Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo complained Tuesday that five years of delays in completing the Ventura Boulevard specific plan have been a boon to developers, but city employees still could not tell him exactly when they would finish the growth control plan.
They held out hope that the council might receive the plan in October.
"Developers are racing to beat the clock" and get their projects approved before the council adopts a specific plan, and "so far they are winning," Woo said in remarks before the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
"Building is going on faster than planning," he said. "At this rate, there won't be anything on Ventura Boulevard left to protect."
Fred Kramer, vice president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., agreed. "While the city has been fiddling, Ventura Boulevard has been burning," Kramer told the planning panel.
Woo, who represents parts of Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, said he is particularly concerned about enacting the specific plan in time to block the plans of JAMA Corp. to build a four-story office complex at the former site of the Scene of the Crime Bookstore. Existing development rules would permit the JAMA project, but the specific plan would limit it to two stories.
Woo made his remarks as the planning committee, of which he is a member, got a status report from city officials on the progress of the plan.
Woo set no absolute deadline for the staff, nor did he get any ironclad promises from them on when the plan would be completed, but Deputy City Atty. Jeri Burge told him it would be reasonable to expect the plan to be ready in early October.
The city's Planning Commission approved a draft of the plan on March 22. The next step in the process is for that measure to be presented to the council, after the technical language has been honed by the planning staff and the city attorney's office.
As Woo complained of the delays, it was learned that Mayor Tom Bradley also recently urged the Planning Department to finish the plan. "I am concerned about the delays that have occurred and the time it is taking for the city to do its part," Bradley said in an Aug. 8 letter to Planning Director Ken Topping.
City officials told Woo at Tuesday's planning panel meeting that the final draft of the plan should be completed by the end of September. Even so, the plan will have to be circulated for final comment and possible revision among those departments that will be charged with implementing it, Burge said.
A council rule requires such comment.
When Burge gave no firm dates for completing the plan and sending it to the City Council for its consideration, Woo and planning committee Chairman Councilman Hal Bernson agreed to hold a hearing Oct. 2 to take a second look at the plan's status.
Possibly at that juncture, Woo said, it might be necessary to adopt interim planning regulations for the corridor, tougher than the ones currently in place.
In a later interview, Woo blamed the slowness in getting the plan adopted on general bureaucratic inertia, not on any behind the scenes lobbying by developers.
The draft of the specific plan approved by the Planning Commission last March calls for limiting to 8.6-million square feet the amount of new growth permitted along the 17-mile Ventura Boulevard corridor. The growth potential of individual properties would be determined by the kind of traffic generated by the proposed development, and developers would pay large fees to the city to finance traffic improvements.