own fine reporting staff of the Millennium project.
“The truth is that the Millennium developer had evidence its project was on a fault line and then hid that evidence from the public,” said attorney Robert P. Silverstein, who represents the coalition of 40 community groups who oppose the project. “The truth is that city officials knew about this evidence as well – and permitted the developer to hide it.”
“This was not an oversight – it was a cover-up,” said George Abrahams, a Hollywood community activist leading the fight against the Millennium project. “The Times editorial board should join our call for a grand jury investigation of the scandalous mishandling of this project.”
“It is especially troubling that much of the evidence of this coverup was known to the City Council when it voted to approve this project,” said Mr. Silverstein.
“We showed that the city’s Environmental Impact Report was doctored to hide the earthquake problem. Before the city voted, the Council was aware that the State Board that licenses geologists was investigating Millennium’s seismic experts because of our allegations that those experts falsely claimed the Millennium project was seven football fields away from the Hollywood Fault. That should have been a red flag for the city. But the city ignored it,” Mr. Silverstein said.
“Before it voted, the City Council knew that state geologist Dr. John Parrish had sent an urgent letter to Council President Herb Wesson warning that the project may sit directly on the Hollywood Fault That was another red flag that the city ignored.”
Millennium opponents also obtained emails (after the Council vote) that showed city Dept. of Building and Safety officials – including the department’s general manager – knew as early as March 2012, a full seven months before the EIR was circulated to the public, that a strong possibility existed that the Hollywood Fault crossed the Millennium site.
The Times’s own reporters independently obtained those emails and cited them in its coverage.
The email, dated March 16, 2012, said city geologist Dana Prevost “met with the project team to discuss the Hollywood fault line that could potentially be crossing the property.”
Another email written by an employee of the developer’s law firm said there was “a Hollywood Fault trace mapped by the California Geological Survey that prompted the discussion” with Prevost.
A separate geology report from Prevost dated May 23, 2012 said that, “According to the Fault Activity Map of California, dated 2010, prepared by the California Geological Survey, the Hollywood Fault is considered active and appears to exist in the vicinity of the subject site.”
(The story’s headline: Earthquake fault risk to Hollywood skyscrapers hidden, foes say – by Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia, Aug. 7, 2013.)
It was because of the Dept. of Building and Safety’s growing concerns about an earthquake risk that the city ordered the developer in May 2012 to conduct an earthquake study.
In fact, that study was done. But the study, dated November 2012, was deep-sixed after it found evidence that the Millennium project probably was on top of the fault, Mr. Silverstein said.
A careful reading of the November 2012 study shows that one of the test drillings performed found evidence – in the study’s own words – of “older material [layers of earth deposits] over younger material.”
“The developer’s geologists were obviously troubled by this because it strongly indicated a major disruption of the earth – the hallmark of an earthquake,” said Mr. Silverstein. “In fact, the developer’s geologists were so struck by this finding that they did two more tests in the same area. Those tests came back with similarly bad results for the developer. But what did the developer’s geologists conclude? They blamed these troubling findings on themselves. They said their own test was screwed up, and then they decided – with the city’s okay – to fail to include this report in the EIR.”
“It should also be noted that the developer’s November 2012 study completely failed to do any testing on the east side of Vine,” Mr. Silverstein added. “Apparently, the results on the west side were so disturbing that they avoided the east altogether. What does that tell you?” Silverstein asked.
And there’s more that has not yet been fully reported by the media. The developer’s test borings in a geological study done earlier, in May 2012, also found signs of a fault. Those tests hit the water table on the northern portion of the west Millennium property, 50 feet below the surface. But on the southern portion of the project, the developer’s geologists drilled 61.5 feet down and still hit no water. When their southern boring failed to find water, the developer’s geologists stopped drilling.
“Such a large discrepancy in the water tables over such a short distance should have signaled that the east-west running Hollywood Fault was somewhere between the north and south portions of the property,” Mr. Silverstein said. “Other geologists say a fault frequently acts like a dam, causing groundwater flowing in a perpendicular path to the fault to pool behind that fault-dam. Bottom-line: It is plausible that water coming down from the Hollywood Hills, traveling north to south, is building up behind the Hollywood Fault, and that would explain this water-table anomaly.”
The developer’s May 2012 report, however, pointedly failed to discuss the troubling implications of this water-table finding.
“If the geologists for the developer and the city had objectively looked at the May and November 2012 tests, they could have logically concluded that there was troubling evidence that the fault ran right through this project,” Mr. Silverstein said. As the Times previously reported, state geologist Dr. Parrish told the Times that a map drawn by his agency in 2010 showed the Hollywood fault ”goes right through the Millennium site.” Instead, the city and developer chose to bury these disturbing findings, and the developer was allowed to falsely assert in his EIR that the fault was almost half a mile away from the project.
“This was not an oversight problem, as the Times editorial suggests,” said Mr. Silverstein. “What we have here is a blatant coverup, by the developer, permitted by city officials, and ignored and condoned by the City Council and Mayor Garcetti. For the Times editorial to omit these troubling truths is unfortunate. The editors should base their editorials on the findings of their own reporters.”
Mr. Schwada may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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