Los Angeles city officials have decided to put off consideration of some of the more controversial controls proposed for Ventura Boulevard development, enraging homeowner leaders already irked at being left out of the decision-making process.
In a series of private meetings, City Council members and city planners have decided a zoning revision for the prosperous thoroughfare will not include design and landscaping controls, setback requirements or restrictions on billboards and other signs.
Action on those issues will be put off until after the council enacts controls on traffic, parking and building size, city officials said. One city official said that would not be for at least a year.
"There are two issues involved here," said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. "First, they're proposing giving us watered-down controls, and second, we are completely frozen out of the process."
Gerald Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, said the additional controls sought by homeowners "are not without precedent in this city, so it's hard to see why they are being put aside as too controversial at this time."
Both expressed the fear that the issues would be put off indefinitely and never be taken up.
The groups headed by Close and Silver were among five homeowner associations that successfully lobbied the council in October for a one-year moratorium on high-rise development along the traffic-clogged boulevard from Studio City to Woodland Hills.
Moratorium Sets Limits
The moratorium prohibits buildings taller than three stories, restricts the floor area of buildings to 1 1/2 times the lot size and stiffens parking requirements.
The moratorium, which can be extended another year by council vote, was designed to give city planners time to prepare new development guidelines for all commercially zoned property along the boulevard.
Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents Tarzana, Encino and part of Sherman Oaks, said that such issues as sign and design controls were set aside for now "because we didn't think it was likely we could get it all done in time."
She said that Braude's position is that such questions can be taken up on a "community-by-community basis after the major controls are in place. We certainly are not giving up on such controls, but there doesn't seem to be time within the constraints of the moratorium."
Miscikowski said that Braude, who sponsored the moratorium before the council, plans to seek council authorization within a month to hire an outside consultant to draft revisions to traffic and parking regulations and controls on building height and size.
She said city officials expect the proposed revisions to be ready for council action in a year at the earliest and that they will largely follow the rules contained in the moratorium.
City Planner Al Landini said the revisions will be incorporated into a specific plan, which will be presented to the council as an ordinance.
Unlike community plans, which are passed as resolutions and are merely advisory, specific plans have the force of law, he said.
Several homeowner leaders, including Close, Silver and Dan Shapiro, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., said they believe that the more controversial issues were put aside at the urging of Councilman Joel Wachs and his deputy, Howard Raphael.
In a letter to Wachs, who represents Studio City and part of Sherman Oaks, Close demanded a public statement of position from the councilman.
"We are trying to get this into the open," he said, "because all this dealing is going on behind the scenes and the residents seem to be the ones losing out."
Shapiro said his group has tried in vain to "find out why our councilman seems to be fighting these important controls on development, but we have been getting no response so far. It's been quite frustrating."
Wachs said in a telephone interview that consideration of the more controversial controls was put aside so that they could be taken up after traffic plans were drafted, "which seems to me to be the logical way to proceed."
"Before this moratorium is lifted, it is my intention that all of these issues be taken up and controls developed," Wachs said.