Growth Curbs Sought Along Subway Route
With traffic near or at gridlock along much of the proposed Metro Rail route, city planners have come up with limits on development that could go into effect whether or not a subway is built through the heart of the Westside.
The proposals attempt to link any future development to improvements in the traffic flow along Wilshire Boulevard, up Fairfax Avenue and across the Hollywood Hills to Studio City, with or without Metro Rail.
Twenty-three key intersections along the route already are used to capacity during peak hours, with congestion falling into the gridlock category at four intersections, according to the city’s traffic studies.
The four are 3rd Street and Western Boulevard, Beverly and La Cienega boulevards, 3rd Street and La Cienega, and Barham and Cahuenga boulevards in the San Fernando Valley.
The congestion means speeds dropping to zero, long stoppages, clogged intersections and lines of traffic backing up for blocks--all of which should come as no surprise to motorists.
More Traffic Expected
Beyond that, several building projects already under way in the area are expected to generate even more traffic, and owners of large properties such as Dart Square at La Cienega and Beverly and the CBS-Gilmore tract at the corner of Beverly and Fairfax have expressed interest in building on their land.
As a result, planners are going ahead with long-range measures designed to limit further growth regardless of the proposed $3.4-billion, 18.6-mile Metro Rail, which has been blocked by the Reagan Administration despite support by Mayor Tom Bradley and other Southern California officials.
“We’re trying to tie development to transportation. That’s the key to the plan,” said Ed Johnson, a senior city planner and one of the authors of new zoning proposals.
Unlike a previous version specifically linked to Metro Rail, the latest proposals would allow large-scale development if any substantial improvement to the traffic system is put into effect.
This could be a trolley-like light-rail system, large-scale car-pools or other steps that would have a significant effect beyond “putting in a few left-turn pockets,” Johnson said.
Additionally, the new proposals would allow developers to increase the floor space of new projects even before the traffic situation is improved, but only if they buy the right to additional construction from other property owners and include amenities such as housing, Johnson said.
“Only development that can be accommodated by the transportation system will be permitted,” he said, but provision has been made for “selected projects to go a little higher with residential neighborhoods still protected.”
Current zoning would allow commercial development along the route from Alvarado Street near downtown to Universal City in the San Fernando Valley to reach about 239.6 million square feet, far in excess of the existing development of 20.6 million square feet and way beyond the capacity of existing city streets, which is estimated at 25.4 million square feet.
The limits suggested in the planners’ latest proposals, known as the Transit Corridor Specific Plan, would allow for 29.4 million square feet of development without specific approval by the city.
That maximum would increase to 69.6 million square feet with approval of specific projects, and if a major traffic improvement such as Metro Rail or large-scale car-pooling were introduced, the limit would go up to 121.7 million square feet.
However, according to city planners, it is unlikely that development will ever approach the level of 69.6 million square feet proposed before a major traffic improvement is introduced.
“Typically, you can permit a lot more than you expect to actually occur, because not everybody will take advantage of their development rights,” said David Kabashima, a city planning associate.
Additionally, the effects of heavy congestion will keep developers, as well as motorists, away from such development, he said.
In addition to setting limits for the route as a whole, the planners recommended levels of development for areas around the proposed Metro Rail stations at Alvarado, Wilshire Center, the Miracle Mile, Beverly-Fairfax and Studio City.
They spelled out a 15% housing requirement for any development at the CBS-Gilmore site, one-third of which must be set aside for senior citizens.
“This was very strongly supported by the community and we are very supportive of providing housing near the stations,” Johnson said.
Even without Metro Rail, he said, planners want to encourage high-density residential and commercial development around the proposed station areas to preserve lower levels of development elsewhere in the city.
This has been a matter of concern to community groups, which are expected to express their opinions at public hearings before the proposals go to the Planning Commission and eventually the City Council.
The latest version of the housing requirement for any development at the CBS-Gilmore site is “pretty minimal,” according to Johnathan Lehrer-Graiwer, chairman of an urban development subcommittee of the Jewish Federation Council.
“If the housing were taken care of, then the impact on the community would not be too serious,” he said. “Without the housing, then the development would be too large.”
Representatives of CBS and the Gilmore Corp. said they had no immediate reaction to the latest proposal.