Earthquake fears may put Hollywood skyscraper project on shaky ground

(CBS News) The future of a multimillion-dollar project to drastically alter the skyline of Hollywood, Calif., may be in jeopardy. Opponents say a plan to build two new skyscrapers could be catastrophic, as the site may be home to an active earthquake fault.

Hollywood is the capital city of the movie business, but what many people may not know is that it's also built along one of Southern California's more active earthquake zones. Robert Silverstein, an environmental attorney, explained, "This is what's called a 'scarp' and its physical evidence of the Hollywood earthquake fault."

Silverstein represents a group opposed to a construction project that would transform the area. The Millennium Hollywood project is a $664 million development that includes construction of two high-rise buildings -- buildings that would surround the famed Capitol Records building.

The proposed towers would add more than a million square feet of office, hotel, and retail space to the popular tourist spot. But opponents say they may also sit right on top of that earthquake fault line. Silverstein said, "You can never build on top of the fault. That's not allowed because there is a certainty that you will have a devastating failure of the building."

California's state geologist has declared that the Hollywood fault is active and might run directly underneath the project. But the New York-based developers say the data being cited are inaccurate. They say their tests show that the fault might be near, but does not run under the nearly 40-story towers.

Mario Palumbo, a partner at Millenium and Partners, said, "We don't know exactly where the Hollywood fault line is. The only thing we know is that we've done borings on our site and we don't believe that it's on our site."

Opponents also argue that the development will increase traffic congestion, and that the buildings will block some of Hollywood's best-loved views.

The Capital Records building isn't the only landmark threatened by the towers. Views of the iconic Hollywood sign could also disappear for tourists and residents alike as the towers rise.

The Los Angeles City Council has already approved the project. But it says it will commission additional studies to ensure public safety.

Los Angeles City councilman Mitch O'Farrell said, "Nothing will be built without the approval of the state seismologist and our own local city building and safety, which has among the most stringent building codes in the world."

So will this be a towering achievement or will this production never get off the ground? CBS News' John Blackstone added, "This is one Hollywood ending that has yet to be written."

Watch Blackstone's full report above.

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