Playa Vista Developer to Cut Business Space

Times Staff Writer

Responding to complaints that the project was too massive, the new lead developer of Playa Vista, the residential and commercial development planned just south of Marina del Rey, announced Monday that the space designated for shops and offices will be reduced significantly and the number of residential units will be increased.

Nelson C. Rising, who heads the development team for Maguire Thomas Partners, said the amount of office space will be reduced by nearly 1 million square feet, to about 5 million, and the amount of retail space will be reduced by nearly 300,000 square feet, to about 680,000.

By comparison, the Westside Pavilion shopping mall at Pico Boulevard and Overland Avenue is about 1 million square feet.

"The single most important thing we can do is improve the jobs-housing balance. We want to create a community where people work, live and play," Rising told a group of about 500 community members at the Airport Marina Hotel in Westchester on Monday night.

Meanwhile, the number of residential units will rise by about 2,300, to about 11,000 units.

The proposed changes apply only to about three-quarters of the 957-acre parcel that was part of the estate of the late billionaire Howard Hughes. Plans for the remaining 209 acres are not expected to change substantially.

Wildlife Habitat

Much of the tract consists of open fields and wetlands that are home to a wide variety of birds.

The changes represent a victory for residents living near the project and for Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who defeated former Councilwoman Pat Russell in 1987. Russell's support for the project was widely viewed as a major cause of her ouster.

As part of her campaign, Galanter said she would fight to have the project scaled back, even though it had already been approved in 1986 by the city and the state Coastal Commission.

The plan also includes 2,400 hotel rooms and a 40-acre marina with up to 900 boat slips. As part of the plan, the previous lead developer, Howard Hughes Properties Inc., agreed to set aside 175 acres of wetlands and 41 acres of sand dunes and bluffs as a nature preserve. Hughes also pledged $10 million to the National Audubon Society to restore and maintain the wetlands.

Election Sent Message

Galanter's victory, however, signaled that the city would almost certainly seek to reduce the size of the development. Last August, Galanter called for a new environmental impact report, the preservation of a larger portion of wetlands and a 40% reduction in the amount of office space.

In February, Maguire Thomas, whose other projects include the 73-story First Interstate World Center now under construction in downtown Los Angeles, bought into the project for an undisclosed sum and took over as managing partner. Hughes Properties, a subsidiary of Summa Corp., remains as a limited partner. JMB Realty Corp., which owns and built much of Century City, also purchased an interest in the project.

Rising has been meeting with community groups since February to get public comment on what changes should be made in the project. Rising said his proposed changes will be turned over to designers and architects, who will develop a more specific, though not final, plan within about a week, Rising said. That plan will then be available for further public comment.

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