Yaroslavsky Bets Future on Slow-Growth Movement
The fate of a new plan to limit development in Westwood Village and in the greater Westwood area could be crucial to the future of the “slow-growth” movement that is gaining momentum in the city and also to the political fortunes of City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
In August, 1984, Yaroslavsky suffered a humiliating defeat when the City Council, by an 8-7 vote, refused to approve a building moratorium he requested along the Wilshire Boulevard high-rise “canyon” that is in Yaroslavsky’s 5th Council District.
“I had a bitter taste left in my mouth after the Wilshire moratorium vote,” Yaroslavsky, a possible candidate for mayor in 1989, said in a recent interview. “Several colleagues reneged on promises they made. I was angry, I still am angry about it.”
‘Most Expensive Victory’
“I’ve said many times that was the most expensive victory developers ever won,” said Daniel Garcia, chairman of the City Planning Commission. “Zev lost, but that vote set in motion the ‘slow-growth’ movement. I think Proposition U (the growth-limitation measure that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November) was born there.”
Thwarted by the City Council, Yaroslavsky and Councilman Marvin Braude decided to change the city’s pro-growth policies through the initiative process. They gathered more than 100,000 signatures in support of Proposition U, which reduced by one-half the allowable size of new buildings on about 70% of commercial and industrial property in Los Angeles, and then steered the initiative to a 69%-31% victory.
The easy passage of Proposition U, and the recent defeat of City Councilwoman Pat Russell by slow-growth advocate Ruth Galanter, are seen by many observers as clear signs that the city, or at least parts of it, has decided to call a halt to unbridled development.
Run for Mayor
In the likely event that Yaroslavsky runs for mayor in two years, he is expected to stress slow or controlled growth as a major issue. But first he must prove that he can control growth in his own council district, and that is where the new plans for Westwood and Westwood Village come in.
Some critics question Yaroslavsky’s credentials as a slow-growth advocate, considering that the district he has represented since 1975 contains more high-rise buildings than any other area of the city except downtown, not to mention massive new shopping centers such as the Beverly Center and the Westside Pavilion.
But Yaroslavsky contends that most of this construction was permitted by the old Westwood community plan adopted in 1972, and that he has worked steadily to “down-zone” the area. The councilman said he has approved only two new high-rise office buildings on Wilshire Boulevard since taking office but that four more are under construction, or soon will be, because his 1984 moratorium effort failed.
The new Westwood community plan and the “specific plan” for Westwood Village are offered as further proof of Yaroslavsky’s controlled-growth intentions.
“The entire plan is a slow-growth plan,” he said. “It calls for a substantial reduction in buildability. . . . In addition, in Westwood Village we have a preservationist plan, an attempt to preserve a uniquely valuable city asset.”
‘More of a Consensus’
Yaroslavsky predicted that the plan will receive overwhelming support from the City Planning Commission, which will consider it July 23, and later from the City Council.
“I don’t think the vote on the Westwood plan is going to be 8 to 7, like it was in 1984,” he said. “There is more of a consensus on the council now that we have to do careful land-use planning, not only on the Westside or at the southern end of the San Fernando Valley but throughout the city.”
But observers of the slow-growth movement and of Yaroslavsky’s political career will be watching to see if the 38-year-old councilman not only can steer the Westwood plan through the Planning Commission and City Council but, more important, if he is able to make sure that it is implemented.