Council Panel OKs Ban on High-Rises on Wilshire

Times Staff Writer

Under heavy pressure from Westside Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, a Los Angeles City Council committee on Tuesday rejected the recommendation of the city's Planning Commission and voted to approve a moratorium on high-rise development along the congested Wilshire Corridor.

But San Fernando Valley Councilman Hal Bernson, chairman of the Planning and Environment Committee, warned Yaroslavsky that he may change his mind when the moratorium goes to the City Council for final approval.

Effect on Condominiums

"I don't know if I am going to cave in to Mr. Yaroslavsky, or go along with principle," said Bernson, explaining that he had "a real problem" with the moratorium's effect on five high-rise condominium projects planned for the area since the early 1980s.

Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, saying she wanted to support Yaroslavsky and Westwood-area residents who favor tighter development restrictions, joined Bernson in approving the moratorium. The third committee member, Councilman Michael Woo, was not at the meeting.

The 6-month moratorium would limit new buildings to a height of 75 feet--about six stories--from Glendon Avenue in Westwood to the Los Angeles Country Club at the Beverly Hills border. It targets the five proposed condominium projects, which would range in height from 12 to 27 stories without the restrictions. Additionally, there are about 80 parcels along the corridor that city officials say have redevelopment potential, although there are currently no plans for those parcels.

The moratorium is intended to stop high-rise development while city planning officials revise--and make more stringent--the Wilshire Westwood Scenic Corridor Specific Plan, which governs building along the corridor. The plan, adopted in 1981, specifically exempts the five condominium projects, but city officials said developers of those projects have had long enough to get them under way.

"These five projects were initially approved with the knowledge, or the implication, that they would be immediately forthcoming," city planner Dan Scott said in an interview. "That just didn't happen. . . . Now, it is just a different picture on the boulevard than it was 10 years ago. It is a different ball game now."

A stream of developers and property owners involved with the five condominium high-rises urged the committee to follow the Planning Commission's lead and reject the moratorium. They argued that they have been planning their projects in good faith, and that the moratorium represents a last-minute--and costly--change in the rules of the game. They said the projects have only recently become economically feasible.

C. Richard Allen, developer of a proposed 20-story, 73-unit condominium project at 10380 Wilshire Blvd., between Beverly Glen Boulevard and Comstock Avenue, said his company has spent more than $2.5 million in planning the project.

"You cannot merely chop off the top floors and resubmit the plans," Allen told the committee.

Lee Danielson, vice president of Cal Fed Enterprises, which is planning a 27-story, 97-unit project at 10570 Wilshire Blvd., between Thayer and Westholme avenues, said the moratorium would reduce the height of projects but would not address density problems, which he said are the biggest concern of residents in the area. Danielson also said it would be unfair to limit new buildings to six stories, when neighboring structures tower 22 stories and higher.

"We have a lot of money wrapped up in this," Danielson said.

Other projects that would be affected by the moratorium are:

10776 Wilshire Blvd., now the site of the Century Wilshire hotel, where a 24-story, 119-unit building is proposed.

10727 Wilshire Blvd., between Selby and Manning avenues, where a 12-story, 108-unit building is proposed.

10250 Wilshire Blvd., east of Comstock Avenue, where a 15-story, 32-unit building is proposed.

Laura Lake, president of the Friends of Westwood residents group, told the committee that homeowners and other residents in the Wilshire Corridor area are being overwhelmed by traffic and parking problems caused by high-rise development. Lake, who has said she intends to run for Yaroslavsky's council seat next year if he resigns to challenge Mayor Tom Bradley, submitted petitions with signatures of 150 nearby residents urging approval of the moratorium.

"The time has come to reassess the Wilshire Corridor and give us some relief from these projects," Lake told the committee.

After losing the vote, several developers pledged to carry their fight to the City Council, where they hope Yaroslavsky's influence will be diluted. Danielson, of Cal Fed, accused Yaroslavsky of pushing the moratorium as a media event.

"This is totally politically motivated to get his name in the paper," Danielson said.

Yaroslavsky said he will wait until late this month to send the moratorium to the City Council because two council members--Woo and Nate Holden--are out of the country on a city trade mission. Under city law, Yaroslavsky needs 10 votes among the 15 council members to overturn the Planning Commission's action, and Yaroslavsky said he wants all council members present when the issue comes up for a vote.

"I think we have a shot at the full council when they are all here," Yaroslavsky said after the committee meeting. He predicted he could muster 10 votes, with or without Bernson's support.

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