Judge suspends progress on controversial Koreatown residential tower

Advocates claim developer Michael Hakim’s long-delayed project is out of scale with the area

The vacant lot on Catalina Street where Michael Hakim wants to build his tower
The vacant lot on Catalina Street where Michael Hakim wants to build his tower

Koreatown has experienced a construction boom in recent years to rival any neighborhood in Los Angeles.

But this week, a judge halted the progress of a planned a 27-story residential development, ordering the city to better examine the potential impact on the neighborhood, the Los Angeles Times reported.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ordered the city to undertake a full environmental impact study of the planned 269-unit CatalinaTower, which is being built by developer Michael Hakim.

The project would rise on four now-empty lots near the corner of West 8th and South Catalina streets. Judge O’Donnell said city officials also failed to consult the police and fire departments about the tower’s future need for services.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council approved the project in 2015, despite a unanimous recommendation against it from the mayor-appointed Planning Commission. A year later the advocacy group Fix the City sued, claiming Los Angeles hadn’t completed a full environmental review before approving the development.

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That process will likely take a year, but Hakim signaled he was ready to go through with it.

Hakim conceived the project — originally 35 stories — in 2006. The city rejected the proposal three years later and the Beverly Hills-based developer said he would weigh a redesign that included a hotel.

In its 2015 rejection of the project, the city Planning Commission argued the complex was out of scale with the rest of the largely low-rise neighborhood. It was better suited two blocks north on Wilshire Boulevard, where there are already a number of towers, and ample transit options for residents, the commission said.

Fix The City has squared off with developers elsewhere in the city over similar projects. A year ago it sued Townscape Partners over the height of its Frank Gehry-designed, 229-unit project on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A judge later ordered a review as part of an L.A. Conservancy suit against the project. Fix the City was also the target of a suit itself for a so-called hush money payout over a Century City development project last year as well.  [LAT] — Dennis Lynch