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Suit Filed Over Plan for Ventura Boulevard : Sherman Oaks: A developer says the city illegally blocked his three-story building. He wants the law overturned or his project exempted.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The developer of a controversial commercial project proposed in Sherman Oaks has launched the first legal challenge to the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan, which established growth controls along the San Fernando Valley’s “main street.”

Jacky Gamliel, a Beverly Hills developer who wants to build a three-story, 85,000-square-foot office and retail building on the site of the abandoned Scene of the Crime bookstore, has filed a $10-million lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the city of Los Angeles and Councilman Michael Woo charging that his project was illegally blocked.

At a news conference Saturday, Benjamin M. Reznik, Gamliel’s attorney, said Gamliel applied for building permits in August, 1989. At that time, the development complied with land-use regulations. But opposition to the project from Sherman Oaks homeowners and Woo forced city agencies to delay action on the application until after the Jan. 14, 1991, start date of the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan.

Because of new development restrictions contained in the plan, the project as originally envisioned cannot be built. Gamliel has refused to scale back the project to comply with the Specific Plan. Gamliel stands to lose about $10 million if the original project is blocked, Reznik said.

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“We’re seeking to either have the plan overturned or just not applied to this project,” Reznik said Saturday in front of the proposed project along the 13600 block of Ventura Boulevard.

Responding to the suit, Woo said: “The developer is way off base. He’s desperately trying to find some way to proceed with the project. I’m confident that the city has followed the rules at each step of the process and that the lawsuit will fail.”

Woo repeated his assertion that the development was out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and with the pedestrian-style atmosphere he has tried to preserve in Sherman Oaks. Homeowners felt the project would bring too much noise and congestion.

In signing the plan into law on Jan. 14, acting Mayor John Ferraro also enacted emergency restrictions on the Gamliel project, including a two-story height limit.

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Fred N. Gaines, a Reznik associate, accused the city of violating the California Permit Streamlining Act, which requires cities to act on a building permit application within one year. He claimed Woo and others participated in a “conspiracy” to rob Gamliel of his property rights.


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