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Dramatic Changes to Reshape International Airport Area

October 06, 1985|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

LAX. Even the code name for this international airport evokes excitement, a feeling of change, a recollection of major road and terminal work completed on schedule in time for the 1984 Olympics.

But what of the areas around LAX? Through the years, they have changed too--from berry patches, oil refineries and raw dirt to slick high-rises, modern industrial buildings and park-like research centers as well as retail and residential developments. Yet, none of these changes was so dramatic as some that are planned.

Like Playa Vista, the Howard Hughes Development Corp.'s 15-year, master-planned commercial/residential project on 926 acres near Marina del Rey.

"That's a city," William S. Goodglick, a real estate broker who has worked in the airport area for nearly 29 years, said.

"It hasn't emerged as quickly as Summa (parent company of the Howard Hughes Development Corp.) would like, but I think it will do for LAX what Century City did for Beverly Hills." Both profited, he explained, by development of the old 20th Century Fox studio lot.

Playa Vista, which has been opposed by environmentalists and marina businessmen, is undergoing hearings for annexation to the city of Los Angeles, and construction work isn't even expected to begin on its infrastructure until the fall of 1986, but Goodglick predicts that Playa Vista will "remarkably change" the skyline of what he calls "the Greater South Bay/LAX area" in the next 10 years.

Commercial Development

That skyline will also be changed by another master-planned project on airport property. Donald A. Miller, manager of airport properties, explained:

"It will be on 250 acres on the north side of LAX, and it involves recycling the property from old residential (lots acquired a few years ago by the airport after many lawsuits and other proceedings) to commercial and light office/industrial use, including some hotels. A major road extension of Westchester Parkway will also be built. When this is all built out, it will probably represent $900 million to $1 billion (in valuation)."

City Ordinance Awaited

The project, along with development of a 1,000-room hotel or office/hotel complex on an eight-acre parcel the airport owns on the southwest corner of Airport and Century boulevards, will move ahead, he said, when a proposed city ordinance relating to real estate development and traffic concerns in the LAX area is resolved. Anticipating this, the Department of Airport Commissioners decided to hire Albert C. Martin as the architectural firm in charge of master planning.

The proposed ordinance, known as the Los Angeles Coastal Transportation Corridor Specific Plan, was signed by the mayor Sept. 24. It will become law on Oct. 22.

The plan is a first to alleviate traffic. "Nothing like it has been done anywhere else in the country," Dave Grannis, one of Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell's aides, said.

The ordinance will require developers of new industrial and commercial projects west of the San Diego Freeway, between El Segundo and Santa Monica (including Playa Vista), to pay for traffic improvements and, among other measures, institute car pools to reduce traffic. A developer will pay a one-time fee of $2,010 for each afternoon rush-hour trip generated by the new development. The fee was based on the cost of public improvements to accommodate a car over a 25-year period.

Through the Southern California Assn. of Governments, Russell initiated a study four years ago of several South Bay cities that led to the plan. "She saw that there would be a problem," Grannis said.

Anyone who gets stuck during rush hour on the San Diego Freeway between Century Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue can see that there is already a traffic problem there, but Russell's plan will do little to ease this situation because the new ordinance will only involve streets in the city of Los Angeles. Traffic in El Segundo, which increased significantly with construction during the past five years of three office towers (one 24 stories in height), has been mitigated by a program using traffic officers at major intersections during rush hours, Goodglick (who proposed and helped fund the plan) said, but little if anything is being done to relieve traffic jams in neighboring cities.

Stanley A. Moore (whose 12-year-old Carson firm, Overton, Moore & Associates, has developed more than 12 million square feet of office, industrial and business space--much of it in the "Greater South Bay/LAX" vicinity) acknowledged that traffic in the beach cities is "terrible." However, he added with a smile, "traffic creates value. That's a real estate axiom, and I have to agree with it."

He has made some efforts toward alleviating traffic, though, by developing low-rise instead of high-rise projects. His firm just completed the $140-million El Segundo Research Center and $40-million University Commercenter in the Carson area and is currently working on the $70-million Redondo Beach Business Court on the former site of Aviation High School.

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