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Business Panel Offers Plan on L.A. Traffic and Growth

April 20, 1985|RICH CONNELL | Times Staff Writer

In response to fears of traffic gridlocks in the congested core of the downtown Los Angeles business district, a panel of top business leaders on Friday proposed a series of measures that they hope will permit continued development and stifle talk of a building moratorium.

Endorsing many suggestions made last December in a major city traffic report, the study by a blue-ribbon committee appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley called for expanded minibus services and requirements for increased use of ride-sharing and other alternative means of transportation.

The panel also called for an annual fee on downtown businesses to help pay for better local bus service and abandonment of the concept, initiated on Bunker Hill, of using elevated walkways between buildings.

In a departure from the earlier study's recommendations, however, the panel said it wants to eliminate requirements for on-site parking in new downtown buildings. Instead of parking in the heart of downtown, the committee said, workers could park in outlying lots and take shuttles to their offices.

The recommendation places the panel at odds with city transportation officials who did the earlier study and who say they want a sizable share of parking incorporated into new developments.

At a press conference, Bradley praised the efforts of the committee members, representing some of downtown's largest corporations, and said "the tough part" of working out differences and "bringing to fruition" a traffic improvement program will now begin. The mayor said he will refer the report to the city Transportation Department for review.

The business panel's report comes at a time of growing concern about the effect of about 27 million square feet of additional commercial projects either under construction or on the drawing boards for the 3.4-square-mile Central Business District. The concerns have been heightened recently by gloomy prospects for funding of the Metro Rail subway project.

In December, the Department of Transportation's study of the Central Business District warned that regular gridlocks on downtown streets could occur by 1990, unless immediate steps are taken to improve the transportation network. The study recommended 71 transportation improvements, including additional one-way streets, better traffic and parking enforcement and computer-regulated traffic lights.

Business leaders on Friday said they support many of the recommendations.

However, a dispute exists between the business leaders and transportation planners over the amount of parking required downtown.

On-Site Parking

One of the committee's proposals would remove requirements that developers provide on-site parking in buildings constructed in a "traffic impact zone" bounded by Olympic Boulevard, the Harbor Freeway, the Hollywood Freeway and Broadway.

Developers in this zone would be allowed to provide at least 25% of their parking at less costly, off-site lots served by shuttles to their buildings, according to the proposal. If they wanted to, they could have all of their parking off site, it was recommended.

Currently, developers must provide all parking within 1,500 feet of their buildings at an average cost of $25,000 per space in the downtown core.

William Forsythe, who oversaw traffic planning for the Olympics and helped prepare the business leader's report, said the leaders' recommendations would permit continuing development downtown, without substantially increasing traffic congestion.

Number of Spaces

Forsythe said he does not share the concerns of some officials that workers may not accept off-site parking and that competition for a reduced number of spaces in the business district will worsen problems.

"I think it will work," he said. "When people are given reasonable alternatives and it costs less, then a percentage will accept it."

One of those who is skeptical, however, is Councilman Howard Finn, chairman of the council's Planning Committee.

"We are going to be exacerbating our problems by not enough (parking) for the new buildings and taking away parking (through new construction) for the old buildings," he said.

Finn said more parking should be required and the density of development should be limited.

Several months ago, Finn suggested that a building moratorium downtown might be necessary. He made the suggestion after Reagan Administration officials first said they wanted to drop plans to fund Metro Rail, which had been counted on to help relieve congestion.

'Very Difficult'

"As it is now, it's very difficult to get in and out of downtown," he said.

Bradley, who has had strong support from the downtown business community, said he is "not going to get into any speculation" as to when it might be necessary to consider limiting development.

"We are doing many things," he said. "We are going to improve the flow of traffic downtown."

The 27-member blue-ribbon committee was chaired by former Los Angeles Police Commissioner Stephen D. Gavin, chairman of the board of Gavin, Abel & Flanigan. It included such business figures as Rodney W. Rood, who is vice president of Atlantic Richfield Co. and chairman of the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles, and Christopher L. Stewart, president of the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles.

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