While Burbank, Glendale, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, as well as the Valley, Venice, downtown, mid-Wilshire and areas outside of Los Angeles continue to aggressively, and successfully relocate and expand their entertainment industry businesses, Hollywood continues to shed what little it has left. The CBS/KCAL TV and Radio Studios on Sunset Boulevard at Gower Street have been a CBS facility since it opened in 1938. The site itself was the location of Hollywood’s first movie studio, Nestor Studios, opened in “the Blondeau Tavern” in October 1911. Nestor was bought by Universal Pictures in 1912 and became part of the first Universal Pictures Studios, until its move in 1915 to its current site. Christie Comedies occupied the studio afterward into the early 1930s.
The CBS Radio Studio was designed by acclaimed architect William Lescazeless than 2 blocks away at Sunset and Vine was constructed the NBC Radio Studios, another streamline moderne masterpiece, also opened in 1938 (in late 1948 ABC opened across Vine Street). In between CBS and NBC sat the Hollywood Palladium, opened in 1940, and the 1938 Earl Carroll Theater was across Sunset Boulevard. This grouping of buildings and businesses created the radio capital of the world along Sunset Boulevard. This led to the development of more television stations in one area than anywhere else in the world. Prior to radio, the NBC and Palladium lots were the site of the original Paramount Studios, with Columbia Studios born across Sunset and Gower from the CBS site (now known as Sunset-Gower Studios after Columbia left in 1973), and Warner Brothers first studio (now KTLA-TV) was adjacent on the east side of Columbia.
In essence, this area developed the history of the 20th century’s media entertainment business. But that is ending after 92 years. Since the late 1980s channel 22 has left, channel 11 and its studios, home of the Fox Television Network have been demolished as Fox headed for the Westside, assorted radio stations, including the top-rated KIIS-FM which moved to Burbank, have left, and RCA Records and Entertainment division left their headquarters, since 1963, at Sunset and Ivar to head for Beverly Hills. Two success stories remain, KTLA channel 5, which recently restored the landmark studios, and Capitol Records at Vine and Yucca Streets, which recently restored a 1931 art deco building for additional office space after Hollywood Heritage blocked its demolition for a parking lot.
Hollywood’s heritage is not just its buildings. It is one of the only communities whose name symbolizes an industry or an idea. That industry is our most important employer, especially for high paying jobs. It generates a daily interest in our community that brings in tourism revenue, residents of all incomes, and the business and incentives to preserve our historic structures. It is what makes Hollywood a great and unique community.
Yet the myriad people responsible for the development, retention, and nurturing of our entertainment industry in Hollywood have failed to produce. As mentioned, every other city or Los Angeles community takes from Hollywood, aggressively working to get the next big entertainment project. Four years ago Burbank lured away ABC-TV from the east end of Hollywood, and Hollywood’s economic “leaders” did nothing.
There are other horror stories like this, as evidenced by the exiting businesses. Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles doesn’t care if CBS leaves Hollywood since they are moving to the Valley and will still be in Los Angeles. Mayor Hahn led a highly questionable campaign against Hollywood cityhood last year. He touted his support for Hollywood. Yet when the first attack on Hollywood is launched, Mayor Hahn supports the attack over Hollywood.
This is precisely why cityhood was put forth—Hollywood continues to be a victim to political or financial expediency whenever it is convenient. A city of Hollywood would be negotiating aggressively today to protect its assets.
City officials have stated that they would look for another entertainment tenant. But over the past three years, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal, not one noteworthy entertainment industry lease was signed in Hollywood. Elsewhere yes, but not here. What other company is looking for a television studio today is a question our leaders are unable to answer.
Developers are already looking at the site for housing, requiring the demolition of the landmark studio. This is the same scenario being looked at for the neighboring Hollywood Palladium.
Rather than giving up without a fight, why are we not getting the support of our many well-paid civic leaders? Why are they not working to keep the CBS and KCAL television stations in Hollywood? Supposedly the studio is now cramped with two stations and outdated (yet the valley studio is almost as old). The existing studio occupies less than half of the lot. The rest is empty and used for parking. Surely the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency could provide incentives to help expand the facility and restore/renovate the historic studio.
If the city/CRA refuses to act to protect the studio facility as an existing studio for CBS, why should anyone think they will show any effort to bring another studio in or protect the building as it becomes “financially infeasible” to reuse for housing, or sit abandoned?
Presently the CRA is asking to renew and expand its efforts in Hollywood at the City Council. Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge, and Mayor Hahn have spoken of keeping and expanding the entertainment industry in Hollywood. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce claims to do the same, yet seems unable to muster as much enthusiasm for this as they do when someone proposes to open another bar on Hollywood Boulevard (that gets their attention).
All of these individuals and groups should be fighting for Hollywood now—as Hollywood Heritage will do with this battle to save our entertainment industry heritage. All of them opposed independence for Hollywood. Now they must show why Hollywood is better in Los Angeles, or would we do better to annex ourselves to Burbank?