Encino Groups Force Builder to Drop Movie Theater Plan

Times Staff Writer

Developers fighting Encino residents over the right to build three new cinema complexes on Ventura Boulevard may feel like they're starring in a remake of a bad movie.

For the second time in two weeks, homeowners have successfully fought off a proposal to construct a multiscreen movie theater as part of a planned neighborhood shopping center.

Officials of the Security Pacific Development Corp. said Friday they are abandoning a plan to build a 1,600-seat theater complex as part of a $35-million center on the north side of the boulevard east of Encino Avenue.

Instead, project manager Doane J. Liu said the firm will build a food market.

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles city Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3 to 1 to reject a planned 1,500-seat theater proposed as the centerpiece of a $22-million center at the northeast corner of the boulevard and Gaviota Avenue, 1 3/4 miles from the Security Pacific land.

That apparently leaves only one Encino theater project in the running--an 1,800-seat complex at the northeast corner of the boulevard and Hayvenhurst Avenue, between the other two sites.

Elated Encino residents praised Security Pacific's redesign announcement. They said it will help reduce traffic on the boulevard and in a 30-year-old single-family neighborhood immediately north of the firm's shopping center site.

"We're very pleased," said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, who helped negotiate the redesign with Security Pacific officials. "A market is something that is needed and the community will patronize."

As a side benefit, exchanging the theaters for the grocery store will allow builders to lower the height of the shopping center by more than five feet, to just under 40 feet, Silver said.

Homeowners and Security Pacific developers reached their agreement during a meeting at an Encino delicatessen.

As part of the pact, the company will install a permanent metal plaque outside the shopping center spelling out operating rules, such as the time of day when trash trucks can pick up rubbish, Silver said.

In exchange, residents will support the development proposal when it is reviewed Tuesday by the City Council Planning and Environment Committee, he said.

Liu said the negotiations with Silver's group and with another homeowners organization called the Encino Property Owners Assn. were the most extensive his firm has ever conducted. He said the company decided to scrap the movie theater plan "to cooperate with the neighbors."

Rival developer Jason Heltzer, whose theater plan was rejected April 11 by the Board of Zoning Appeals, will have 15 days to appeal that ruling to the City Council once a formal written notice of the ruling is issued.

Silver said he has also offered to negotiate with Heltzer.

"I told him we'll support him if he puts in a supermarket or a full-service drugstore or something else that the neighborhood needs," Silver said.

"We desperately need several gas stations and things like a knit shop, a good hardware store. These things aren't gentrified, but they're necessary. The absence of these generates traffic in Encino.

"We shouldn't have to drive through these congested, F-level intersections to buy a replacement light switch. We need to resuscitate these retail uses that are threatened with extinction in Encino."

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