A $40-million expansion that will more than triple the size of the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills has been approved by a Los Angeles zoning administrator.
Operators of the retirement facility said it will take about 10 years to build a new hospital, additional residential lodges and apartment-style homes that will fill the 37-acre site. Only about half of the property is currently used.
John M. Pavlik, director of the facility, said construction will begin after the planned Oct. 1 demolition of a 40-year-old hospital wing. That building is near the main entrance to the complex, which is southwest of the intersection of Mulholland Drive and Valley Circle Boulevard, on the western boundary of Los Angeles.
Pavlik said the project will double the size of the hospital to 259 beds, increase the capacity of the lodge from 70 residents to 357 and boost the number of cottage-type apartment units from 54 to 184.
The expansion is needed because of lengthy waiting lists of retired film and television performers and workers who want to "live among their peers without being a burden to the city and county of Los Angeles," he said.
The facility is open to people who are at least 65 years old and who have worked in those industries for at least 20 years.
Approval of a conditional-use permit and zone variance for the project came despite complaints from nearby homeowners that the expansion will disrupt their neighborhoods.
Homeowners complained at a hearing in Van Nuys that the project will burden them with added traffic and with institution-like buildings that will not blend in with their $300,000 homes.
"I object to a laundry facility at my front door," said Bert Mallinger, who lives immediately west of the complex in Calabasas Park. He said his neighborhood also will overlook the facility's new central kitchen.
Carl Armenoff, who has lived for 25 years directly east of the construction site, said the project is not in harmony with his Woodland Hills residential area, either.
"This is the type of construction that causes a neighborhood to go downhill," he said.
Woodland Hills homeowner Paul Kahn criticized the expansion project as being in conflict with the city's master plan for the West Valley.
"A lot of people are concerned that the neighborhood is going to be changed to help people in the motion picture industry," Kahn said, explaining that his neighbors fear that their property values will be lowered when the apartments are built.
An aide to Woodland Hills-area City Councilman Marvin Braude defended the expansion plan. Cindy Miscikowski testified that the project meets the guidelines of the city's 1984 master plan.
"It's a model environment for retired people to look to," Miscikowski said.
Gregory C. Taylor, an engineering company vice president whose firm will assist with the expansion, said fences and landscaping will help screen the new buildings.
He said the tallest buildings--those planned for the lodge--will be in the center of the site, as far as possible from neighboring subdivisions.
After listening to about 1 1/2 hours of give and take, city Associate Zoning Administrator James Crisp said he viewed the project as "nothing but positive."
According to Crisp, more than 1,000 dwelling units could be built on the site under the city's master plan. The low-density housing planned at the facility is "unheard of," he said.
"When you start talking about impacts, you people are extremely fortunate indeed," Crisp told the homeowners in the crowd of about 40.
The variance and permit approval becomes effective on Sept. 8 days if not appealed by homeowners to the Board of Zoning Appeals.