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Official Clears Way for Woodland Hills High-Rise Complex

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Plans to build a major Ventura Boulevard office complex--twin 13-story towers and a 10-story building--moved forward Wednesday with city approval of most of the construction plans for the Woodland Hills project.

Despite protests from homeowners, Zoning Administrator John Parker gave a virtual go-ahead to developers of Gateway Plaza, planned for the northeast corner of Ventura and Topanga Canyon boulevards. Parker imposed several technical conditions for construction involving curbs, fire sprinklers and sidewalks.

He said he remained skeptical about the development’s proposed size of 518,385 square feet on the 7.8-acre parcel and may recommend that the square footage be further scaled down. Parker will issue a final decision by Sept. 18. The developers, Ventura & Topanga Partners, originally proposed a 740,500-square-foot complex before the city asked them to scale it down.

Gateway Plaza was first proposed in 1982, before the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan limited building heights to three stories. The project has already been approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council, and is supported by Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the area.

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The effect of the tower complex was incorporated into the Specific Plan, Braude aide Cindy A. Miscikowski said. Parker’s decision is final unless it is appealed to the Planning Commission, Miscikowski said.

“This is the final act in a long-running play,” said Paul Clarke, a spokesman for the developer.

At Wednesday’s public hearing before the city’s Zoning Committee, a handful of homeowners complained that the complex will bring increased traffic and noise to the area, as well as overtax the water and sewer systems.

Traffic engineers are trying to “defy the laws of physics” by funneling traffic through one exit in the proposed project instead of three as in the existing one-story shopping center on the site, homeowner Gordon Murley said.

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Murley said improper notice of the hearing was given because posted signs contained the wrong council district. But the Planning Department staff said this was corrected in time to notify all interested parties.

The complex would replace a series of smaller shops, including a pharmacy, pet store, barber shop, restaurant, cleaners, clothing store and a bank. Murley said nearby homeowners who can walk a few blocks for these services will be forced to drive their cars, increasing traffic even more.

But Miscikowski said the proposed complex is attractive because of its open space. The three buildings and a six-story parking structure are to be set back so far from the street that the complex will resemble the Federal Building in Westwood, she said.

“You see all this green before you even notice the height of the buildings,” she said.

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The development, which would feature 165 feet of open space along Ventura Boulevard, would be limited to office use with the exception of one restaurant. Almost half of the project--3.7 acres--is planned for landscaping and walkways, Clarke said.


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