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City Proceeds on Growth Guidelines Despite Plans to Reroute Subway

October 13, 1985|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

City planners are proceeding to develop guidelines to limit development at key intersections in the Wilshire and Beverly-Fairfax areas, despite plans to reroute the Metro Rail subway system and eliminate three stations in order to avoid possible concentrations of methane gas.

"We're moving ahead," said Ed Johnson, senior city planner, whose staff was directed by the Planning Commission last week to proceed with work on a document known as the Transit Corridor Specific Plan.

The proposal has met with opposition from major property owners because it imposes growth limits that are stricter, in some cases, than the zoning now in effect at proposed subway station sites.

"The plan supposedly has more density but in fact we'd have much less," said Al Landolph, property manager for CBS, which shares ownership with the A. F. Gilmore Co. of one of the largest tracts of undeveloped land in the city.

The two firms have been exploring various options for developing the adjoining properties on Fairfax Avenue between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street, land now occupied by Farmers Market and the Television City complex.

One option calls for retaining the Farmers Market and adding retail stores, a hotel, theaters and an exposition hall for high-technology items.

If existing zoning were retained, the firms would have greater freedom to put together a large-scale project.

By contrast, the Transit Corridor Specific Plan would allow for more growth at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue than would be permitted today.

"That's mainly because it (the CBS-Gilmore land) is such a huge piece of property and because of the impacts it would generate in the surrounding community," Johnson said.

Generally, he said, the planners hope to concentrate growth around the stations and limit it in the residential areas elsewhere along the route.

The CBS-Gilmore tract would have adjoined a proposed Metro Rail station, but an agreement reached in Washington last month provided for that station to be eliminated, along with those at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard and at La Brea Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

The agreement was part of a compromise under which Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) removed his objections to allocating the funds for the first year of Metro Rail construction. Waxman was concerned about drilling through an area with a risk of methane explosion.

A Waxman aide said Wednesday that "there'll be no funding for any portion of the subway that goes . . . up Wilshire Boulevard. In order to get any money at all, they've got to commit to abandon any plans to tunnel through that area."

The Reagan Administration, which opposes the rapid transit system, told Congress on Wednesday that it does not intend to distribute the money. But Metro Rail supporters said they are confident that they can override the decision by a vote of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Once the stations in the methane-risk area were eliminated, some public officials asked whether planners would go ahead with the Transit Corridor Specific Plan for the three intersections.

"Right now, we've been talking with people in the area to find out what they want," said Robert Hedrick, an aide to Councilman John Ferraro, who represents much of the area along the Metro Rail routes.

"Rather than stop the process, what would happen would be a modification of the process," he said. "Any modification in light of the three stations that would be removed would be at the request of the folks in the area."

Ferraro is aware that although developers are worried about growth limits, residents' groups are concerned that any new development would worsen existing traffic problems, Hedrick said.

"If that's pressure, we're getting it from both sides," he said.

Diana Plotkin, president of the Beverly Wilshire Homeowners Assn., said, "We need those plans more than ever even now."

Without a transit system to relieve the pressure of traffic, she said, any major development "would clog the streets up so bad you couldn't get in or out."

Johnson said city planners told the commission they need to continue the process because the area is ripe for development with or without a mass transit system, "and we need to plan adequately for that eventuality."

In coming months, he said, planners will discuss whether to set limits for development in terms of a ratio of floor space to height, or to use a new system that measures the average number of vehicle trips generated by different usages.

Most builders and others involved in urban development are used to the old system, he said, but planners believe that counting trips gives a better idea of how much traffic congestion will be generated.

"It tells people we're serious about linking land use and transportation, and allowing only the land use that transportation can handle," Johnson said.

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