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Millennium Hollywood Project Might Be On A Fault, Says State Geologist

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The folks behind the Millennium Hollywood project have dismissed their opponents' claims that the high-rise towers will be built over an active fault, but now California's state geologist are agreeing that yes, the fault may be active and more testing is needed.

The L.A. Times interviewed the head of the California Geological Survey, John Parrish, who told them there is now plenty of evidence that the fault is active and there's a potential for a devastating earthquake.

In response, Mayor Eric Garcetti said today he's going to wait for more scientific analysis to determine whether the city should go ahead with the project, which was just approved by the city council last week.

"There's faults throughout the city of Los Angeles that are active that have construction," Garcetti is quoted in the Times. "That's why we have seismic requirements, and why we rely on the government engineers who are experts in this area."

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He said that it's too soon to determine whether the project should be canceled. "I know what I don't know, and I don't know seismic engineering," he said. "Our people are neutral. They're not tasked with 'A is a project we want or don't want.' They don't kill it or promote it accordingly. So I will just rely on their sober scientific assessments."

As for the sober scientists, Parrish said strands of the Hollywood fault do appear to run underneath the Millennium site, but that further tests are needed. "This is a very big project that they're working on, and they should have the latest information that's available," he told the Times.

While geologists have known about the Hollywood fault for decades, they've never mapped its exact route block-by-block. Several geologists interviewed by the Times have urged more extensive testing to determine exactly where the fault lies.

If the fault does run directly under where the 35- and 39-story towers are planned (right next to the Capital Records Building), the project would have to be revised or possibly abandoned altogether.

California law bars construction of new buildings within 50 feet of an active and mapped earthquake fault for obvious reasons.

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A spokesman for the New York-based developer, Brian Lewis, told the Times that his geologists have done their own testing and found no evidence of a fault at the site. He added they're "happy to do more testing... We have no interest in building anything that would be unsafe."

The fault is not easy to map because it's not actually a straight line, but more of a "fracture zone," according to the Times, which compared it to a broken piece of peanut brittle.

Mapping the fault would have implications for all new developments in the Hollywood area, possibly including the other high-rise, mixed-use towers planned by the new owners of the Palladium.

The Hollywood fault hasn't ruptured in the last 7,000 or 8,000 years, Parrish said, but no responsible city planner would allow a high-occupancy building to be erected on top of it. The state defines a fault as "active" if it's had any activity in the last 11,000 years.

USC earth sciences professor James Dolan told the Times he often takes his students to the nearby intersection of Vine and Yucca streets to see what a fault looks like, as you can see it exposed on the incline to the 101 Freeway.

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In a letter to the state, Robert Sydnor, a retired state senior engineering geologist, called the Millennium developer's study "inadequate and substandard."

Related:
Hollywood Skyscrapers Project Approved By City Council
Environmental Lawyer Says Millennium Hollywood Project Is On 'Shaky Ground'
First Quake Map of California in 16 Years Shows 50 New Fault Lines