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Van Nuys Renewal Plan to Get Rewrite

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday ordered a rewrite of a blueprint for the revitalization of the Van Nuys central district, saying the present draft of the plan will not attract the investors needed to restore the area as a business hub.

“I think the plan as proposed is doomed to failure” because it doesn’t allow developers to construct projects large enough to make them sufficiently profitable, said Commissioner Theodore Stein Jr. “There is nothing there that would pull Van Nuys out of its doldrums.”

Joining Stein in criticizing the Specific Plan for the Van Nuys Central Business District was Commission President William G. Luddy. He urged a dozen community leaders who attended a public comment session on the plan Thursday afternoon to work with the city planning staff to come up with a better document.

“Let’s get a plan that does something,” he said.

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The plan presented Thursday covers 320 acres along Van Nuys Boulevard between Vanowen and Oxnard streets. Once the central shopping district for the entire San Fernando Valley, the area in recent years has deteriorated as prestige shops have left and been replaced by bail bondsmen and secondhand stores; the boulevard lacks landscaping and has become cluttered with unattractive signs.

The City Council recommended in 1976 that a revitalization plan be developed. The plan presented Thursday by City Planner Deuk Perrin proposes strictly regulating the height and facades of buildings to make them more attractive and urges the planting of new landscaping that would include Mexican fan palms and oleander at 30-foot intervals.

A key element of the plan would allow an increase in the density of construction to make the area more attractive to developers. For instance, the proposal would allow the owner of a 10,000-square-foot lot to put up a building with 12,500 square feet of floor space. But the commissioners said that developers should be allowed as much as 60,000 square feet on such lots.

“There has to be a carrot” to attract developers, Stein said. “I don’t see the carrot.”

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He pointed out that when the city sent out a request for a proposal to expand the Civic Center on Van Nuys Boulevard, not one developer responded, demonstrating that more must be done to allow builders to make a profit.

But some members of the community expressed reservations about increasing the density of commercial buildings in the area. Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., said more development would add to the area’s severe traffic problems.

With the economy in a recession and a mass transit rail system still years off, “this plan is just pie in the sky and should be abandoned.” Schultz said. He said that what Van Nuys needs most is more parkland.

In sending the document back, Luddy pleaded for community members who attended the hearing to help the staff write the next blueprint for the future of Van Nuys.

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