For those with fond memories of the quaint communities that once dotted the sprawling San Fernando Valley, Ventura Boulevard was “main street,” home to neighborhood shops and markets--like other small towns across America.
But over the years, residents of the mostly affluent communities along the thoroughfare have watched angrily while bulldozers have plowed through familiar haunts to make way for mammoth commercial projects. Down went the boulevard’s hometown ambience and pedestrian traffic, and up went the headaches of choking car traffic and parking.
But now, after a five-year struggle, residents have succeeded in controlling further development along a 17-mile stretch of Ventura Boulevard from Woodland Hills to Studio City. Earlier this month, Councilman John Ferraro, acting as mayor during Tom Bradley’s absence, approved the sweeping Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan.
The plan limits the size, height and scale of commercial structures along the boulevard for years to come. It imposed a 60-day ban on issuance of any permits to build on Ventura Boulevard--whether or not projects conform to the specific plan. It sets limits on the number of vehicle trips generated by new developments in each of the thoroughfare’s five communities--Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Tarzana and Woodland Hills. Commercial developers and existing property owners will foot the bill for traffic improvements.
Not everyone is happy of course, especially developers. Some had questioned if the plan was necessary: The rampant development of the late 1980s, which brought office towers to parts of Encino and Sherman Oaks, has slowed dramatically with the recession. But if times were better, would they continue to over-develop the boulevard?
Ferraro and the Los Angeles City Council did right in responding to appeals and concerns of the Valley’s residents. Proper planning will enable their communities to grow--but at a livable pace and design.