Residents and planning officials have reacted favorably to Prudential Life Insurance Corp. of America's plan to build a large mixed-use project after the company revised its previous proposal for five high-rise office buildings.
The Culver City Planning Commission on Wednesday will consider a plan for the Marina Place project that includes about 500 housing units, a 715,000-square-foot shopping mall and an office building of no more than 12 stories on an 18-acre parcel on Washington Boulevard a block east of Lincoln Boulevard.
The parcel is located at the end of a narrow, western section of Culver City that is surrounded by the Venice community of the city of Los Angeles.
Prudential submitted the proposal to Culver City after scrapping a plan to build two 17-story and two 15-story office towers, one 12-story building, two restaurants and a 5,200-space garage. The new design is the fourth devised by the company since it bought the parcel in 1980.
The office tower plan was opposed by Venice residents, who said that the buildings' estimated 5,100 employees would cause traffic congestion and parking problems on residential streets, and that the high-rises would cast shadows on the surrounding neighborhood.
If the commission and the City Council approve the design concept, Prudential must also submit a revised environmental impact report, apply for a zoning variance and receive final design approval from the council before construction may begin.
Planning Commissioner Pat Dolce said the addition of housing would encourage the developer to make the overall project more attractive.
"New housing in Culver City is always welcome," Dolce said. "But I don't see it as a plum, so to speak, that if you put in more housing we will allow this or that. . . . They would still have to be sympathetic to the residents of the surrounding area. Our main concern is still for the residents and the impact on traffic."
Dolce said that parking is still a concern, and the commission will consider at future hearings how much traffic the 12-story office building will generate and how much parking the developer proposes to provide.
Martha Platt, president of the Zanja Neighborhood Residents Assn., said that although most residents welcome the change, they are still concerned about traffic and parking problems. She said residents still want planners to make sure the project's traffic is diverted to Washington Boulevard and away from the area's narrow residential streets.
"A lot of us were saying from the very beginning that a mixed use was more appropriate for the site," said Platt, who lives less than a block away.
"(But) it's still a very large development and I hope it will be scaled back by the time it is approved." The area is bounded by Washington Boulevard, Zanja Street, Walnut and Glencoe avenues.
Platt said residents were generally positive at a recent meeting when a representative of Prudential presented the new design concept. Some of the residents, however, said the 12-story office building was too high, she said.
Los Angeles City Planner David Gay said the city had also urged Prudential to go for a mixed-use project. Although he refused to comment on specifics of the design, Gay said the city will be looking to see whether the mixed-use concept will create more jobs in the immediate area and how it will affect traffic on residential streets and Lincoln and Washington boulevards.
Yvette McFrasier, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Councilwoman Pat Russell, who opposed the previous project, said although she is concerned because the design includes a 12-story building, the overall plan constitutes an improvement over the previous one.
"A mixed use is certainly going to be more compatible with the community," she said. "The other concerns such as shadows won't be as much of a problem. And certainly, anywhere you can pick up housing is always a plus, and much needed on the Westside."
The commercial part of the project would probably generate more traffic, but it would be spread out over the entire day instead of peak periods, said Jeff Pool, a Los Angeles city planner for the Venice and Mar Vista areas.
Pool said, however, that the residential units would cause fewer car trips to the area than either a commercial or office development.
The commercial zoning allows construction of up to 12 stories. Marianne Lowenthal, a Prudential spokeswoman, said the company intends to keep the single office tower at or below the height limit.
Lowenthal said the company decided on the new plan because residents complained about parking and traffic. The company also decided that there is a greater demand for housing and upscale retail than office space in the area.
"For the community as a whole, it offers housing that is needed in that area and involves the kind of shopping that they don't have in the Venice-Marina del Rey area," Lowenthal said. "I think it will create a significant number of jobs in the area, as well as an increase sales tax base."
She said the company is negotiating with two major department store chains to serve as "anchors" for the proposed shopping mall.