Why Hollywood Reached for Zoning: Crime, Business Failure, Tourists Fleeing

As we noted in an earlier post, Hollywood moved to beef up its adult-use zoning in 1990 to respond to crime and economic blight. This Wall Street Journal article from 1997 underscores how hard it can be for neighborhoods to recover when adult businesses have concentrated there. Sex shops weren’t the only factor in Hollywood’s problems, but they were a factor.

A close-up of Hollywood quickly destroys its glamorous mystique. Along the fabled Hollywood Boulevard, tourists hunting for stars along the Walk of Fame encounter vagrants and prostitutes. Where film greats once convened for hot-fudge sundaes at C.C. Browns, tattoo parlors, sex shops and abandoned storefronts dominate the boulevard.

“People are afraid to come down here,” says Phil Luboviski, co-owner of Larry Edmunds Book Shop, a Hollywood Boulevard landmark for 40 years…

Times Square’s turnaround [under the pro-adult-zoning Giuliani administration] is shaping up as a blueprint for Hollywood’s efforts…

New York’s efforts centered on a master plan by architect Robert A.M. Stern and were bolstered by a city zoning change to rid the area of sex shops; Los Angeles has yet to approve such a change.

Without such support, the odds against the turnaround are high. Hollywood’s image as a seedy, crime-infested neighborhood has kept away investment and continues to be an obstacle to attracting business, says Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, assistant professor of urban design at the University of California at Los Angeles. In a 1995 survey of merchants along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, she found one-third were considering moving or closing…

For now, Hollywood will have to convince visitors like Kristine Kral, a tourist from West Palm Beach, Fla., to stick around. Ms. Kral, who was photographing Nat King Cole’s star along Hollywood Boulevard’s sidewalk, decided to leave the area for lunch. “It’s dirty and run-down here. I don’t feel safe,” she says. “I’m ready to go to Beverly Hills.”

“L.A. hopes to remake a classic: Hollywood Boulevard”, The Wall Street Journal, 3/11/97

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