Initiative Drive Opens for Limits on Commercial Development

Times Staff Writer

About 60 homeowners from the San Fernando Valley and other parts of Los Angeles were asked at a rally in Encino on Saturday to circulate petitions and solicit donations for a proposed initiative that would cut in half the size of future commercial development in most of the city.

“This is an issue whose time has come. . . . The public is going to make a difference,” said City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who is co-sponsoring the proposed initiative with Councilman Marvin Braude.

The proposed initiative drew enthusiastic praise from leaders of homeowner groups attending the meeting at Bel Air Presbyterian Church.

“What you see here is a grass-roots reaction to what I think the average person perceives is runaway development in the city of Los Angeles,” said Gerald Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino.


Likened to Proposition 13

“I personally consider this to be the most important initiative since Proposition 13,” said Kathy Lewis, president of Encino Property Owners.

“One of our major problems in Encino is traffic and parking. The traffic is horrendous. Between 6:30 and 10 a.m., it’s almost bumper to bumper and it’s getting so there’s barely a lull during the course of the day. It’s just normal for more building and development to bring more traffic.”

“Nothing that I’ve ever done in my public career has evoked the amount of positive, supportive comment everywhere where I go that this has,” Braude said after the meeting.


Braude said the measure would change zoning designations to permit construction of only half the present permissible density in Height District One areas. The classification covers nearly 85% of commercial properties in the city, almost all bordering on single-family neighborhoods, he said.

The Height District One designation currently permits construction of a building containing three times the square feet of the land on which the building is located. The proposed initiative would cut the allowable building size in half in those areas, said Braude, whose district includes parts of the San Fernando Valley where homeowners have had disputes over building size with commercial developers.

69,516 Signatures Required

Backers of the measure must get the signatures of 69,516 registered voters by May 15 to qualify the measure for the November election, the councilmen said.


Yaroslavsky said the measure would still allow 1.5 billion square feet of commercial growth in the affected areas, which he said would preserve jobs dependent on development.

Both Braude and Yaroslavsky said the campaign on behalf of the measure will rely primarily on volunteers and support from more than 100 property owner groups citywide.

Yaroslavsky warned backers of the measure to expect strong, well-financed opposition from developers “with buildings on the drawing boards.” He and Braude later declined to identify any developers.

Yaroslavsky said after the meeting that he and Braude have together contributed $200,000 from their own campaign funds to use as seed money for the initiative campaign. Other council members reportedly supporting the measure are Michael Woo, Joy Picus and Joel Wachs.