The Northridge Fashion Center and a key opponent of its plans to enlarge are close to a compromise that would let the mall expand in return for its help in paying for local traffic improvements.
"It's just a matter of how much money they should provide," said Ralph Crouch, planning deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson.
Bernson had opposed a westward expansion of the 15-year-old mall, which has sought city permission since December to add about 400,000 square feet to its west side for Robinson's and May Co. department stores and about 30 other shops.
The mall is between Nordhoff and Plummer streets, bounded on Tampa Avenue on the east and Shirley Avenue on the west, and Bernson contended that new stores on the Shirley Avenue side would tie up traffic on nearby streets. His opposition has stymied the Fashion Center's owners, U. K. Northridge Inc., for months.
But Crouch said Friday that a compromise is virtually complete to permit the westward expansion. The key, he said, is a financial contribution by the mall toward construction of a proposed bypass south of Nordhoff between Corbin and Tampa avenues.
This would eliminate a troublesome zigzag, one that Crouch said would only become worse with a bigger mall. Now, drivers heading west on Nordhoff from the mall must turn left at Corbin and right onto Nordhoff again if they want to keep going west. If they go straight across Corbin instead of turning, they end up on Nordhoff Place, which leads to a patchwork of farmland and low-slung commercial buildings rather than a convenient east-west street.
Crouch said the two intersections with Corbin are congested and confusing.
To remedy the congestion, the proposed bypass would branch off Nordhoff at a point east of the mall, curve southwest to bridge Limekiln Creek and the nearby railroad tracks and connect to the stretch of Nordhoff that heads west from Corbin.
Other planned improvements for coping with added mall traffic include widening parts of Shirley and upgrading intersections, possibly with better signals and more turning lanes.
"We're talking $5.5 million to $6 million" for the whole thing, Crouch said, "but we're not asking them to put that much up."
He would not say how much the mall is being asked to contribute, but informed sources said its share could reach $1.5 million, with the rest expected to come from the federal government.
Another source close to the mall management confirmed Crouch's account of the compromise.
Bernson, who represents the northwest San Fernando Valley, could not be reached for comment. Nor could executives of Richard Ellis Inc., the San Francisco firm that manages the mall for its British owners. Privately held U. K. Northridge is owned by a group of United Kingdom pension funds.
Kenneth Oswald, the mall's general manager, said that U. K. Northridge hopes to begin construction later this year and to have the new stores open sometime in the summer of 1988.
Besides calling for new retail space, the plans add new three-story parking decks to the mall's north and south sides.
The Northridge Fashion Center, consisting of 1.2 million square feet, is among the busiest in Los Angeles and does more business than any other mall in the Valley. The latest figures available from the state Board of Equalization show sales of $138 million for the first nine months of 1985, up 7.3% from the same period of 1984. The mall's main stores are Bullock's, J. C. Penney, Sears Roebuck and The Broadway.
The Northridge mall did a healthy $150 of sales per square foot of retail space in 1983, the last year for which reliable data could be obtained.