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City Council Panel Backs High-Rise Curbs on Ventura

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles City Council committee on Tuesday cast an influential vote in support of a one-year moratorium on high-rise construction along the entire length of heavily congested Ventura Boulevard, including a stretch through Studio City not in the original proposal.

The 3-0 vote by the Planning and Environment Committee is expected to increase chances for approval of the measure by the full council because committee members Howard Finn, Pat Russell and Robert Farrell are generally regarded as pro-development and would be the ones developers would turn to for help in defeating such a measure. These members’ support is an indication that the moratorium is likely to pass muster with the full council when it comes up for a vote on Sept. 24.

Also bolstering chances for passage is the support of the three council members whose districts take in the area around Ventura Boulevard. Council members generally defer to colleagues whose districts are affected by a given issue.

2 More Backers Needed

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With the support of the three committee members, these affected council members, Marvin Braude, Joy Picus and Joel Wachs, need to line up only two of the remaining nine council votes to win passage of the measure. Eight votes are required for approval.

The moratorium is designed to give city planners time to devise new zoning regulations for the boulevard to head off any worsening in the traffic congestion there.

The committee, in approving the moratorium without discussion, also tentatively approved a request by Wachs to extend the boundaries of the proposed moratorium, originally conceived to run from Valley Circle Boulevard to Coldwater Canyon Boulevard, further east to take in the entire length of the boulevard through all of Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Tarzana and Woodland Hills. This includes that section of Ventura Boulevard from Coldwater Canyon to Lankershim Boulevard, plus that part of Ventura Boulevard that becomes Cahuenga Boulevard, extending to Mulholland Drive.

Wachs said he earlier had been reluctant to extend the moratorium east through more of his district because he wanted to encourage development in order to clean up the boulevard’s “sleazy businesses,” a reference to adult businesses. However, he said he changed his mind after deciding the moratorium would still allow new development.

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During Tuesday’s City Hall hearing, Braude, who proposed the moratorium, told committee members, “We’re not stopping development.” He pointed out that the moratorium would limit development to buildings of no more than three stories and an area 1 1/2 times that of the parcel. Current zoning allows three square feet of construction for every square foot of property.

Braude pointed out that, if developers take advantage of the existing zone, it could cause a threefold increase in traffic on the already congested thoroughfare.

“All of us who have driven down Ventura Boulevard know there is a real problem here,” he said.

Photo of Fujita Building

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Braude passed around to committee members a picture of the six-story Fujita Corp. building in Encino to make a case for limits on new construction. The photo showed the massive building sitting up against darkened single-family homes on an adjoining street.

The ordinance would allow developers to argue for exemptions to the limits by showing that a project’s effect on congestion would be offset by such things as street widenings, staggered work hours or van pools. The council would have final say over whether to grant these exemptions.


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