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$2-Billion Plan : Merchants Tell Qualms About Porter Ranch

Times Staff Writer

Northridge and Granada Hills business people expressed concern Wednesday that traffic congestion might worsen in their areas if a $2-billion residential and commercial project is built in Porter Ranch.

The Porter Ranch Development Co., which is controlled by Beverly Hills developer Nathan Shapell, is proposing 2,195 single-family houses, 800 condominiums and about 7.7 million square feet of commercial space on 1,300 undeveloped acres north of the Simi Valley Freeway and west of Tampa Avenue in the Chatsworth area.

The Los Angeles Planning Department has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Chatsworth High School. After the hearing, the proposal will be considered by the city Planning Commission and eventually the City Council. The proposal could reach the council this summer, city officials said.

At a luncheon Wednesday, Porter Ranch Development representatives fielded questions from business people about what effect the project might have on the area.

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“We have a tremendous traffic problem now,” said Jean Seratti, past president of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce. “What is the traffic going to be like when this is completed?”

The developer would spend $40 million to $50 million for traffic improvements, including the completion or extension of several unfinished major streets and the computerization of street signals at 48 intersections in and near the project area, development representatives said.

The project would generate 164,840 daily vehicle trips in the area, although congestion at some intersections would lessen because of Porter Ranch project improvements, according to a draft environmental report released this month.

Several of the audience’s questions were about whether the Simi Valley Freeway would be widened to handle additional traffic.

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Project representatives noted that the state and Los Angeles County transportation commissions have approved a $40-million widening of the freeway from six lanes to eight lanes between Balboa Boulevard and the Ventura County line. The widening is expected to be completed within five years.

The Porter Ranch project would be built gradually over the next 20 to 30 years, project representatives said.

In addition to traffic, questions about police protection “have to be resolved before the community will support this thing,” Ron Smith, president of the Northridge Chamber of Commerce, said after the luncheon.

According to the environmental impact report, the project would create the need for 28 more police officers. That number is based on a city formula and an estimate that the project will add 9,325 residents to the area, the report said.

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Tax revenue from the project would provide the city with money to hire more police officers, said the report, which government agencies--such as the Los Angeles Police Department--will review.

“The Police Department is going to take a look at the policing needs,” said Capt. Mark D. Stevens, commander of the Police Department’s Devonshire Division, who attended the luncheon. “We’re going to go back and make sure that’s sufficient, the 28 officers.”


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