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NBC Universal's Growth Plans: A Monologue

(Scene opens on a middle-aged man, gray at temples, carefully trimmed mustache, sunken eyes, dressed in a very expensive woven leisure suit that looks made for him. He wears a diamond pendant that sparkles conspicuously from time to time . He speaks quickly in a husky, low voice, if not as low as the one he's trying to use.)

Hello yourself. So you recognized me. Congratulations. Sure I'll shake your hand. You can call me N.U. Because I'm a mythical composite who bears no resemblance to any person, living or dead, that's why, kid. Edgy? Sorry, nothing personal, just a little nervous. Whaddaya mean, what about? Are you crazy? I'm worried sick about the master plan for Universal City. You know, that 391-acre piece of heaven that towers over the Hollywood Freeway at that bend in the road where people driving out of Hollywood take a westward turn for the San Fernando Valley.

(Pause.)

Well, Sugar Mountain has been good to NBC Universal. But the hill has one last flake of gold to be panned, and that's real estate development. By God, we mean to cover every piece of Mount Universal that remains to be built upon. It's as if old Carl Laemmle, bless his soul, were looking down at us from heaven and giving us one last windfall from the former cow pasture that the old man bought as a back lot way back in the Twenties. Talk about before and after, like, wow! The hill is already an entertainment compound, with a concert amphitheater, a flagship multiplex, the City Walk shopping street and the tour.

(Pause.)

Look, we've been working on this master plan for years, talking to the neighbors, the stakeholders, the bordering cities. I'm hopeful that Caltrans will get on board, too. We've got a lot riding on this project, about $3 billion when it's all done. It's a mother of a master plan, with millions of square feet of new construction studio buildings, entertainment buildings and a large residential neighborhood.

(Pause.)

Lucky for us, we've got a pretty lenient planning department to deal with, because Universal City is an island of unincorporated Los Angeles County. No way L.A. or Burbank would let us to build this intensely! When we're done, this hillside will look like Shenzhen or some other boomtown in China. Just totally covered. And why not? The mountain's an asset, right? And it's our mountain.

(Pause.)

Like I said, we're especially proud of the housing layout prepared by architect Bob Hale, a managing principal in Rios Clemente Hale of L.A. This is dense, big-city stuff: The housing ranges from three stories to 19 stories on 124 acres of terraced hillside . We're going to build 2,900 units conventional apartments, lofts, condos. Most residential buildings will be mid-rise, four to seven stories. We'll put the 19-story buildings down the hill, to spare "view corridors."

The scheme's still preliminary, but Hale has created a comfortable, walkable, dense residential neighborhood. Hale struck a balance between a straightforward urban street and the quasi-suburban image that we can sell to our neighbors. Plus, we're providing 35 acres of parks, open spaces and trails. Everyone loves trails. They're the new golf courses, but a lot cheaper to build.

So look at what we're doing: We're creating new housing for 8,000 people, we're transit oriented and we've got a great shot at achieving the jobs-housing balance. What's not to like? If only that mental case from what's it called? California Planting & Redistribution of Wealth Report? would pipe down. The moron thinks he can tell us what to do. What, you know him, too?

(Pause.)

We're good guys, good neighbors. We're aware of the traffic impacts, and we've come to the table with checkbook in hand. That's right, we're willing to pay $100 million, and maybe help raise another $100 mil, to pay for some really amazing traffic mitigations: That's right, we're going to add a lane to the Hollywood Freeway for a five-mile stretch that separates NBC-Universal on the north from the Hollywood Bowl on the south. Plus new entrances and exits along the same freeway. Pretty impressive, huh? And Caltrans? They love it. We've got the money, they've got the payroll. Everybody wins. If Hollywood knows how to do one thing, it's put a deal together. Then that guy you know the one has to start shooting off his mouth.

(He imitates an annoying person with a whiny, affected way of speaking.)

"I mean, why do you want to spend $200 million on widening the Hollywood Freeway, when that corridor is already served by Metrorail? You are not going to address the traffic problems simply by adding new freeway lanes. Plus, you are creating an incentive for people to drive, rather than use the train! This kind of stupidity would be possible only in California, where transportation is divided between two rival agencies, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, each of which has its own idea about how to accomplish regional transit goals. Really, you'd be better off contributing $200 million toward a connection between the MetroLink station at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, which is three or four miles north, through Universal to the Red Line. Everyone in downtown, in Hollywood and at Universal could hop on a train to get to the airport."

(Pause.)

Mass transit in L.A.? Spare me! I've got the makings of a deal with Caltrans. He's crapping on our EIR and messing up billions of dollars of real estate. I tried to play nice with that guy. Nothing can make him happy. This is our mountain. He can do what he wants on his mountain.

By the way, kid, what's your name again?