Two conflicting visions for how the city’s so-called industrial area should be developed collided Tuesday during yet another public hearing on the area.
Since 1988, the city has been conducting studies and having meetings to determine the future of 43 acres that include private and city-owned land bordered by Civic Center Drive, Beverly Boulevard, Maple Drive and an alley north of Burton Way.
Much of the private land is already developed and is home to the Hilton Hotel headquarters, a new post office and public utility companies. Although those properties are not likely to change, about seven acres of private land and nine acres of city-owned land are prime sites for redevelopment.
The City Council this week was set to consider a plan sanctioned by the Planning Commission that would rezone the area from manufacturing to commercial and public service. The plan envisions a pedestrian-oriented promenade of small cafes and shops, office buildings suitable for corporate headquarters and perhaps a hotel--all surrounded by lots of open space and public art on privately held lands.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, however, an informal alliance of civic and homeowner groups stepped forth with its own vision for the area. So, five years after the community debate started, and two years after the Planning Commission approved a plan for the area, the issue was returned once again to the planning panel for additional hearings.
The competing plan presented Tuesday was a joint effort of the North Beverly Hills Homeowners Assn., the Beverly Hills Municipal League and the League of Women Voters of Beverly Hills.
Reflecting concerns about the traffic that more retail and office space would generate in residential neighborhoods, the alliance’s plan calls for no further retail development in the area and limiting office buildings to two stories instead of the three stories proposed in the plan recommended by the Planning Commission.
The group also urged the council to acquire private land as it becomes available to add to the nine acres reserved for municipal uses.
Even a garden city needs a tool shed, said Dorothy Kaufman, president of the Beverly Hills Municipal League. If the city is to continue to provide its own public services and remain an independent city, it has to reserve land for those services, she said.
Extensive retail and office development would crowd out such city uses as a waste transfer station or a water treatment plant because they would be perceived as undesirable neighbors, Kaufman said.
Peter Meltzer, a spokesman for the informal alliance, said nothing in the area should be allowed to compete with what already exists in the city’s business district. “You’re competing with yourself” by adding new retail space, he said.
Meltzer added that the council should not assume that only the seven acres of private land facing redevelopment will be affected by a master plan for the area. A building may be used as a corporate headquarters today, but “what’s to say there won’t be some other use in five years?” he said.
Noting that Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the council was hearing the group’s plan, Councilman Allan Alexander recommended that the council send the city’s plan back to the Planning Commission for further hearings so the differences in the two plans can be reconciled.
The council agreed to hold new hearings after the commission returns with its recommendations.