Warning that unbridled developments are "strangling" local neighborhoods, Los Angeles City Councilmen Marvin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky launched an initiative campaign Wednesday to drastically reduce the density of future commercial building in most parts of the city.
The sweeping measure, if it qualifies for the November ballot, would reduce the development potential of roughly 75% of the city's commercial properties and is expected to encounter fierce opposition from influential developers.
Although the proposal would exempt "city centers" where intense development is allowed--including the downtown business district, the Wilshire corridor and central Hollywood--construction in the remainder of the city would be bound by the voter-approved restrictions.
Planning Chief Backs It
City Planning Commission President Daniel Garcia joined Yaroslavsky and Braude in proposing the ballot initiative.
"The reasons we are doing this is because we do not feel that the existing zoning regulations adequately protect the neighborhoods of this city, adequately deal with the traffic problems of this city and that the current land-use regulations are frankly not very sound," said Yaroslavsky, who represents the Westwood area.
Braude, whose district includes portions of the San Fernando Valley where commercial developers have clashed with local homeowners, agreed.
"Overbuilding and traffic congestion are strangling our city and our neighborhoods," he said. "We are facing a real crisis because our streets can no longer handle the ever-expanding volumes of traffic. . . ."
In announcing the initiative, Yaroslavsky said supporters were bypassing the council to ensure that "no lobbyists, no compromises, no backroom deals" would jeopardize the proposed change. He and Braude promised to raise "seed money" for the campaign, although neither would provide any details.
The two council members outlined their plans at a City Hall news conference where they were joined by Garcia and two other co-sponsors of the initiative: Mark W. Hall, immediate past president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Irma W. Dobbyn, former president of the Tarzana Property Owners Assn.
Supporters of the initiative need to collect 69,516 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot in what looms as an expensive and contentious political campaign.
"I would say we'd be very unified against this," said Richard Wirth, executive director of the Governmental Affairs Council of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, which includes developers among its 2,000 members.
"I think in the long run, this type of measure is going to hurt the total community. . . . They call this a reform measure, but it is actually punitive," Wirth said.
The Planning Commission's Garcia, however, said that the initiative is merely intended to protect neighborhoods where further growth is expected from overly intense commercial and industrial development.
"It's good planning, it's not anti-development," Garcia said.
Specifically, the initiative would change the zoning designations to permit construction of only one-half the present permissible density.
For example, where a six-story building would now be allowed, a developer would be limited to a three-story structure, or equivalent footage, under the initiative. If such a restriction had been in effect, several major commercial developments recently completed in Los Angeles would not have been allowed--including the Westwood Pavilion on Pico Boulevard, the 21-story Westwood Gateway building and the Fujita building in Encino.
Dobbyn, whose homeowner group had opposed the Fujita complex, said local residents reluctantly sold their homes after finding that they abutted the commercial development.
Proponents have four months after they begin collecting signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.