The Los Angeles Planning Commission is expected to vote today on a plan that would require some developers in Westwood to relieve the increased traffic generated by their projects.
Under the proposed ordinance, any commercial or residential project that generates more than 42 car trips during peak hours of the afternoon would be required to undergo a review by the city Department of Transportation. If the study determines that the building would have a significant impact on traffic, the developer would be required to submit a plan to alleviate traffic with, among other things, ride-sharing and van pools.
The ordinance also calls on employers to stagger work schedules to ease traffic during peak hours.
"The trick will be getting the large employers out there really committed to a system to get the people in and out of Westwood," said Phil Aker, supervising transportation planner for the city Department of Transportation.
Called the Westwood-West Los Angeles Interim Control Ordinance, the temporary measure would pave the way for a law to take effect in the next two years, according to planners. That law would require developers to pay a fee to offset the costs of widening streets and installing a computerized traffic signal system. The fee would be set by the City Council when it approves the law.
The law would be similar to an ordinance passed in 1984 that requires developers of new high-rises along the Wilshire Corridor to pay for $10 million to $12 million in traffic improvements along the busy thoroughfare.
The new law would exempt the area covered by the 1984 ordinance but would apply to a much larger area extending from the western edge of Beverly Hills to the eastern border of Santa Monica and from the Santa Monica Freeway on the south to Sunset Boulevard on the north.
The traffic measures represent the second stage of a broad campaign to reduce the rate of growth in Westwood and surrounding neighborhoods, where construction of office towers and residential apartment complexes in recent years has led to traffic gridlock and a shortage of parking spaces.
Last week, the Planning Commission approved two plans that would cut development in the area by 50% and would limit growth to about 18% over the next 20 years.
One of the plans imposes a 70-foot height limit and permits no more than 480 hotel rooms in the Westwood Village core. The second plan would reduce building density in heavily developed neighborhoods such as the north village west of UCLA and along Hilgard Avenue east of the campus.
The proposed temporary traffic ordinance has been criticized by a coalition of Westwood homeowner groups as being too lenient on developers. Instead of trying to accommodate traffic increases created by more development, they argue, city planners should put strict limits on all construction and should establish a system of express buses for commuters.
"When you add street capacity, you're just building up for a bigger traffic jam," said Laura M. Lake, president of Friends of Westwood. "The city's approach to traffic mitigation is to make traffic worse."
Aker, however, said traffic in Westwood would increase even if development came to a standstill, since many people drive to the area from Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles to reach the San Diego Freeway. He also stressed that the potential for development will be reduced if the council passes the two slow-growth plans that the commission approved last week.
"In a sense, the area kind of gets swamped by regional growth," he said.