L.A. Asks Consultants to Map an Attack on Ventura Blvd. Gridlock

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles officials have asked private transportation experts for help in avoiding gridlock on the San Fernando Valley's busiest street.

Outside consultants have been asked to submit bids next month for the study, which will focus on 17-mile-long Ventura Boulevard between Studio City and Woodland Hills.

The professional planners will evaluate schemes ranging from simple no-parking zones and boulevard shuttle buses to the use of sophisticated people-movers and computerized traffic signals that are triggered by the flow of cars.

Study to Last a Year

The yearlong study will include recommendations on how to pay for future improvements. It will also suggest ways the city can control new development in the southern portion of the Valley that is crossed by the boulevard.

City officials said the pending transportation study is the most ambitious ever undertaken in the Valley.

They said outsiders are being hired to do the work because city staff planners are bogged down with other assignments that would drag out the study.

Philip Aker, a supervising city transportation planner, said residents have grown tired of studies that suggest projects that never seem to get off the ground.

"I'd encourage the consultants to be pretty pragmatic," Aker said. "We want to show people something for their money--something that will show a direct benefit."

Aker said he hopes that the city will react quickly to the boulevard planners' recommendations--although he acknowledged that complicated suggestions could take as long as 15 years to carry out.

"We already have good plans for transportation and land use in the city," he said. "The chief problem is we're not following through, we're not implementing them. We need things that can be implemented. We need to try to pace improvements with development."

Building Restricted

Consultants have been asked to submit contract bids for the study to the city planning department by April 21. The contract will be awarded by the City Council this summer. Aker would give no estimate of the cost, fearing that it would influence the bidding.

The unusual transportation analysis developed from a Ventura Boulevard building moratorium imposed last fall. That one-year restriction on construction limits new buildings to three stories or less and generally cuts overall building densities to half of what had been allowed.

The restrictions were ordered by the City Council because of complaints that new construction projects in Encino were choking the boulevard with traffic.

Brad Rosenheim, an aide to south Valley Councilman Marvin Braude, said he hopes the transportation consultants will come up with ideas that are innovative as well as down-to-earth.

Rosenheim said computerized traffic signals and shuttle buses are in use elsewhere in the city and concepts such as ride-sharing have been adopted in limited areas. He said the consultants will also be asked to study "really space-age technology, like four-person rail-type cars."

Funding for boulevard improvements that are eventually authorized by the City Council will come from such sources as Los Angeles County's half-cent Proposition A transit tax, developer fees and a possible boulevard assessment district, according to officials.

Public hearings will be scheduled when the City Council reviews the boulevard consultants' final recommendations.

But the idea of the study itself has already won praise from leaders of the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce, who were briefed on the plans late last week.

"It's about time. I've been driving on Ventura Boulevard every day for seven years and it just gets worse and worse," insurance company owner Michael Miller said.

Miller said he hopes the consultants look closely at a traffic-relief idea he has had for the boulevard: making it a one-way street.

Lawyer Anne Sax said Ventura Boulevard traffic was one of the major reasons she moved her office from Encino to Warner Center.

"There was never sufficient parking space there and I just got tired of bucking the traffic," she said.

Terri Asanovich, a Sherman Oaks marriage counselor who heads the Woodland Hills Chamber's local legislation committee, predicted boulevard property owners and merchants will support improvements if the city can prove the changes will work.

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