The Los Angeles City Council has tentatively approved an ordinance that would give the city unprecedented power to control large-scale commercial and industrial growth in selected parts of the Westside, but council members said the law may be revised in coming months to make it fairer to potential developers.
The council voted 11 to 0 last week to adopt the measure, which grew out of controversy over the Westside Pavilion, a large Westwood shopping mall that opened this spring to complaints over traffic and parking problems. Existing zoning permitted the project, at the corner of Westwood and Pico boulevards, to be built without city approval.
The new law would give the city regulatory power over such projects on parts of Pico, Westwood and Sepulveda boulevards. The council's three-member planning committee, chaired by Councilman Howard Finn, has recommended final adoption of the measure Friday.
But Finn said he supported the ordinance with the understanding that traffic and parking guidelines would be written into the measure as soon as possible--perhaps when the first new projects come up for review. That should occur sometime in the next three months, he said.
Without firm standards, Finn said, "some (developers) may think they can put in a certain amount of parking and deal with traffic in a certain way. But technically we can turn them down. I think if a project's unacceptable, they should know right up front . . . not have to go through a lot of extra work."
City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who introduced the measure, said he has agreed to work with Finn's staff to consider development guidelines. But Yaroslavsky expressed skepticism that reliable guidelines could be established in the near future, saying that is not the intent of the ordinance.
The law is designed to give the city control over pending projects while a new and tougher zoning plan is written for the area--a process that could take three years, he said.
"The more specific the rules are, the better everyone feels," Yaroslavsky said. "We'll do it as fast as we can. But I don't think a gun should be held to the city's head."
Still, Yaroslavsky said he thinks council members were "on the same wavelength" in adopting the measure. He said the law would help control an expected glut of new commercial projects near the Westside Pavilion and halt the advance of high-rise office towers in the Sepulveda corridor, an area city planners would like to preserve as industrial land.
The ordinance affects Westwood Boulevard between Pico and Santa Monica boulevards; Pico Boulevard between the San Diego Freeway and 20th Century Fox Studios; portions of Overland Avenue between Pico Boulevard and Ashby Avenue, and the industrial area bounded by Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards, Pearl Street and the San Diego Freeway.
"If this works here--and we get quality development here, not quantity development--then this might work in others areas of the city," Yaroslavsky said. "No city worth its salt just allows developers to go in (without hearings) and turn a community upside down."
Finn predicted the approach taken by the ordinance would become a useful alternative to building moratoriums that have been proposed in some congested portions of the city, including Westwood Village, where a moratorium is currently in effect. Because of the effect on property rights, some council members have strong philosophical objections to measures that block all growth, Finn said.