In response to neighborhood concern about parking problems around Pico and Westwood boulevards, the developer of the Westwood Pavilion says the situation will improve when the new shopping center opens in May.
Pointing to the parked cars crowded along Pico and Westwood boulevards and jammed into side streets, Richard Green said, "There's no parking on the streets right now, and our place hasn't opened yet."
He said, however, that when the existing five-story parking structure behind the May Co. store is revamped and additional parking is added atop and behind the Pavilion's new building, the congestion in the area will be relieved.
But residents are concerned that the center's interior parking will not be easily accessible to the three major ground-floor restaurants in the complex, and are expected to raise that point at a hearing next week.
They said the company should install a direct staircase linking the underground parking area with the restaurants.
"People will be looking for ways to get above, and it's not clear to me how they're going to find those restaurants," said Don Genovese, representative of the Westwood Gardens Civic Assn., which includes the area south of the center.
"Without a direct staircase, people are going to want to park on the residential streets, because they'll see the restaurant and want to walk right to it," he said.
But Green, president of Australia-based Westfield Inc., said diners will be able to easily find their way via stairs that go from the parking area directly to sidewalks near the restaurants.
These and other concerns are scheduled to come up at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in a hearing at West Los Angeles City Hall, 1645 Corinth Ave., where an official will consider 18 requests for permits to serve alcohol at restaurants in the shopping center.
Residents are not the only ones worried about the impending opening of the Westside's fifth major shopping center. Managers of rival establishments are also concerned.
"I could give you a whole list of negatives, but I'd rather dwell on the positive aspects," said Michael Strle, general manager of the Century City Shopping Center, which is just a few minutes away.
"The more retail there is on the Westside, the more we all benefit," he said.
Strle acknowledged that his 20-year-old shopping center, now being remodeled, has lost clientele to newer rivals such as Beverly Center and the Santa Monica Mall, but he said many shoppers have returned.
At Beverly Center, assistant manager Carrol Beals said, "Since we're in an urban area, there's plenty of customers to go around. . . . It's a very large and diverse market base, and I really think there's room for everybody."
Located on the site of the old Westland Shopping Center, the new Westside Pavilion will include a renovated May Co., a new Nordstrom's and about 145 smaller shops along a three-story arcade between the two department stores.
Deals have been signed on 120 of the leases, developers said, and they expect near-100% occupancy by opening day, now scheduled for May 3.
"With all these shopping centers around here, who'd think there was a need for another one? But there is," Green said.
Since the site was already zoned for commercial purposes, the city has had little discretion over the new development, which is almost twice as big as the old mall.
However, according to city officials, any larger development, while compatible with the city's general plan, would have required a zoning change.
"We knew our limits and we stayed within them. . . . It was obvious to us that the community would not have accepted more retail than the zoning would allow," Green said.
Additionally, he said, Westfield has cooperated with neighbors by guaranteeing that Vons will install a supermarket to replace its old store at the site.
"Most people think the shopping center is going to upgrade the area," said Ginny Kruger, planning deputy for Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who established a task force to deal with problems arising from the project.
"There are people who don't want it, but I bet they'll be at Nordstrom's the day it's opened," she said.