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Costly Plan for Ventura Boulevard Splits Panel : Price of Upgrades Put at $116 Million

Times Staff Writer

It may end up costing Los Angeles 157% more than expected to prevent gridlock on the San Fernando Valley’s 17-mile-long “main street.”

Transportation experts helping plan a controversial Ventura Boulevard growth-control proposal, scheduled to be publicly unveiled today, predict it will cost $116 million--about $2 million per intersection--to keep traffic flowing in the 21st Century.

Until now, experts had calculated that only about $45 million in improvements were needed.

The higher cost prediction has sparked a new dispute between members of a 20-member citizens committee that has spent more than 2 1/2 years trying to agree on the best way to handle future traffic along the busy boulevard. The Los Angeles City Council eventually will debate their recommendations.

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Special Fees

In a preliminary recommendation to be released at 5 p.m. today in North Hollywood, the advisory panel will suggest that future developers be assessed special fees to pay for traffic improvements at Ventura Boulevard intersections between Studio City and Woodland Hills, city planners said.

But there is disagreement between homeowners and business representatives on the committee over the key issues of exactly how much developers should be required to pay and how the money should be spent.

Business leaders, who form a majority on the committee, want developers assessed $2,000 for each daily vehicular trip it is calculated their projects would generate. That would raise about $45 million to pay for sophisticated traffic signals and widened lanes at 25 major intersections.

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Homeowners, a minority on the panel, are demanding that builders be assessed fees averaging $5,000 per trip. That amount would raise about $116 million that could be spent to upgrade the 25 major intersections and 50 smaller ones.

Sharply Worded Report

Transportation consultants hired by the city are siding with the homeowners. In a sharply worded report to committee members last week, the consultants warned that “the most ambitious level of intersection improvements will be required” to avoid gridlock.

The developers’ “trip fees” are the key to the boulevard growth-control proposal, which the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to consider in mid-November.

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Committee members envision that the boulevard can handle another 8.6 million square feet of commercial development and 30,000 more car trips a day by the year 2010 if traffic signals are upgraded and key intersections are widened.

There is about 19 million square feet of commercial development on the boulevard, mostly in Encino and Sherman Oaks. Motorists now make about 70,000 trips a day on the thoroughfare.

It remained unclear Wednesday whether the conclusions reached last week by the committee’s transportation consultants will be publicly discussed today when a city-sponsored workshop is held between 5 and 9 p.m. at Walter Reed Junior High School, 4525 Irvine Ave., North Hollywood.

Discussion Session

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Today’s discussion session is intended for Studio City and Sherman Oaks residents and business interests.

A workshop for Encino, Tarzana and Woodland Hills will be from 5 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday at Portola Junior High School, 18720 Linnet St., Tarzana.

Committee members will continue their weekly meetings until early August, when they expect to complete the final version of their boulevard ordinance proposal. A formal public hearing on that recommendation is expected to be held the week of Aug. 21.

Nick Brestoff, a Woodland Hills lawyer who is a member of the committee’s majority, termed the $5,000 fee “a dead issue” that will not be included in the final committee recommendation.

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“The last report from the consultant added in 50 intersections we’d never considered before. They made a giant leap of logic without explaining what they thought the improvements at smaller intersections ought to be or what you get in return,” Brestoff said Wednesday. “The consultants’ report was very weak.”

But Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino and a member of the committee’s minority, disagreed.

‘Need More Money’

“It became obvious to the consultants that they need more money to solve the problems. Just dealing with 25 intersections wouldn’t have begun to solve the problems,” Silver said.

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Ignoring the consultants’ view that signals and traffic flows at smaller intersections need to be coordinated with larger nearby intersections “would be giving a dishonest picture” of Ventura Boulevard’s future, Silver said Wednesday.

Silver said the last-minute recommendations from consultants at Barton-Aschman Inc., the firm hired by the city to work with the committee, echoed suggestions made two months ago by homeowners on the committee.

That minority report--signed by homeowner representatives from Sherman Oaks, Encino, Tarzana and Woodland Hills--labeled the $2,000 fee “grossly inadequate.”

“We have historically always underestimated the needs to accomplish all the mitigation efforts and improvements,” stated the May 9 report, given to city planning commissioners.

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‘Plan Properly’

“Let us plan properly and start with at least a $5,000 trip generation fee as was used in Westwood,” the report said.

Under the Barton-Aschman recommendation, developers would be required to pay trip fees on a sliding scale that would be highest in areas that are already most congested.

That would come to $6,610 per trip from new projects in Sherman Oaks and Encino; $5,806 in Studio City; $3,467 in Tarzana, and $2,735 in Woodland Hills.

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Those supporting improvements at all 75 of the boulevard’s intersections say that about $93 million of the projected $116 million in revenue from the trip fees would be used to acquire additional rights-of-way to add new lanes at intersections.

Silver said money will not solve all of the boulevard’s traffic headaches.

“No amount of money will help the intersection of Sepulveda and Ventura,” he said. “The report says it’s not practical to improve that intersection any further.”


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