Unprecedented Controls : Planners OK Curb on Large-Scale Growth

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission has recommended approval of an ordinance that would give the city unprecedented authority to control large-scale commercial and industrial growth in three of the Westside's most heavily developed areas--along Pico, Westwood and Sepulveda boulevards.

The measure, introduced last month by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, was prompted by complaints about the Westside Pavilion, a large shopping mall at Westwood and Pico that was built without going through public hearings. Since the mall opened this spring, neighbors have complained about parking problems and traffic.

The commission's 3-0 vote Thursday was the first test for the proposal, which is expected to be considered by the City Council later this month. If adopted, the ordinance would require developers in targeted areas to gain city approval for any projects that would significantly increase traffic or exceed 30,000 square feet in floor area. That requirement would enable the city to impose tougher parking and building limits than those contained in present zoning standards.

"This is very imaginative, but also a marked change in our philosophy," Planning Commission President Daniel Garcia said, cautioning that the proposal would have fundamental effects on property development rights that the city has long held sacred. Garcia said he would not have supported such an ordinance for broader areas of the city, but called it a workable plan for areas most subject to rapid growth.

Needs Simple Majority Vote

The measure would affect Westwood Boulevard between Pico and Santa Monica boulevards; Pico Boulevard between the San Diego Freeway and 20th Century Fox Studios; portions of Overland Avenue between Pico Boulevard and Ashby Avenue, and the "Sepulveda Corridor," an industrialized area bounded by Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards, Pearl Street and the San Diego Freeway.

The commission's approval of the plan means the ordinance needs only a simple majority vote of the City Council to become law. Had the commission rejected the ordinance, Garcia said, a two-thirds majority would have been needed to enact it.

Yaroslavsky expressed pleasure over the commission's action but said he does not know whether the ordinance will run into opposition when it reaches the City Council, where it will face its first formal public hearing. The Planning Commission makes recommendations on zoning ordinances without conducting public hearings, although several homeowners and a representative of several property owners were allowed to suggest revisions to the proposal Thursday.

Heavy Development Expected

"I don't think it's going to be significantly changed," Yaroslavsky said in an interview. "It could engender a lot of opposition, but I don't think it will. The people I've spoken to are willing to accept a review of this type."

The intent of the plan, he said, is not to stop growth, but to deal with the heavy new development expected in areas where conditions have made it almost inevitable. The presence of the Westside Pavilion in Westwood, for example, is likely to lead to additional large projects as property owners there realize they can command higher rents and make returns on larger buildings, Yaroslavsky said.

Similarly, economic pressures are likely to result in substantial high-rise office construction along the Sepulveda Corridor, where important industrial uses such as auto shops and manufacturing plants are being squeezed out, Yaroslavsky said. The ordinance would enable the city to control office growth and to preserve much of that industrial land, he said.

Commissioners on Thursday eliminated wording in the ordinance that would have applied it to all new developments that increase traffic. Instead, commissioners recommended exemptions for small builders whose projects would cause only minor increases in traffic.

To qualify for the exemption, Garcia said, developers would have to meet traffic-generation formulas based on the square footage of their existing buildings and the size of their expansions.

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