$2B megaproject in downtown LA gets boost from governor’s office, hopes for approval in 2024

(Studio One Eleven/Adjaye Associates)

$2B megaproject in downtown LA gets boost from governor’s office, hopes for approval in 2024

California Politics

Liam Dillon

March 7, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom will try to speed construction of a $2 billion residential and commercial mega-project in downtown Los Angeles, his administration announced Thursday.

The 7.6-acre project, called Fourth & Central, would bring 1,500 new homes, 410,000 square feet of office space, retail, restaurants and a 68-room hotel to what is now a collection of cold storage facilities, parking lots and warehouses on Skid Row near the border with the Arts District. Newsom’s decision Thursday aims to shave years off the construction timeline by expediting a court decision in any lawsuits filed against the project under state environmental laws.

For decades, we have let red tape get in the way of critical housing projects like this and the consequences are clearly visible all around us,” Newsom said in a statement. “Now we’re using California’s infrastructure law to build more housing, faster.

Denver-based developers Continuum Partners unveiled the project in 2021. It consists of 10 buildings, including a 44-story residential skyscraper at Central Avenue and 4th Street. In total, the proposal calls for 572 condominiums and 949 apartments, with at least 214 units set aside as low-income housing.

Two major buildings, including the high-rise, were designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, best known as the lead designer of the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington. The developer is partnering with Los Angeles Cold Storage Co., which has operated at the site since 1895 and has provided refrigerated storage to many of the region’s produce markets, hotels and buildings.

Edgar Khalatian, an attorney with the firm Mayer Brown representing Continuum, called Fourth & Central a transformative project for Los Angeles, highlighting the plan to bring many more homes and jobs to the core neighborhoods.

Housing people at all income levels near transit and employment centers should be the vision of all municipalities, Khalatian said.

Thursday’s decision is one of several announcements this week that show the project timeline continues to expand. On Tuesday, Continuum announced an agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group of construction unions, to build Fourth & Construction Trades Council. Central to all union labor, including the requirement that workers be hired locally. Newsom’s office estimated the project would create as many as 10,000 construction jobs.

The project still requires approval from the Los Angeles City Council, which Khalatian said the developer hopes to have by the end of the year. Construction would follow next year and take five to seven years, he said.

The accelerated process timeline does not exempt the project from analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, the 1970 law that requires developers to identify and, if possible, eliminate negative environmental impacts.



it would shorten the duration of a potential lawsuit against the project. Lawsuits under CEQA have long been blamed for killing or slowing construction, especially on large projects. Thursday’s action aims to conclude the lawsuit within nine months instead of what is typically three to five years.

Khalatian said the rules will bring great benefits to Continuum in terms of cost savings and development security, while not affecting the rights of potential opponents.

There’s really nothing negative for anyone except the petitioner, and even for a petitioner, it’s common for his attorney to have to work on weekends, he said.

It is expected that there will be challenges to the project, environmental or otherwise. Residents and activists in Skid Row and nearby Little Tokyo have long worried about gentrification as development in the Arts District has moved west.

The project website advertises Fourth & Central as the new gateway to DTLA. A map on the site does not mention Skid Row, but prominently shows the Arts District and refers to the area as the Fashion and Toy Districts.

Multiple organizations in Little Tokyo have been monitoring Fourth & Central through its planning and environmental applications and have expressed concerns about its potential to exacerbate the displacement of low-income residents and undermine the neighborhood’s role as the historic center of the Japanese community in undermine the region.

There is a desire for this project to be part of the community and we hope we can come up with something, said Grant Sunoo, community building director.

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involvement with the Little Tokyo Service Center, a non-profit social service and community development organization. There is skepticism about whether this is possible. It’s not just Little Tokyo that’s affected, but these other neighborhoods, especially Skid Row.

Khalatian, Continuum’s attorney, said Fourth & Central is aligned with the city’s recently approved blueprint for downtown development and will add to the existing fabric of the area.

We are building a project that has multiple access points to the community, is built outward toward the surrounding community and is close to transit with significant affordable housing, Khalatian said.

Fourth & Central is the third project to receive the governor’s approval to expedite the CEQA lawsuit in recent years, following the proposed Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and a renewable energy project in Riverside.

Efforts to streamline environmental lawsuits for mega-developments date back to 2011, when then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation implementing the plan as a strategy for job creation during the Great Recession. The process does not guarantee that projects will be built. Several sports stadiums, including the Farmers Field football proposal at the Los Angeles Convention Center, have received the benefit, but have never broken ground.

Last year, owners of 8150 Sunset, a Frank Gehry-designed residential and commercial skyscraper along the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip that became eligible in 2014, put the site up for sale without beginning development.

Staff writer Roger Vincent contributed to this report.


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