Zoning Board Imposes Strict Restrictions on Bistro

Times Staff Writer

It’s not neighborly to top off an expensive meal at a ritzy restaurant by behaving crudely on the streets outside.

That’s what Sherman Oaks homeowners argued Tuesday as they persuaded Los Angeles zoning officials to toughen restrictions on a new Bistro Garden restaurant being built in neighboring Studio City.

The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3 to 0 to require the Beverly Hills-based restaurant to post signs directing customers and employees away from a 40-year-old neighborhood of single-family homes near the eatery’s new site at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

Officials approved a conditional use permit needed for the Bistro Garden to obtain a state liquor license. But to keep the permit, restaurant operators must soundproof their new dining room, provide enough parking for diners and employees, and allow the city to review their neighborliness at two-year intervals for the next six years, officials said.


Residents Pleased

Homeowners hailed the action as a model for controlling future commercial development along the fast-growing Ventura Boulevard corridor. Residents had triggered Tuesday’s appeals board hearing by protesting a permit that was approved in June by a zoning administrator.

At the City Hall session, homeowners displayed photos of residential streets near the boulevard that showed beer and wine bottles beneath cars. The pictures, taken last week, also showed a homeowner’s front-yard fence that was crushed by a car being parked by an employee from a nearby store.

The homeowners said patrons and employees of other restaurants in the area have been poor neighbors in the past.


“Last week, I picked up 40 wine and beer and vodka bottles drunk by people parked there after they’ve left these restaurants,” said Marguerite Casey, who has lived a few doors from the Bistro Garden site for more than 30 years.

Added protest leader Rose Elmassian, secretary of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.: “We’re not opposed to liquor at the Bistro. We’re opposed to people who park in front of our homes and urinate there when they think no one is looking and then get into their Mercedes.”

The new restrictions were described as unnecessary and onerous by Polly Ward, a restaurant supporter and president of the rival Studio City Residents Assn.

Developer Herbert Piken, who has counted on the Bistro Garden becoming the tone-setting anchor tenant for a $15-million shopping center he is building at the site, agreed to the new parking and traffic restrictions.


He told zoning board members that his center’s 22 stores will attract upscale shoppers. He said its 258-space underground parking lot will solve parking problems like those faced by a nearby boulevard restaurant, The Great Greek.

Glancing at board chairman Nikolas Patsaouras, who is of Greek descent, Piken quickly added that the rival restaurant “has marvelous food.”

Effectiveness Questioned

Patsaouras said he has doubts about the effectiveness of posting signs directing shopping center traffic away from the neighborhood. “Who’s going to enforce it? The Gucci guys would ignore it anyway,” Patsaouras said.


But board member James D. Leewong said the restaurant soundproofing and employee parking requirements, coupled with the two-year reviews of the Bistro Garden’s operation, should keep future problems to a minimum.

“It will keep everybody honest, everybody trying,” Leewong said.