In the five years since the Beverly Center opened just north of his Mid-Wilshire District home, Harald Hahn must battle the traffic nearly every time he leaves his small tract of tree-lined, Spanish-style houses.
And he expects things to become worse as the Beverly Center gets a new neighbor. Dart Square, an eight-acre complex just across the street from the Beverly Center, is being enlarged from a drugstore and a vacant office building into a $50-million, two-story mall with about 100 shops and at least one restaurant, a four-story parking garage and a new Ralphs supermarket.
Hahn, like other homeowners, is bracing for an onslaught of cars when the renamed Beverly Connection plaza opens in mid-1988.
"The streets were never designed to handle this kind of traffic," said Hahn, president of the South of Burton Way Homeowners Assn., which has struggled to limit development on the site at Beverly and La Cienega boulevards. "We're really fighting for the quality of our lives here."
Homeowners, who won some limits on the project from the Los Angeles Board of Zoning Appeals, are to decide this month whether to appeal designs to the City Council. But Westside Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky has supported the center's design, calling it superior to alternative proposals. Residents concede there is no way to legally block development of the property.
Developers could build an even larger project on the site without obtaining city approval, Yaroslavsky said, because much of the site already is zoned for commercial development.
"We're trying to figure out whether we could benefit by appealing," said Diana Plotkin, vice president of the 300-member Beverly Wilshire Homeowners Assn. Calling the proposed complex "a mini-Beverly Center," Plotkin said there is no question that the 296,000-square-foot project will contribute to traffic snarls in a region of heavy commercial growth.
Near Other Developments
The site lies near several other proposed developments, including the 311-room Ma Maison hotel at Beverly and La Cienega, the 395-room La Cienega hotel at La Cienega and Colgate Avenue and the newly announced 500-room Howell-Lawrence luxury hotel at Beverly and San Vicente boulevards.
The Dart Square project "is going to devastate this community with traffic and parking problems," Plotkin said. "We have nine different intersections here that are near gridlock. The people who live here are finding it very difficult to get to their homes."
Traffic is a serious problem, Yaroslavsky agreed. But he described the two-story design, which incorporates the existing drugstore, as a victory for residents. The Fifty-Fivecal Corp., a Los Angeles partnership run by former Century City owner Avi Lerner, could have chosen to build up to 400,000 square feet by tearing down the center and constructing a three- or four-story complex nearer the street, the councilman said.
"That would have been a catastrophe," Yaroslavsky said. "Any time . . . you can get under 300,000 square feet and two stories on an eight-acre piece of property that is commercially designated, you have to think very seriously before you torpedo it."
Howard Katz, attorney for the developers, said they have planned 1,455 spaces of parking--more than double the amount required by city codes--and have committed more than $350,000 to pay for turn lanes and other street improvements to offset the impact of the project.
Limitations Agreed Upon
In negotiations with homeowners and concessionaires before the city zoning board, developers also agreed to prohibit health clubs and dance studios, which tend to generate traffic, and to limit sit-down eating space to the equivalent of one large or two smaller restaurants, Katz said. Additional limits have been placed on the size of record and video stores, he said.
"Yes, there is legitimate concern over traffic," Katz said in an interview. "But this is a community center . . . not a regional center. People draw a parallel with (this project and) the Beverly Center or the Westside Pavilion. It's just not the same type of project."
Much of the concern, residents said, involves the Ralphs supermarket, planned to contain 50,000 square feet on Beverly Boulevard, at the east end of the project. Paul Robinson, whose second-floor condominium overlooks the site, said a preferable structure would have been less than half that size or some type of less-intensive use, such as a clothing store or health-food store.
The retired labor union official accused Yaroslavsky of ignoring and alienating constituents who supported Proposition U, the councilman's recently adopted, citywide growth-limitation initiative.
"He never once consulted the residents" about the supermarket, Robinson said. "That kind of market is the biggest generator of traffic you could put in. He presented it to us as a fait accompli. "
Another resident, who asked not to be identified, described Yaroslavsky as insensitive to residents who are "being inundated by traffic."