Density and parking are emerging as major issues as the West Hollywood Planning Commission begins hearings on its general plan, the document that will serve as the city's blueprint for development well into the next century.
Last week, at the first of three hearings in the West Hollywood Park auditorium, residents complained of overcrowded streets and noise pollution, while property owners and merchants said restrictions proposed in the plan will chase business away.
Jeff Richmond, commission chairman, said that more than half of the testimony at last week's hearing was from property owners opposing the draft's proposed citywide down-zoning, which would cut by half the amount of allowable development.
Commissioner Mark E. Lehman said the issues raised by property owners--who might lose money if their land is down-zoned--are "a legitimate problem that we've got to grapple with."
Lehman said many of those who testified do not own large amounts of land but are people who have their life savings invested in the property.
Arthur G. Trudeau Jr., a spokesman for the West Hollywood West Residents Assn., said at the hearing that he would like to see a moratorium declared on all development until the problems of traffic congestion, parking and limitations of the sewage system are addressed.
"None of these problems are impossible to solve, they just have to be approached realistically. Now. This is the time to think about it, not in 1995," he said.
The draft general plan provides for "parking overlay," which would allow businesses on Santa Monica, Sunset and Beverly boulevards to build limited parking areas on what are now residential lots behind their property.
Trudeau said parking overlay would be "an intrusion into residential neighborhoods."
Merchants have a different opinion.
Parking overlay is necessary on the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard because the lots there are too small for both a building and a parking area, said Fred Vanacore, president of a merchants group called the West Hollywood Community Alliance.
Vanacore said the east end of the city "needs a great deal of work to look good."
The alliance opposes the height limitations outlined in the plan for commercial areas and favors the parking overlay, Vanacore said.
The General Plan Advisory Committee, a citizens group that helped draw up the plan, voted by a narrow margin last July against including parking overlay in the plan, said Lehman, who was co-chairman of the committee.
Teresa Garay, co-chairwoman of the committee, said other committee members are working on a minority report that supports the parking overlay.
Last week's hearing attracted about 150 people but only about 25 addressed the commission.
More than one commissioner thought that citizens were saving their speeches until the last meeting.
"A lot of people are reserving their comments," said Richmond. "They want to hear what other people have to say (and) they want to hear what the staff has to say."
The city staff is expected to present its position on the draft general plan between the second hearing today and the third hearing on Sept. 22, he said.
Today's hearing on the draft general plan will be at 7 p.m. in the Fiesta Hall at Plummer Park. The third hearing will be Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the West Hollywood Park auditorium.