As work crews rushed to complete the Westside Pavilion earlier this year, neighbors of the giant pastel shopping center were scrambling too, signing petitions to demand preferential parking in the Rancho Park neighborhood that they feared would be jammed with shoppers.
The neighbors submitted the petitions and are waiting for the city of Los Angeles to decide whether to limit parking to people who live in the area. Preferential parking zones could be approved by Christmas. The pavilion was completed in June.
But many residents said the parking zones will be too little, too late. They bemoan the fact that no public hearings were held before construction of the pavilion, which stretches four blocks along Pico Boulevard between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue.
The experience has spawned a homeowners alliance that is determined to have a say in development of Rancho Park and West Los Angeles. The Westside Homeowners Alliance has persuaded City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky to propose an ordinance that would require the Los Angeles Planning Commission and City Council to approve most new commercial projects in the area.
The Planning Commission will consider the ordinance at 10:30 this morning at the Van Nuys Women's Club, 14836 Sylvan St.
Yaroslavsky's planning deputy, Ginny Kruger, said the ordinance would prevent large projects like the Westside Pavilion from being built without city reviews.
Westfield Inc., a Santa Monica subsidiary of an Australian development firm, built the pavilion without a public hearing or approval from the City Council. The company needed only routine permits because zoning on the property permitted the construction.
"The ordinance requires that certain projects over a threshold be reviewed case-by-case and particularly with checks as to the parking requirements," Kruger said. "If you have a rare-coin dealer and you are going to open a trendy new restaurant . . . that will generate a lot more parking demand."
The ordinance would require that projects exceeding three stories or a floor area of 30,000 square feet undergo Planning Commission and City Council reviews. Projects that would draw more traffic to the community also would be subject to review.
Specific Areas of Control
The ordinance would control commercial development along selected thoroughfares, including Sepulveda and Westwood boulevards between Santa Monica and Pico boulevards and Pico Boulevard between the 20th-Century Fox Studio and the San Diego Freeway.
"The entire Rancho Park and Sepulveda Boulevard area is undergoing a change," Yaroslavsky said. "This transition needs to be guided and regulated."
New projects proposed for the area include a 165,000-square-foot shopping center on Pico across the street from the pavilion and office towers of 15 and 18 stories on Sepulveda near Santa Monica Boulevard.
Residents said they are also concerned about the opening of a 24-hour Jack-in-the-Box restaurant on Pico and the possible relocation of an RTD bus depot to Pico.
"The cumulative effect of these projects every three or four blocks is what we are worried about," said Sara Berman, a spokesman for the homeowners alliance.
"That is one reason that we have formed the alliance, because we can trade information on new projects. We found that one group would know some things and the others would know other things, but they really all affect the same area."
The alliance represents about 3,000 homeowners from six associations: West of Westwood Homeowners, Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners, Putney Road Neighborhood, Westwood Gardens Civic, Cheviot Hills Homeowners and Friends of Westwood.
Plans that now govern the area have been ineffective, homeowners said. The West Los Angeles Community Plan, adopted by the city in 1974, is not specific and does not have the weight of a zoning ordinance, Kruger said.
Yaroslavsky's proposal is designed to control development and give the city time to redraw zoning maps, Kruger said. New zoning for the area has been discussed for more than two years but could require two more years to complete, Kruger said.
"We were just doing a number of other zoning actions and it just hasn't happened yet," she said. "There wasn't a need to do anything until recently when we began seeing a number of changes in that area."
All work for the Planning Department has also been slowed by the court-mandated redrawing of zoning maps in other parts of the city. The massive project has tied up most of the city's planning staff.
The new zoning plan might include incentives to builders, Kruger said. For instance, a developer adding extra parking or providing a service needed in the community might be allowed to build a large project.
Residents have said they do not want dry cleaners and shoe repair shops to be replaced by chic restaurants and croissant parlors.