A group of North Hollywood homeowners, fighting to head off construction of more "stucco mountains," has begun a campaign seeking greater limits on development within a three-square-mile area.
The homeowners have appealed to Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs to form a citizens advisory panel that would draw up development guidelines for the neighborhood, which the residents call Valley Village.
The issue has prompted formation of the Valley Village Homeowners Assn., which drew a crowd of 300 to its first meeting Tuesday night.
In effect, the group asked for recognition of a new community for planning purposes--giving them more voice in its future than they would have if the area were simply included in the city's general plan for all of North Hollywood.
The area the homeowners call Valley Village is bordered by the Hollywood Freeway on the east, Coldwater Canyon Avenue on the west, the Ventura Freeway on the south and Burbank Boulevard on the north.
Wachs, who attended the meeting at Colfax Avenue Elementary School, was urged to support the idea of a "specific plan" for the community, which would have to be approved by the City Council.
The homeowners, led by Tom Paterson, president of the North Hollywood Residents Assn., also called for a freeze until September on approval of development plans for North Hollywood coming before the Los Angeles Planning Department or Planning Commission. By September, the "specific plan" is to be completed.
Wachs, whose district includes North Hollywood, said he will support the drive to make it harder to build large apartments and office buildings in the area. But he said he does not approve all the homeowners' ideas, likening their method for picking the advisory panel to "drawing names out of a hat."
The homeowners called for a nine-member board to make recommendations to city planners on a variety of development issues, including restrictions on density, building heights, parking requirements and architectural compatibility of proposed buildings.
The new association's members complained that North Hollywood is becoming clogged with new apartment projects and office buildings.
"We just want a hand in on development because we are the ones who have our money and lives tied up in North Hollywood," said homeowner Sam Gaylord. "We don't need any more of these stucco mountains."
Other homeowner groups from the San Fernando Valley, including ones in Van Nuys, Encino and Studio City, were represented at the meeting and said they support the campaign in North Hollywood.
"What's really happening here is a community trying to take hold of development in the neighborhoods they live in rather that having plans imposed on them," Paterson said. "We don't want decisions being made by people playing with a stacked deck."
Wachs said similar drives for development plans for small communities are under way in other areas of Los Angeles, including San Pedro, Universal City and a neighborhood around Los Angeles International Airport.
The push for community plans in many communities stems from a dispute over competing guidelines for Los Angeles' long-term development. Zoning laws adopted in the 1940s allow for development that critics contend would lead to overpopulation and put a strain on city services. So city planners, over a 20-year period, also worked up a general plan for the city to address development problems on a community-by-community basis.
The zoning laws and general plan often do not agree, however, and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge earlier this year ordered city planners to reconcile the differences.
In North Hollywood, zoning laws allow construction that could increase the population to 241,000, according to city planners, whereas the general plan limits development to housing for about 118,000. North Hollywood's population is now about 95,000.
Homeowners at the meeting Tuesday said they are not against a population increase to 118,000. "But we want some control over how that growth occurs," said Stephen White, chairman of the Valley Village Homeowners Assn.
Supports Citizens Panel
Wachs told the group he supports the formation of a citizens committee to work up development guidelines for the Valley Village area. "I am in favor of drawing up a specific plan . . . but what I don't want to do is shoot from the hip," he said.
Wachs said he will consult the city attorney's office to see what role he has to play in creation of a citizens' advisory committee and a specific plan for the area.
But Wachs objected to the association's proposal that panel members be chosen by dividing the area into six districts and holding a drawing in January among property owners from each district who would like to sit on the panel. The remaining three positions would be held by Paterson, a representative from Wachs' office, and a representative from a business, school, or church in the area.
Wachs said he also is worried that such a panel might overlook the concerns of renters and the need for rental housing in North Hollywood.
"My commitment has been to protect the single-family character of the Valley, but we can't outlaw apartments," Wachs said. "We have to meet the needs of everyone."
Paterson said Wednesday that some of the homeowners will meet again with Wachs in the next two weeks to continue discussion of the proposals.