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Year Ban on Eagle Rock Mini-Malls Proposed

February 26, 1987|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

At the urging of Eagle Rock residents who want to preserve the area's small-town atmosphere, Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alatorre has proposed a one-year moratorium on the construction of mini-malls along Colorado Boulevard, the neighborhood's main thoroughfare.

If passed, the ordinance would prohibit such construction along a two-mile stretch between Eagle Vista Drive near the Pasadena boundary and Eagledale Avenue near the Glendale city line, said Jeanmarie Hance, Alatorre's planning deputy.

Local residents said they are alarmed by the growing number of convenience centers, which they say threaten to destroy Eagle Rock's old-fashioned ambiance.

"We're just trying to protect our community," said Katie Smith, a former president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce and a local real estate agent.

'Want Them to Fit In'

"We don't mind if somebody puts some mini-malls in, but we don't want a bunch of cement jungles. We want them to fit in with the brick buildings and the old Eagle Rock City Hall."

An imposing Spanish-style building with a tile roof, the former City Hall was built in 1921, when Eagle Rock was an incorporated city. Eagle Rock became part of Los Angeles in 1923 and the building now houses Alatorre's field office and the Eagle Rock Historical Society.

The moratorium would give planning officials time to gauge the effect that mini-malls have on the community and to study the costs of alternative development, such as restoring some of the area's brick buildings or constructing retail shops built up to the sidewalk, Hance said. A mini-mall scheduled for construction at Colorado and Townsend Avenue would probably be exempted, she said.

Mishmash of Buildings

Colorado Boulevard is a wide, well-traveled street that contains a mishmash of old brick buildings, new fast-food outlets, nondescript offices and convenience centers with street-front parking. Residents say that, in the past few years, four such mini-malls have been built along the stretch proposed for the moratorium.

Many residents said they would like to see more retail stores on Colorado Boulevard built up to the sidewalk, with parking in the rear. But other residents and builders say privately that crime-wary customers are afraid to park in the rear of stores and would bypass such businesses in favor of mini-malls, where parking is usually in front.

The attempt to curtail, or at least regulate, mini-mall construction is not unique to Eagle Rock. Community activists in Silver Lake are attempting to require that such centers place parking behind the stores; West Hollywood has banned new mini-malls altogether.

And, in 1985, the Los Angeles City Council, under pressure from neighborhood groups, passed a citywide law requiring more lighting, landscaping and parking in the centers. More than 400 have been built citywide, and as many as 3,000 dot busy intersections throughout Southern California.

The mini-mall moratorium for Eagle Rock received preliminary approval earlier this month from the City Council's Planning and Environment Committee and must be approved by the Planning Commission and the full council.

Local residents said they are pleased with Alatorre's proposal.

"We are hoping that the moratorium will persuade developers to use property in a more creative way," said Kathleen Aberman, a spokesman for the recently formed Eagle Rock Community Assn.

Aberman said that, in the past six months, Eagle Rock residents have rallied around several causes. Earlier this month, residents succeeded in closing an all-night hamburger stand on Colorado between 1 and 4 a.m. because up to 500 teen-agers were loitering there on weekend nights.

"For a long time, this was a community that was a little bit asleep," Aberman said. "There wasn't much building or development and we could afford to be a little bit apathetic. But we can't afford to be that any more," she said.

The moratorium, which is not expected to be retroactive, may come too late to halt construction of a mini-mall where a 1912 two-story brick edifice known as the Johnson Schumacher Building now stands.

In the past few months, a number of small retail businesses that leased space at that building, on the southeast corner of Colorado and Townsend, have moved out, including the Eagle Cafe and Eagle Rock T.V. The shops are boarded up and scaffolding surrounds the site.

Some residents feel the building should be preserved because of its historic significance--it was constructed by two prominent Eagle Rock residents and was the last stop on the "Yellow Cars" electric public transit system, according to Aberman. She said she plans to apply to the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board for designation of the building as a cultural monument.

Aberman also said that the Eagle Rock Community Assn. expects to meet with Hamid Ravan, one of the site's developers, on March 12. The group has asked Ravan to study whether it would be financially feasible to renovate the brick building instead of demolishing it.

In addition, Aberman said, her group has requested that Ravan consider building retail stores with entrances that front the sidewalks or, as a third alternative, consider an old-fashioned mini-mall design that would complement the architecture of nearby structures.

Attorney Arthur K. Snyder, the former Los Angeles City Councilman from Eagle Rock who is representing Ravan, said this week that renovation would be prohibitively expensive and that street-front retail space may be difficult to rent.

But Snyder added that Ravan wants to work with residents and is willing to spend another $100,000 to design a mini-mall with old-fashioned architecture and glazed white brick facing.

"We are going to build to their standards," Snyder said.

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