As a candidate for multi-use development on a grand scale, the property just south of Marina del Rey and north of Westchester, known as Playa Vista, is a winner, if only by virtue of its size, choice location and debt-free ownership.
For a starter, consider Playa Vista's overwhelming plus-factor as one of the last remaining large chunks of undeveloped land within a major American city--957 privately owned, contiguous acres between the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego Freeway.
Add to that the property's proximity to a major airport and to railroad service and the recent annexation of 803 of its 957 acres to the city of Los Angeles, with accompanying benefits to be derived from zoning and community-plan amendments.
Most importantly, consider the synergism of a strong cooperative effort between Howard Hughes Properties and Los Angeles' city government, represented by Councilwoman Pat Russell, both challenged by this rare opportunity for master-planned development, from scratch, within the present urban fabric.
Annexation of Playa Vista, the 257th for the city, is the largest since 1965, when Los Angeles acquired 3,017 acres in Chatsworth. The council's recommendation ensures greater compatibility and integration with the surrounding community and facilitates coordination in the delivery of municipal services.
In order to maximize the potential of the Hughes' real estate asset, the firm's executive vice president, N. David O'Malley, assembled a five-member concept team, made up of leading professionals in architecture, urban design, transportation, landscape architecture and real estate law and finance. The group has met regularly since 1984 to formulate the master plan.
"We wanted to establish principles for the plan beyond physical planning concerns and taking into consideration the structure of the community," O'Malley said.
"It was important that our role should be that of supplementing the existing urban fabric. The five disciplines represented by the concept team have been working in concert to achieve the proper harmony in cultural and institutional relationships."
Members of Team
Team members include Harry Cobb, architect/planner and a founding partner of I .M. Pei Partners; Allan Jacobs, an urban designer and principal in the San Francisco firm of Aidala & Jacobs, who served for many years as the director of the San Francisco Department of Planning; landscape architect Laurie Olin, chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a principal in the New York firm of Hanna/Olin; Warren Travers, a principal in the New Jersey firm of Travers Associates and a transportation planner, and David Vena, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Latham & Watkins and chairman of its real estate and finance department.
"We've come up with a mixed-use community blueprint that will offer a full range of housing, office, recreational and commercial opportunities," explained O'Malley. "And because a major portion of Playa Vista is now annexed to the city of Los Angeles, we feel a successful integration with the surrounding community will take place.
"More than 550 acres of Playa Vista are within the coastal zone and more than 400 acres of the annexation area are within the coastal zone boundary."
Playa Vista will have a new 40-acre boat basin with 700 to 900 boat slips connecting to the existing marina, and will be operating under Los Angeles County jurisdiction. The new facility will create two miles of shoreline, encircled by a landscaped promenade, and will include housing, three parks and a marketplace of specialty shops, hotels and restaurants.
"We have committed more than one-third of the acreage to public parks and open space," O'Malley added, referring in particular to a 209-acre parcel of Playa Vista known as the Ballona Wetlands, which comes under Coastal Commission jurisdiction.
The area will be restored and managed by the National Audubon Society as a protected environment for plants and wildlife, made possible through the contribution of the land and a $10-million funding commitment from Howard Hughes Properties.
Significant economic benefit is expected to result from the construction activity on Playa Vista during its 15-year build-out, O'Malley added. "We expect this will create a full range of new jobs and eventually result in a multiplier effect, with re-spending of the gross regional income generated in the new community. We anticipate doubling the primary economic benefits."
Playa Vista's present and future demands on the regional traffic network are being studied with particular emphasis on improved access to freeways and major highways along this coastal corridor.
Area Road System