Van Nuys : Designers Call for Upgraded Business Area

Times Staff Writer

A team of urban designers Thursday presented a plan to upgrade the aging Van Nuys Boulevard commercial center that includes an expanded pedestrian mall, several high-rise office buildings and lush tree-lined streets dotted with open-air cafes.

The presentation before the Los Angeles Planning Commission and community leaders completed an intense 6-day workshop by the 7-member team of urban planners, a developer and architects.

City Planning Director Kenneth C. Topping called the report a “tremendous source book of ideas to be refined.” He said the workshop, in which team members interviewed about 30 community representatives, brought forth ideas that will be studied when city planners begin this year to revise the Van Nuys specific plan--a blueprint for community development.

The workshop was organized by the Planning Department after it received a $31,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to incorporate design elements into city-planning ordinances.


More Development

The team’s ideas, compiled in a 60-page report called “Vision Van Nuys,” call for more intensive development south of Victory Boulevard, which would create a “commercial core” around government buildings.

The plan calls for building a wide plaza around the landmark Van Nuys City Hall and constructing two high-rise office buildings in the civic center area.

The planners suggested extending the Erwin Street Mall west of Van Nuys Boulevard with a tiled crosswalk anchored by a 12-story office building. There could be trendy restaurants on the ground floor and in the plaza area, the planners said.


North of Victory, the planners suggested that future zoning allow 2- and 3-story buildings housing retail shops and offices.

“We need to take these ideas to the public and get their input,” Topping said. “These are just concepts, but what is important is that we have innovative ideas that could become a part of our future plan for Van Nuys.”

Homeowners React

The report received lukewarm acceptance from two representatives of the Van Nuys Homeowner’s Assn., who were critical of suggestions to create a dense commercial zone. “When they start talking about 10- or 12-story buildings, I start thinking about gridlock,” said Don Schultz, who serves on the board of directors for the homeowners group and was interviewed by the team.

The most specific suggestions focused on ways to develop a city-owned parcel of land on the southeast corner of Sylvan Street and Van Nuys Boulevard. The city intends to seek a developer to build more city offices on the site.

The planners called for creating a public plaza on the land directly adjacent to Van Nuys City Hall and for requiring developers to design an office building that would not overshadow the historic building, which is a mini-replica of the Los Angeles City Hall.

In the residential neighborhoods off Van Nuys Boulevard, the design team said that future zoning should allow offices and bigger apartment buildings next to the boulevard shops, which would create a buffer for single-family homes.