Both Sides Muster Arguments in Debate Over Coastal Traffic

Times Staff Writer

The debate over a proposed Los Angeles City ordinance to improve traffic flow in city coastal communities is heating up.

The ordinance would require developers of new projects between El Segundo and Santa Monica to pay for traffic improvements and, among other measures, institute car pools to reduce traffic.

Critics say that the ordinance would pave the way for over-development and increase traffic congestion.

But City Council President Pat Russell, a co-sponsor of the proposal, has accused some of the opponents of using "deliberate distortions" in their campaign to defeat the ordinance.

Although she did not name the opponents, the Venice Town Council and the Coalition of Concerned Communities, a group of South Bay homeowner associations, have been passing out leaflets against the proposal.

Russell said that she was "angry" at the suggestion in one of the flyers that bulldozers were going to start rumbling through the Westside and South Bay if the ordinance were not defeated.

In reply, spokesmen for the two groups said that Russell is more interested in serving the interests of big developers than those of small businesses and residents.

The plan was assailed by homeowners and businessmen at a recent city Planning Commission hearing. The commission is scheduled to reconsider the ordinance next month.

Russell was out beating the bushes last week in search of support for the measure.

She had lunch one day with Phil Bubar, president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the project.

She spent one day talking to merchants on Lincoln Boulevard, where there is fear of losing on-street parking.

And, in a press conference, she said that people who do not think the ordinance will improve traffic in the area simply "do not understand the ordinance."

But opponents "understand the ordinance only too well," said Pat McCartney, of the Venice Town Council.

"We understand the disastrous consequences of the ordinance," McCartney said. "It would be devastating to the area, resulting in more traffic congestion and more overdevelopment.

"I regret the tenor of Ms. Russell's campaign. She would rather attack us than respond to our legitimate complaints."

McCartney said that his group and the Coalition of Concerned Communities, which is based in Westchester, plan to escalate their campaign of passing out leaflets at busy coastal intersections and other measures "to raise the consciousness of business people and residents."

Bubar said that he would like to see a compromise worked out. He said he hopes that a balance of commercial and residential development in the community will be ensured and that traffic congestion will be lessened.

"It bothers me that there is so much public furor over the proposal," Bubar said. "I have to ask myself why so many business and community groups oppose the proposal. Maybe there is good reason for the opposition."

The origins of the proposal, which would require developers of new projects to pay for traffic improvements and use other methods, such as car and van pools, to reduce traffic, are disputed.

Russell said she has been thinking about such a proposal for nearly four years. She said she urged the city Planning Department to prepare the ordinance to give the city control over large developments scheduled to be built in the area, particularly between Los Angeles International Airport and Venice's border with Santa Monica.

Critics, however, said that they are convinced that several large developers sought the ordinance as a way to get permission to build in the tightly regulated coastal area.

The critics, including McCartney, specifically point to the Coastal Transportation Commission, a consortium of some of the largest potential developers in the area.

Its members include Summa Corp., which plans to build Playa Vista, a huge residential, office and hotel development near Marina del Rey; Hughes Aircraft, which is building a corporate headquarters, near the Marina; Continental Development, which plans an office and hotel complex at Imperial Highway and Airport Boulevard; Garrett Corp., which plans to redevelop its property near the airport, and the Koll Co., the managing developer of Hughes Aircraft property.

But Russell scoffed at the suggestion.

"They (critics) have it ass-backwards," Russell said. "I initiated the plans for the ordinance so that the city would have some controls over the large projects planned in the area.

"For large developers to propose giving the city money to mitigate traffic concerns simply does not make sense. People perceive what they want to perceive.

"The basic point is that if we do not pass the ordinance, development will go on without any controls. With the ordinance, the city will be in a position to mitigate traffic congestion."

Ray Lucini, of the South Bay group of homeowners, said, however, that the "basic point" is that coastal communities would not face traffic problems if there were not overdevelopment.

"But no one wants to face that point and reduce the intensity of development," Lucini said.

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