Rick Caruso in spat over CBS Television City expansion

Mayoral candidate’s firm objects to project’s impact at the Grove mall

Hackman Capital Partners' Michael Hackman and developer Rick Caruso with CBS Television City (Hackman Capital Partners, Getty Images, Google Maps)
Hackman Capital Partners' Michael Hackman and developer Rick Caruso with CBS Television City (Hackman Capital Partners, Getty Images, Google Maps)

UPDATED: 11:40 A.M., AUG. 19

Developer Rick Caruso, candidate for Los Angeles mayor, has drawn battle lines against a 1.9-million-square-foot studio expansion that could encroach on his Grove shopping center.

The billionaire CEO of Caruso development company is embroiled in a fight over the 25-acre redevelopment of the landmark CBS Television City studios in Fairfax, saying the project could impact his flagship mall and the Original Farmers Market, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a letter to neighbors, the Grove and the Farmers Market expressed “profound concern” about the plan for overhauling Television City, calling it a “massively scaled, speculative development which, if approved, would overwhelm, disrupt and forever transform the community.”

They urged residents to contact the Beverly Fairfax Community Alliance, a group that opposes the studio project and counts the Grove as a member. A marketing director for the owner of the Original Farmers Market said her company and Caruso’s created and funded the alliance.

The development dispute raises questions about how Caruso, if elected, would respond to businesses whose activities may counter his company’s interests, according to the newspaper. It could also complicate his campaign support in the film industry.

Plans for Television City at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue – adjacent to Caruso’s mall – call for nearly tripling its soundstages and production offices. Culver City-based Hackman Capital Partners, which bought the property from CBS in 2018 for $750 million, plans to add 1.9 million square feet of studio, office and retail facilities.

Zach Sokoloff, a senior vice president at Hackman Capital, told the Times his firm has met repeatedly with representatives of Caruso’s company to discuss the $1.25 billion project.

During those meetings, he said Caruso executives focused on the effect the project would have on Grove Drive, a public street that serves as an entrance to the shopping center’s parking structure and valet area.

Sokoloff said representatives of Caruso’s company threatened to stoke community opposition to the proposal if Hackman Capital “did not capitulate to the demands that they had for our proposed use of the Grove Drive.”

He said the meetings included Caruso’s chief development officer, Corinne Verdery, who is slated to become chief executive of his company on Sept. 1.

Jessica Wong, Caruso’s senior vice president for public relations and marketing, denied allegations that Caruso’s team threatened to wage a community campaign against the Television City project.

But she confirmed that the company is worried about the impacts of the project — and had engaged in “confidential settlement talks” with Hackman.

Last month, another Caruso executive appeared before a committee of the Mid City West Neighborhood Council, saying the Television City project would create “complex” issues for the neighborhood, including traffic, parking and construction.

The Beverly Fairfax Community Alliance warned that the expanded site would be twice the height of the Beverly Center and would clog Fairfax, Beverly, La Brea Avenue and 3rd Street with traffic.

“Even those accustomed to living with L.A. traffic and parking nightmares will be shocked at how much worse it can be,” the group said on its website.

Correction: Price Hackman paid to acquire CBS Television City was $750 million.

— Dana Bartholomew

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