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Potential Developers Told They Must Use MGM Lot as a Studio

June 08, 1986|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Culver City officials have told television and movie mogul Ted Turner that they want the property on which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is located to remain in use for film production.

Mayor Paul A. Netzel, in a letter to MGM owner Turner and MGM Entertainment Co. Vice President Roger Mayer, said that the 44-acre parcel is zoned for studio use and that potential buyers should know the city intends to keep it that way.

Netzel said he sent the letter after officials expressed fears that some developers were interested in demolishing the studio to make way for office and commercial buildings.

"The (studio zoning) reflects the city's commitment to this studio use and the longstanding importance the city places on preserving its heritage and association with the motion picture industry," Netzel wrote.

"We are aware that at least several developers have expressed interest in (MGM) that are not in the motion picture business, directly or indirectly," he said. "We would certainly not consider any proposals for changes in zoning and we wanted the current owner, Ted Turner, to know, because he has not inquired to the city about it."

No Response From Turner

Mayer said that the letter reached his office and that Turner or his "key people" had read it. He said the film company has no position on Netzel's comments.

Mayer said that MGM will know in about two weeks if Turner decides to sell the film company, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting.

Turner acquired the studio property, which is bounded by Culver, Washington and Overland boulevards, last March when he purchased MGM for $1.25 billion. Turner is reportedly interested in selling some or all of the company to help pay the debt, while holding on to its film library for his cable television company.

City officials regard MGM as a magnet for visitors and new development. The city's second-largest employer after Brotman Medical Center, the studio employs about 1,550 people. Lorimar-Telepictures, a major television production company, films the popular network TV shows "Dallas" and "Falcon Crest" on some of its sound stages.

High Assessed Value

MGM is also a valuable piece of real estate, with an assessed value of $73.4 million, second only to the $78.9-million Fox Hills Mall.

Netzel admitted that both the value of the studio's property and the city's property tax receipts would increase if the studio land were opened for commercial development. But, he said, Culver City's motto is "The Heart of Screenland," and officials regard MGM as "a very integral part of that." For that reason, the City Council is "very adamant" about keeping the MGM property in use as a studio, he said.

Although MGM is in one of the city's three redevelopment districts, the city's Redevelopment Agency, which can require property improvements, has no plans to ask Turner to rehabilitate any part of the 62-year-old studio before the sale, Netzel said.

The city's other major studio, Laird International, also may be sold sometime this year. The Redevelopment Agency has said it will ask the new owner to repair some buildings of the 68-year-old, 14-acre Laird studio if it is sold.

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