A theater company's proposal to build an eight-screen movie complex in Culver City was unanimously rejected by the City Council after residents living near the project site complained that it would cause parking, traffic and noise problems.
The council refused to grant a conditional-use permit to the Los Angeles-based Pacific Theaters, which previously had been denied a permit for the same complex by the Planning Commission on June 11.
More than 100 people attended a public hearing on the proposal Monday night, many of them residents near the site in the Studio Village shopping center, bounded by Jefferson, Sawtelle and Sepulveda boulevards.
Some residents complained that the complex would increase traffic congestion near the shopping center and that theater parking would spill into residential streets, particularly during the Christmas shopping season. They also said that noise from car engines and stereos after late-night screenings would disturb the peace.
"Does anyone really think that anyone will be quiet when they leave the theater at midnight or one in the morning?" David Ziskin asked the council.
Within Walking Distance
Those who favored the complex said they liked the prospect of having a movie theater they could walk to from their homes.
"I think a local theater is very necessary," said Rae Reiter, who said she had signatures on a petition from senior citizens in favor of the theaters. "The nearest theater is in Marina del Rey, and that's too far."
Pacific Theaters had proposed building a 2,500-seat walk-in theater complex at the site of a vacant department store at the Studio Village shopping center. But a consultant hired by the Planning Commission reported that the shopping center could handle the parking needs for no more than 2,100 seats.
Jay Swerdlow, a theater company executive, told the council that his company was willing to accept a complex with 2,100 seats. The complex would compete directly with the six-screen, 1,600-seat United Artists cinema in Marina del Rey for movies from distributors who prefer theaters with the largest number of seats, Swerdlow said.
Smaller Idea Failed
Councilman Richard Brundo later suggested that the council consider granting Pacific Theaters a permit to build a smaller complex, but none of the other council members liked the idea. Mayor Paul A. Netzel said it was better for the company to discuss a new plan with the commission first.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously against the project because members thought there was not enough parking for even a 2,100-seat complex, Commissioner Tom Betts said.
Swerdlow said Pacific Theaters decided to appeal to the council after the city attorney told them that city law requires a one-year wait before submitting another proposal for the same type of project.
Company officials said the theater would serve people who often have to drive to Marina del Rey or Westwood to view the latest film releases. They also said the project would upgrade Studio Village with new landscaping, sound walls and lighting.
The plan included two 500-seat theaters equipped with Dolby stereo sound and screens wide enough to show 70-millimeter films, and six other smaller-screen theaters. All eight theaters would have shown "first run, state-of-the-art films," Swerdlow said.
The Planning Commission's consultant reported that, while the theaters would benefit the community, they would also bring patrons into neighborhoods at late hours and cause traffic congestion, especially during the most popular showings. The theaters may also encourage certain "satellite businesses" catering to young people, such as video game arcades, the consultant said.
Swerdlow said the company is considering building the project at another site in Culver City. The company operates several hundred theaters in California, including the Metro in Westwood and the three-screen Hollywood Pacific in Hollywood.
The Studio Village shopping center includes two department stores, a toy store, lumber store and drug store. Single family residences, a school and a park are also in the vicinity.