Despite interruptions and insults from a few environmental activists, the Los Angeles City Council moved closer to approving the DreamWorks SKG entertainment center at Playa Vista on Friday by authorizing modifications of an existing building permit.
The council chamber was packed with opponents and supporters of the development that would house the high-tech studio and corporate headquarters for the fledgling entertainment company headed by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
Despite the verbal assaults from some in the crowd, a majority of the neighbors, activists and business people expressed support for the project, and council members voted 12 to 1 in support of the two motions to modify it.
The modifications to the original plans include increasing parking space on the proposed site and constructing a 7.5-acre lake. They also state that an environmental impact report has been completed that is favorable to the project.
As part of the package approved Friday, the council also authorized use of land--once designated for offices and homes--for the project to build the first major new studio in Southern California in more than half a century.
The site of the project near Marina del Rey has long been a subject of debate between environmental groups and developers.
Located on a patch of desolate land at the foot of scrub brush bluffs facing the ocean, Playa Vista is adjacent to the Ballona Wetlands, about 270 acres of fragile area now preserved as bird and wildlife habitat.
Project supporters at the meeting included representatives of the Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce and the faculty from Loyola Marymount University's department of television production.
Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, whose district includes Playa Vista, expressed dismay with project opponents. She said the studios will be built more than a mile from the wetlands sanctuary and will bring in nearly $500 million in new taxes and fees over 15 years for city, county and state governments.
"As a public official, I am obligated to look at the facts," said Galanter, who won her seat in 1987 on an anti-development and pro-environment platform. "People say this is the last open space available on the Westside. But the Westside has the beach and Kenneth Hahn State Park."
Opponents, who were repeatedly asked by Council President John Ferraro to keep quiet, several times came close to being removed from the building by police officers. One group, which said it represented the Shoshone Gabrielino Indian Nation, refused to release the microphone to other speakers and would not budge until police officers approached them. Councilman Nate Holden stood up and asked them to sit down, saying that he would ensure that they could speak.
The Shoshone representatives vowed that they would use any means necessary to oppose development on land they contend is ancestral burial ground. However, they appeared to be confused about the site of the development, because it is not planned on their ancestral burial ground.
Speaking in favor of the project were environmental groups such as Friends of the Ballona Wetlands and the National Audubon Society. Other opponents were frustrated that time ran out before they could speak. "We never got a chance to respond," said Jeffrey Jones, head of the Sierra Club's coastal protection committee.