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Architects Seek Community Support for Beverly-Fairfax Development

September 28, 1986|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

Architects and planners for CBS and the A. F. Gilmore Co., which owns Farmers Market, have been meeting with community leaders in an effort to win support for up to 3 million square feet of development on 55 acres in the Beverly-Fairfax area.

The land, one of the largest undeveloped areas in the Westside, stretches from Beverly Boulevard to 3rd Street and from Fairfax Avenue to Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles.

Preliminary architectural sketches propose a hotel near the historic Gilmore adobe in the center of the property, with new shops around the existing Farmers Market and theaters or housing units elsewhere on the property.

Hoping to minimize congestion, the designers have suggested two internal boulevards that would bring traffic into the hotel and route it around a central fountain and garden on the way to parking structures.

Landscaped walkways and plazas would connect the various developments with Pan Pacific Park, where a separate project has been proposed for a hotel and cinematheque.

There also would be a pedestrian link to the newly refurbished commercial corridor along Fairfax Avenue north of Beverly Boulevard, part of about 15 acres to be devoted to outdoor "people space."

Up to Seven Stories Tall

In general, planners said they hope to keep the biggest buildings at the center of the property in order to minimize the impact of the development along its perimeter. This probably would mean two-story buildings near Fairfax and Beverly, with buildings of six or seven stories away from the main thoroughfares.

Planners also said the project, to be built in stages over as long as 15 years, will aim for a village-like environment with Spanish-style buildings.

The plans are being developed under the assumption that any development will be limited by Proposition U, an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that is designed to restrict the amount of commercial building in Los Angeles.

Once part of a 256-acre ranch and later the site of a minor-league baseball park and a drive-in movie theater, the property now houses CBS Television City, a complex of offices and production studios, as well as Farmers Market, a major tourist attraction.

In an effort two years ago to develop the remaining open land, CBS and the Gilmore company entered into an agreement with Olympia & York California Equities Corp., a development firm that proposed a major business and entertainment complex.

That proposal met with resistance from city officials and local residents concerned about traffic and parking, issues that are still sensitive today.

But community leaders who have been meeting with representatives of Urban Investment & Development Co., a Chicago firm that took over the project earlier this year, said they welcome the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the new developers at an early stage in the project.

Norman Elkin, vice president of Urban Investment & Development, said that while the response of the local group has been generally positive, he is concerned about a general atmosphere of reserve toward any development in the area.

Economically depressed cities like Cleveland would welcome such a project, he said, but his firm's ideas for the CBS-Gilmore property have met a "show-me" response from those who feel that too much already has been built on the Westside.

"They're so caught up in limiting growth that they don't think about what's going to be there in 15 years," Elkin said.

Third Meeting Held

The third meeting of the property owners, developer, architects and the unofficial group of 19 community residents, city officials and business people took place Wednesday evening.

"The first time (in 1984) they presented this whole thing the community said, 'What's this, they're going to slap the whole thing in our lap without asking us what we think about it?' " said Cathy Wong, president of the Beverly-Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.

"This is a better approach," she said, suggesting that the development would bring more visitors to the area and that merchants already in business would benefit as well.

But Rabbi Rubin Huttler, leader of the Etz Jacob synagogue, said he is concerned that the development would increase congestion in the area and possibly force the dislocation of low-income elderly people who make up a large part of the community.

"I'm not against progress, but I want to have a feeling of assurance that what they are doing is ultimately good for us and not simply for the benefit of some business purposes," he said.

"I like their ideas. Beautiful things they were showing us . . . promenades, hotels. It looks just great. The question is, can we afford it? Can we absorb it into our lives?"

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