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Calabasas Hotel, Office Project Turned Down for 3rd Time

Times Staff Writer

Despite being scaled back by its owners, beautified by its designers and endorsed by its harshest critics, a proposed $150-million Calabasas hotel and office project was rebuffed again Thursday by Los Angeles County officials.

Planning commissioners refused for a third time to approve the 67-acre project planned by Ahmanson Commercial Development Co. for the southeast corner of Calabasas Road and Parkway Calabasas at the western edge of the San Fernando Valley.

Commissioners said they want a guarantee that the project will be built in manageable phases before they allow construction to begin for 12 buildings and 13 parking lots on the last major commercial site in exclusive Calabasas Park.

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The project has the backing of the influential Calabasas Park Homeowners Assn., which has spent two years negotiating with Ahmanson officials over such things as height, traffic and preservation of a hilly buffer zone between the project and nearby homes.

Traffic Issues

But three months ago, county planners refused to approve the project until questions about traffic control were answered.

A month after that, Ahmanson officials returned with the answers about traffic control--but were told that commissioners considered the project ugly and wanted it redesigned and reduced in size.

Ahmanson executives returned Thursday with a new, pared-down design. In it, a proposed 13th building was dropped and nine proposed six-story buildings were lowered to five floors each.

Architect William H. Fain, whose other projects include expansion of UC Irvine and a new 6,000-acre town in Hawaii, promised that the new look would include “view corridors” from Calabasas Road, extra landscaping and a “less formal, softened” layout of offices around a proposed 250-room hotel.

New Interchange

Ahmanson Vice President William Loadvine pledged that most of the project’s future traffic would be funneled to a new $10-million Parkway Calabasas-Ventura Freeway interchange to which his firm is contributing $6 million. As a result, Calabasas’ picturesque clapboard Old Town village would remain relatively unaffected by the project, he predicted.

Planning commissioners, however, said they are still uneasy over the 1.4-million-square-foot project. Although the redesign has trimmed 250,000 square feet from the original proposal, the project’s huge size still would require close coordination between the project’s builders and the builders of the new interchange, commission member Betty Fisher said.

Commissioner Clinton C. Ternstrom--who previously called the project’s design “somewhat bleak"--said Ahmanson has made an effort to improve its looks. He said the commission’s decision to delay consideration of the project until Feb. 15 “will give us an opportunity to see the dust settle.”

Myra Turek, president of the homeowners association, said her group’s support of the project also hinges on an Ahmanson guarantee that succeeding phases of construction will not begin if the initial phases cause traffic congestion in the area.

Between now and Feb. 15, however, “we would not be opposed to them chopping off more floors from those buildings,” Turek said.

Residents Moving In

The new delay could cause more headaches for Ahmanson. Residents have begun moving into a newly completed subdivision of $1-million homes on a hillside west of the project site, and newcomers are unhappy with the Ahmanson plans, said home buyer Donna Beebe.

Arlene Spring--who moved to the new Westridge tract late last year after living for 17 years in an older Calabasas neighborhood--said her new neighbors are eager to preserve “the charm of old Calabasas.”

She said her neighbors will ask next month that planners shave Ahmanson’s proposed buildings to three stories.


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