Rancho Park residents are celebrating Monday's surprise announcement that a controversial plan for a movie-restaurant complex at Pico and Westwood boulevards has been shelved in favor of a project "more compatible" with the neighborhood.
Pico Westwood Associates has agreed to sell the site to Westfield Inc., owners of the Westwood Pavilion shopping center, according to an announcement made Monday by Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and company officials. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Westfield plans to build a project that will be "more complementary" to the neighborhood than the entertainment complex proposed by Pico Westwood, said Richard Green, president of Westfield.
In planning the size and uses for the new project, Green said Westfield will take into account the Westside Pavilion, which is across the street from the project site. (The shopping center is on the southeast corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards, and the site is on the southwest corner.)
The announcement of the change in ownership came at what was to have been a public hearing on the entertainment complex Monday at Los Angeles City Hall.
At the outset of the meeting, Yaroslavsky surprised the audience by announcing that the hearing had become unnecessary because negotiations for the sale of the property had been concluded moments before.
About 125 residents had gathered in the City Council chambers, expecting to voice objections to the proposed movie theater-restaurant project, which they feared would increase congestion in the busy Pico-Westwood commercial area and adjacent residential neighborhoods.
The area's traffic and parking problems have intensified in the past year with the opening of the popular pavilion. The $90-million mall includes May Co., Nordstrom, Vons supermarket, movie theaters and 150 retail shops.
At the hearing Monday, Yaroslavsky said that Westfield's development will be subject to "a complete city review" because of stricter zoning adopted in August to protect the Pico/Sepulveda/Westwood area from excessive development.
Westfield's development will "involve the neighborhood thoroughly," Yaroslavsky said, adding that he is reconvening a local task force to represent the interests of residents, merchants and commercial property owners in the planning process.
After Yaroslavsky's announcement, a company spokesman confirmed that Pico Westwood Associates and co-developer CoastFed Properties have withdrawn their application for the project and will sell the property to Westfield. "Since Westfield Inc. plans to develop the site to complement the adjacent Westside Pavilion, everyone should be pleased," said William Smolen, vice president of CoastFed.
Sara Berman, a spokeswoman for the Westside Homeowners Alliance, said she was pleased that the controversial plan had been withdrawn and that a smaller-scale project was planned instead.
"We will have to see what (the new owners) are planning," she said, "but this goes to show that when a community gets together on an important issue, we can make a difference."
Residents organized the alliance because of traffic and parking problems generated by the opening of Westside Pavilion last year.
Residents feared that the project proposed by Pico Westwood Associates, with 205,000 gross square feet and 165,000 leasable square feet of development, would attract even more visitors to the movie theaters, restaurants and an Irvine Ranch Market that were planned.
Yaroslavsky said it was through "extensive and difficult negotiations" that an agreement was reached for Westfield to acquire the property, offering "perhaps the only way to systematically deal with the parking and circulatory (traffic) problems" in the area.
He said that because Westfield will own both the shopping center and the property across the street, it will be able to coordinate ways to handle traffic and parking.
He credited local homeowner groups, especially the West of Westwood and Westwood Gardens associations, for bringing area concerns to the city's attention.