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Granada Hills : Upgrade of Business Area Urged

Times Staff Writer

Spanish colonial-style architecture and more parking spaces are called for in a Los Angeles Planning Department proposal to spruce up the central business district of Granada Hills.

At a public presentation of the proposal late last week, several Granada Hills business leaders who helped shape the plan said it is needed to halt the decline of the area’s aging commercial strip along Chatsworth Street.

“We’re at a crossroads here in Granada Hills,” said John F. Weitkamp, an attorney who served on a citizens committee appointed by City Councilman Hal Bernson to advise planners on the proposal. “We’re either going to start improving the aesthetics of the community, or it’s going to erode.”

Businesses such as auto parts stores, gyms and take-out restaurants dominate the area on Chatsworth Street between Aliso Creek and Encino Avenue.

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And several storefronts have become vacant as the strip has had to compete with a corner shopping center with ample parking at Devonshire Street and Balboa Boulevard, said Ralph Crouch, Bernson’s planning deputy.

The plan by the city and Bernson’s citizens committee does not call for a freeze on development. Such a freeze has been instituted in Reseda’s central business district and is proposed for Chatsworth’s. Instead, the plan calls for new development or major renovations to conform to the Spanish colonial architectural style.

Unifying Element

The architectural theme would “get the community an identity as a unit, rather than a bunch of little stores,” said Duane R. Feuerhelm, a citizens committee member whose automobile dealership is on Chatsworth Street.

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“The idea here is to finally set some kind of standard for Granada Hills,” said John Ciccarelli, another member of the committee and a past president of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce.

The proposal also calls for several lots behind the Chatsworth Street businesses to be used for parking.

Ultimately, planners hope the business owners or others would buy the properties and convert them into lots for paid parking, said Michael J. O’Connor, a city planner in charge of the proposal.

O’Connor conceded at Thursday’s meeting that the plan is optimistic, but he added that a dearth of on-street parking has been “the No. 1 problem” for businesses on Chatsworth Street.

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Business Restrictions

The proposal also lists businesses that would be banned, including pawnshops and sexually oriented stores. The commercial area does not have such businesses now, O’Connor said.

The proposal would not force existing businesses to leave, although new businesses in several categories would require conditional-use permits. For instance, secondhand clothing stores, drive-through food services and automotive businesses would require such permits, O’Connor said.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for March 3. The Planning Commission and the City Council are expected to consider the proposal by the end of the year.

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