The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a one-year building moratorium on a mile-long stretch of Centinela Avenue in Mar Vista, saying that the large apartments allowed under current zoning laws could ruin the neighborhood of single-family homes.
The moratorium ordinance, strongly backed by homeowners on the affected strip between National and Venice boulevards, will come before the council for a final vote next Wednesday before going to Mayor Tom Bradley.
The council voted 12 to 1, with Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores dissenting, to ban construction of multiple-unit dwellings in the area for one year, retroactive to Dec. 18. The moratorium gives city planners until December to create a new zoning plan for Centinela.
Development Fears Expressed
Several council members cited their growing fear that the city's master plan encourages intense development in the face of increasingly severe problems with density, traffic congestion and smog.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said the city has allowed "junk that's four stories high that backs up to a two-story home."
That, he said, threatens to degrade the quality of life in Mar Vista and other areas citywide.
"If this kind of building keeps up, there will be another ballot initiative from the people that will go overboard and make it impossible to build," Yaroslavsky warned. Proposition U, passed by voters last year, puts a limit on commercial growth.
A city planner said the moratorium will affect at least four developments proposed since Dec. 18.
The affected developers, and any others who propose developments on Centinela this year, will be allowed to request a hardship exemption in which they could argue that they have already committed major financial risk to the project. City officials said the developers have expressed interest in applying for the exemption and that the applications will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
At issue are numerous lots currently zoned to allow three- and four-story apartment complexes --many of them directly behind or next to single-story homes. One multiple-unit building has already been constructed at 3615 Centinela Ave.
Gregory Thomas, a spokesman for 130 property owners on the west side of Centinela, said that large developments proposed in the long-established, quiet area would create traffic congestion, air pollution and destroy the neighborhood atmosphere.
'130 Signed Petitions'
"Last July, 130 homeowners signed petitions saying that Mar Vista is undergoing a rapid transformation into urban chaos," Thomas said.
He said many homeowners have been approached by real estate brokers who want their land. "We have such high-pressure tactics from the developers that they are setting neighbors against neighbors," he said.
Councilwoman Pat Russell, whose 6th District includes Mar Vista, said she hopes city planners can create a proposal for Centinela that still includes multiple-unit apartments but does not degrade the area.
"We need to have good multiple (units)," Russell said. "I was in one last night that was very attractive."
However, Councilman Ernani Bernardi said he wants the Planning Department to come back with a proposal that dramatically cuts down the density allowed in the area. If high-density construction is allowed in residential areas such as Mar Vista "we are going to turn this city into a human anthill," he said.
Bernardi blamed the city's current zoning densities for being "the top creator of the gridlocks that are building up and building up at too rapid a pace citywide. We have a horrendous problem facing us if we don't get off the dime."