A double-barrelled legal assault has been launched against plans to build a regional shopping center in a western tip of Culver City.
The city of Los Angeles and a Venice community organization last week filed separate lawsuits against Culver City to force major changes in the proposed Marina Place, a 1.058-million-square-foot shopping mall and movie theater complex.
Both suits allege that Culver City and the developer, the Prudential Insurance Co., have not planned adequate steps to ease the traffic, noise and pollution that the mall will thrust onto neighboring Los Angeles communities.
Culver City Mayor Paul Jacobs said “reasonable” measures to mitigate traffic will be used and added he was confident his city’s approval of Marina Place would be upheld in court.
“Certainly, the right of our community to choose the kind of zoning and planning is rather basic,” Jacobs said.
“There is no question that we as a city have a right to review land-use decisions and make reasonable decisions.”
Legal experts said it was unusual for a city like Los Angeles to sue a neighboring city over a project within that city’s boundaries.
It raised speculation that Los Angeles could consider a similar tack against Santa Monica over a sprawling office complex being planned for land south of the Santa Monica Airport, bordering Los Angeles. The two cities have been in intense negotiations over that project.
Culver City last July approved Prudential’s plans to build Marina Place on a far-west piece of land that is part of Culver City but juts deep into Los Angeles’ Venice and Mar Vista communities.
“The project approved by Culver City for this location will be an unmitigated disaster for Los Angeles and the people living in the surrounding communities,” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter said in a written statement. “It will add thousands of automobiles to the local streets every day.”
Galanter, who represents the areas of Los Angeles that would be affected by the project, asked the city attorney’s office to file the suit.
“Traffic is bad enough in this part of the city without this project,” City Atty. James Hahn said, “and we don’t want it built unless steps are taken to resolve those problems” of traffic, parking, noise and waste water.
The second suit was filed by the Venice Town Council, one of the community’s principal organizations. The council suit also contends that the project will seriously impede public access to the beach.
Both suits seemed aimed at forcing negotiations with Culver City and Prudential. Several meetings of representatives of Culver City and Prudential with members of Galanter’s staff and the Venice Town Council have taken place or are planned.
The site for Marina Place is an 18-acre parcel near the busy intersection of Washington and Lincoln boulevards. It is now used for weekend swap meets.
The Los Angeles suit further contends that the bulk of the environmental impact reports that Culver City used for the project dealt with earlier versions of Prudential’s proposals, not the mall as now planned, and are thus flawed.
Culver City Atty. Joseph Pannone said that because earlier versions of the project were up to 40% larger than the present proposal, it was decided that a new environmental impact report would not be necessary.
Pannone also rejected other allegations by Los Angeles, including a claim that sewage produced by the project would exceed the amount Culver City is permitted to channel into a Los Angeles sewer system.
Both suits, filed Thursday in Superior Court, ask the court to void Culver City’s approval of Marina Place and to require Culver City to conduct a new environmental impact report that complies with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Galanter said some of the proposals made by Culver City and the developer to ease traffic are “a cure that’s as bad as the disease.”
According to Galanter, these include rerouting traffic onto residential streets, removing 100 on-street parking spaces from Washington and Lincoln boulevards and adding four traffic signals to two already operating on a quarter-mile strip of Washington Boulevard.
A study by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation said Marina Place would have to be cut in half to eliminate adverse effects on the neighboring communities, and it suggested several alternative mitigation measures, such as an overpass on Lincoln above Washington.
Many of those measures are expensive, and it seemed unlikely the developer would agree to such a large a cutback in the size of the mall.
H.C. Connor, vice president of Prudential, refused to comment on the lawsuits or to discuss the Marina Place project.
Marina Place, which is Prudential’s fifth proposal for the site since buying the land in 1980, is expected to net Culver City $2.5 million a year in business license fees and sales and property taxes.
Culver City officials have also said the mall, which would include Nordstrom and Southern California’s first Macy’s, would enhance their city’s image.
The mall, which would be slightly larger than the nearby Westside Pavilion, would be 54 feet high with six 74-foot-high theaters and two 84foot towers.
The two lawsuits were filed to meet the deadline set in state law for challenging environmental impact reports. The Los Angeles City Council must approve the filing of the city’s suit. If the council opposes Galanter and votes against filing the suit, it would be withdrawn, according to a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.