Homeowners Accuse Hotel Builder of ‘Blackmail’

Times Staff Writer

Woodland Hills homeowners opposed to a Warner Center high-rise hotel project charged Monday that its builder is attempting to “blackmail” Los Angeles city officials into allowing its construction.

Residents publicly voiced their complaint as developers of the planned 14-story Hilton Hotel warned a Los Angeles city zoning hearing officer that the 340-room facility will be built as squat, sprawling buildings if a permit for a single hotel tower is not approved.

The Hilton Hotel building is one of three high-rises planned as part of the $135-million “Trillium” project at 6336 Canoga Ave. Two 17-floor office buildings are also proposed for the eight-acre site, which is now used for a tennis-oriented recreation club.

Year-Long Debate


The hearing officer’s recommendation is due May 15, and planning commissioners are scheduled to rule on a conditional use permit for the hotel on May 23. However, Monday’s hearing rekindled a debate that has raged for more than a year over whether the site is an appropriate one for high-rise structures.

City planning experts and other Warner Center developers sought unsuccessfully last year to impose a six-story height limitation on the site.

In a report released Monday, city planning staff members revealed they are still opposed to the Trillium project, contending it would lead to “an island of high-rise.”

‘Take the Top Half . . . ‘

But Gary Morris, a representative of U.S. Hotel Properties, which hopes to help build the Hilton Hotel, disputed that contention, saying, “If we don’t do a 14-story hotel, we’ll take the top half and put it next door,” where a $5-million health club is now situated.

“What won’t fit will be the club. What we’d be left with would be a pretty arbitrary development.”

Gordon Murley, a spokesman for the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, said, “As a homeowner and taxpayer, I resent being blackmailed . . . . They’re saying, ‘If you don’t do what we want, we’ll make it uglier than it is.’ ”

Murley charged that supporters of the project are “romancing the facts” about traffic congestion that would come from the hotel and its companion twin office towers. He said traffic flow would be exacerbated because the Trillium site lies in the middle of a block--away from side streets.