Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, in a move that Westwood homeowner groups described as a victory, has endorsed a host of residents' demands for strict growth limits in a community plan for development of the densely populated area.
"I see it as a victory on our part," said Wolfgang Veith, director of the North Westwood Village Homeowners Assn. "He has come around to seeing it our way."
Veith and representatives from other Westwood-area homeowner groups had sought Yaroslavsky's endorsement of strict density and height limitations in Westwood since the councilman proposed new plans to deal with a development boom in the area three ago.
However, it was not until a city Planning Commission public hearing July 23 that Yaroslavsky officially declared his support for many of the groups' demands.
"We didn't have commitments before," said Laura M. Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, a homeowner group. "We had ample discussion but no commitment."
Yaroslavsky said it would have been unfair to property owners and developers to announce his position before commission members had a chance to hear testimony from all sides.
"It's so insulting, in a way," he said. "None of the property owners demanded that we commit to their position in advance, and I don't think the homeowners should expect us to commit in advance (to them).
"You're entitled to feel that the councilman has not committed to a position in advance. You've got to be patient."
If endorsed by the commission, the requirements will become part of the Westwood Community Plan and the Westwood Village Specific Plan, which are being revised for the first time in 15 years to better address increases in growth over the last several years.
The commission is expected to vote on both revised plans at a hearing Sept. 10. The City Council will vote on the plans after they are reviewed by the council's Planning and Environment Committee.
Yaroslavsky praised the proposals as the "single greatest reduction in buildability that has ever taken place in the city." He said the plans represent a successful compromise between the interests of developers and property owners and the needs of residents.
The homeowner demands endorsed by Yaroslavsky include:
- A six-story height limit on new construction along Wilshire Boulevard between Glendon Avenue and the Los Angeles Country Club.
- A maximum height limit in Westwood Village of 55 feet.
- A method to reduce traffic spillover from busy thoroughfares to residential streets east of UCLA and more parking in the heavily crowded North Village, just west of UCLA.
- Consideration of the proposed West L. A. veloway, a 2.5-mile elevated bicycle path that would connect UCLA with Westwood and West Los Angeles.
However, there is still no agreement on the number of hotel rooms to be allowed in Westwood Village, nor has a consensus been reached on how best to control traffic.
Yaroslavsky has favored a limit of about 600 hotel rooms, but conceded during last week's hearing that "clearly there is no support in the community for that level" and proposed instead a compromise somewhere between 600 rooms and the 315-room cap favored by residents.
"As I say, (hotels are needed) to bring some suits and ties into the village," Yaroslavsky told commissioners. "We can use a few."
Yaroslavsky also left open for further study the issue of traffic. Friends of Westwood, which hired a consultant to conduct an independent traffic study, has called the city's projections "woefully inadequate."
The city plans to deal with increased traffic through a combination of street improvements paid for by developers as a condition of construction permits and a computerized signal system that planners expect to reduce traffic by 10% to 20%.
However, city planners concede in their report that "the results indicate that some streets will exceed capacity, even if no growth is allowed in the Westwood Community plan area."
Agreement also has yet to be reached on an appropriate zoning level for the north village. Veith of the North Westwood Village Homeowners Assn. favors a maximum building density of 1,500 square feet of lot area per dwelling unit, but Yaroslavsky prefers a limit of between 800 and 1,200 square feet. Both alternatives would permit fewer living units than the 400- to 800-square-foot level proposed in the revised plan.
"The zoning is only a reflection of how many people you're going to allow in a certain area, and I think the R3 zoning (the level favored by Yaroslavsky) will produce too many (people)," Veith said.
Yaroslavsky said more apartments are needed in the north village to accommodate UCLA students unable to obtain university housing.
"We can't please everybody," Yaroslavsky said. "But we have certainly met the homeowner community 90% of the way."
Yaroslavsky added that he is confident the commission will approve most of the demands that he has endorsed.
Commission President Daniel P. Garcia said in an interview that he has doubts about the Friends of Westwood traffic study and about some residents' demands for a 45-foot height limit on buildings in the commercial core of the Village.
"I think some of their suggestions are good," he said. "But I would hope that if we don't approve all their demands, they won't get hysterical."