New Businesses, Slow Growth Goal of Westwood Plan

Times Staff Writer

If city planners and community organizations have their way, no more fast-food restaurants or movie theaters will be built in Westwood Village.

The ban on such businesses, and measures aimed at preserving the architectural character of the area, are included in a proposed Westwood Village Specific Plan prepared for the city by Gruen Associates, an urban-planning consulting firm.

The plan, which was discussed at a public hearing last week, would impose maximum building heights, restrict density, encourage preservation of historic structures and seek development of such neighborhood businesses as grocery and hardware stores.

There is a "general unease" in the community that the village is in danger of changing dramatically for the worse, said Vivian Rescalvo, a city planner assigned to the project.

'Could Be Destroyed'

"There is a consensus among groups of people who do not usually agree that the village could be destroyed in the future if there are no controls on the height and density of buildings," Rescalvo said. "There has been an overall deterioration in the types of shops, traffic flow and parking availability."

Objectives of the plan include maintaining pedestrian traffic in the area, attracting businesses needed by residents and UCLA students and making the area economically competitive with successful shopping centers on the Westside.

Broad agreement was voiced at the public hearing on the plan proposed for an area bounded by Lindbrook Drive, Gayley, Le Conte and Tiverton avenues.

The Los Angeles West Chamber of Commerce, which includes Westwood, strongly endorsed the overall concept, while voicing some concerns about several of the specifics.

"We absolutely support the concept and many of the specifics," said Everett Ascher, chairman of chamber's board of directors. "None of us wants to see high-rise buildings in the village. This is not an 'us against them' issue."

Specific proposals include reducing allowable densities for new buildings and placing a 40-foot height limit on new buildings in the central part of the village. Buildings on the southern edge of the village could be has high as 70 feet.

Height and density bonuses, which would allow larger and higher buildings, would be made available to developers of such "neighborhood-serving" businesses as grocery and hardware stores.

The village, which once had four grocery stores, now has none. Also missing is a hardware store. Other neighborhood businesses in scarce supply are drug stores, art-supply shops, housewares stores, laundries and locksmiths.

Laura Lake, president of the Friends of Westwood, an activist slow-growth organization, said that needed neighborhood businesses have been driven out by an emphasis on fast-food restaurants and movie theaters.

'Too Much of Good Thing'

"Everyone here agrees that too much of a good thing is bad," Lake said. "We are essentially losing the (businesses) that serve the residents and the UCLA community. And we are the ones who will remain here when the latest trend moves somewhere else."

To ensure compliance with the building regulations, a board would review building designs.

The plan also calls for creation of a special agency to coordinate joint advertising, cultural events and other collective activities in the village. The agency would be funded by a special assessment district in the village.

The chamber's Ascher said that his organization has reservations about the design review board and the special agency.

"Our main concern is that the roles of the two organizations be further defined and that there be a balance in the appointment of persons to serve on them," he said.

Hotel Plan Jeopardized

Allan A. Sigel, an attorney representing Westwood Village Development Co., owner of a third of the village, called the plan too restrictive.

His client, Sigel said, would like to build a hotel on a 2.5-acre parcel between Glendon and Tiverton avenues but cannot proceed because of a proposed requirement that a grocery store be part of the development.

"I can assure you that no one is going to build a hotel with a grocery store in the lobby," he said."

He also said that all 46 buildings identified in the plan as historically significant may not be worth saving.

"We can all agree on the Glendale Federal Savings building on Westwood Boulevard and Josephina's on Westwood and Lindbrook Drive," Sigel said. "But many of the others are really stretching the concept of historically significant. I mean, this is not Oxford, England where history is measured in hundreds of years."

Other sites identified as historically significant are the Fox Theatre, 945 Broxton Ave.; Mario's Restaurant, 1001 Broxton Ave.; Dillon's Nightclub, 1081 Broxton, and Hamburger Hamlet, 10935 Weyburn Ave.

Height Limits Opposed

A coalition of four homeowner groups and Friends of Westwood opposed the height limits as too generous. Jackie Freedman, speaking for the coalition, said that the coalition was opposed to buildings over three stories, or 45 feet high.

"There is a basic inconsistency in saying, as the plan does, that the goal is to preserve the village as a low-rise community and then to allow several five- and six-story buildings on Westwood Boulevard, which is the entry to the village," she said.

The city Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan July 23. Written comments about the proposal will be accepted by the city through Friday.

The village plan is part of a city-sponsored effort to update the Westwood Community Plan, a guide for development, for the first time in 15 years.

New planning proposals to reduce potential residential growth in Westwood by about one-third also will be heard by the city Planning Commission in July.

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