Controversial plans to build a $14-million, three-story shopping center at a landmark Studio City restaurant site have been dropped, Los Angeles officials and the developer announced Friday.
Builder Herbert M. Piken will redesign and scale down the retail shopping plaza he hopes to build on Ventura Boulevard at the site of the former Tail O' the Cock restaurant, City Councilman Michael Woo said.
"I've asked the developer to withdraw his plans and he has agreed," Woo said.
Said Piken: "We're going to redesign it so it is compatible with the neighbors. It won't be schlocky."
The decision to reduce the size of the proposed 70,000-square-foot complex followed a meeting between Woo and Piken on Thursday afternoon and a review of city ordinances on Friday by city officials.
City planning and legal experts concluded late Friday that Piken's proposed building could not be constructed on the 2.3-acre site because of a 5-month-old city ordinance that restricts the height of commercial buildings next to residential areas.
Conflict With Ordinance
Piken's plans had called for extending his three-story building back about 125 feet from the boulevard. But the Residential Protection Ordinance would prevent a building that high from extending back more than 30 feet from the street, said Eric Roth, an aide to Woo.
Homeowners, who have loudly protested since Piken revealed his plans two months ago, voiced relief that the building will be redesigned. They had argued that it was too large and would add to parking and traffic congestion in the area by requiring the closure of a heavily used public alley.
Many residents had been further angered Wednesday night when Piken warned that they risked seeing his project scaled down in quality, but not height, if they interfered with it. Homeowners gasped when Piken said an alternative development might be a three-story motel.
"I'm pleased and I know the residents will be pleased," Polly Ward, president of Studio City Residents Assn., said Friday after being told of the agreement.
"It's a victory for the community," said Richard Close, president of Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. "We didn't need a Beverly Hills-type of project, we need a Sherman Oaks-Studio City-type of project."
However, Woo urged against an early celebration by homeowners.
"I'd caution everyone from declaring victory," Woo said. "The story isn't over yet. He still has a right to develop his property."
Urges Attention to Back of Building
Woo said he asked Piken to redesign the project so it has less square footage and is no higher than two stories. He said he urged Piken to pay careful attention to the appearance of the rear of the building--the side that will face homes on nearby Dickens Street.
But Woo conceded that it is possible that Piken's smaller redesigned project will not match the quality of his larger first effort.
"It's a possibility that it could result in a project coming forward that . . . could be worse," Woo said.
Piken was meeting with his architect about redesigning the project when he was reached by telephone Friday. He said he was reluctantly giving up the marble-and-chrome-sided building design.
"We're going to try to keep it high quality. But even if we keep it upscale, it won't be what it could have been. That was a classic design," Piken said.
He said he hopes the revised project will end up as a retail center.
"At this point, we're not considering a motel," he said. "We didn't buy the property to get in a big fight with homeowners. We want to build something nice."