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Greenbelt Backers Lose Bid to Bar Parking Lot

Times Staff Writer

Studio City residents hoping to convert the dusty banks of the Los Angeles River into a greenbelt were told Wednesday that a blacktop parking lot will be allowed to remain there instead.

The Los Angeles City Council rejected homeowners’ demands that a 50-car lot built on a vacant strip between the river and Valleyheart Drive be ripped up and planted with grass, shrubs and trees.

The area was paved last year after operators of the Women Only health spa on nearby Laurel Canyon Boulevard received permission from Los Angeles County flood-control officials to use the land for customer parking

Violation of Master Plan Alleged

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But before parking stalls could be painted on the pavement, homeowners protested that the lot violated the city’s master plan, which designates river bank as open space.

Wednesday’s 12-0 council vote to deny the residents’ appeal came after Studio City-area Councilman Joel Wachs supported the parking plan.

Wachs said he plans to require spa operators to plant heavy landscaping around the lot and review its effect on long-range beautification efforts along the river bank after five years.

The council was assured by Gail Gordon, a lawyer for the health spa, that parked cars will not be visible from the street and that the lot will have no damaging effect on the neighborhood.

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But homeowners disagreed.

“What the city is doing is a travesty and a real major mistake,” said Bryan Spangle, a landscape architect who has worked for three years with the Studio City Beautification Assn. to turn the three-block-long strip into a greenbelt.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to dedicate public open space for private parking lots. Giving public open space to a private developer to use is wrong. He’s not doing this for the neighborhood. He’ll sell more memberships.”

Fear of More Lots Along River

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Richard Blevin, vice president of the Studio City Residents Assn., said the city’s action will encourage other businessmen to build parking lots alongside the concrete-walled river.

“We’ve seen moves already in several areas to produce more of these kinds of parking lots,” Blevin said. “There are proposals out for putting parking lots over the top of the river.”

Wachs denied that the parking lot will set a precedent, however. He said he will ask the city to impose special conditions on the health spa when it applies for a conditional-use permit required before the lot can be opened.

Those rules would limit the lot’s hours of operation and prevent its lights from shining into nearby homes as well as mandate the heavy landscaping.

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“We want to see it beautified, too,” Wachs said of the site. “But right now there is zero money and zero realistic approved programs for doing it. I saw this as a possible experiment between the public sector and the private sector to provide some of the parking needed in the area in a way that would be a step toward beautifying the river bank.”

West San Fernando Valley council members Marvin Braude and Hal Bernson agreed.

“The landscaping could serve as a model . . . it’s got us already thinking of what we will require of other parcels of land along this channel,” Braude said.

Bernson said the river bank area is unkempt and Studio City is badly in need of places to park. “The city has nothing to lose, and the community will gain,” he said.

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