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Porter Ranch Project Given Immunity From Most Growth Controls

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council on Friday granted the Porter Ranch project, a 1,300-acre development proposed in the northern San Fernando Valley, 20 years of immunity from most growth-control laws.

In so doing, the council ratified a contract with the project’s investors designed to protect it from change in the city’s political climate.

Investors became especially interested in securing such protection when City Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the area, nearly lost his seat in the spring election to candidates who campaigned against the project.

The contract, worked out in almost a year of negotiations, offers protection from future attempts to impose restrictions similar to Proposition U, a measure passed by voters in 1986 to limit commercial development.

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In return, Porter Ranch Development Co. agreed to pay $2.5 million toward two major traffic-improvement projects in the northwest San Fernando Valley and to make early payments on required city fees to complete other traffic-related improvements.

State law requires that cities obtain extra concessions from developers who are granted such contracts, known as development agreements. If the concessions are not beyond what the cities could otherwise exact, the agreements are invalid, according to state law.

The Porter Ranch project would be one of the largest developments in the city’s history.

Led by Beverly Hills builder Nathan Shapell, the developers plan 6 million square feet of commercial development and 3,395 residential units north of Chatsworth.

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Although getting the agreement approved was of key importance, Shapell conceded that the project’s future is at the mercy of the recession.

“It all depends on the market,” Shapell said, when asked when ground-breaking would begin.

Because the 10-1 approval vote was not unanimous, another ballot must be taken when the council reconvenes after its Christmas recess.

The agreement would exempt the development from many growth-control measures--especially locally focused legislation that might seek to reduce the size of the project or to amend the Porter Ranch Specific Plan, a blueprint for developing the area approved by the council in July, 1990.

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But the project is not immune from citywide health and safety measures enacted specifically to curtail growth as a way to solve shortages of water, sewage facilities or garbage-dump space.

The city also insisted that Porter Ranch be required to pay any future low-cost housing fees. The city is contemplating imposing such fees on commercial projects to help finance construction of lower-cost housing.


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