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L.A. Offers Developer a Trade-Off on Traffic

November 03, 1987|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

In an unusual trade-off, Los Angeles officials have offered to waive street-improvement requirements for a $14-million Studio City shopping center if its developer promises not to rent to certain tenants that attract heavy traffic.

Department of Transportation planners said Monday they will not make builder Herbert M. Piken pay to upgrade five intersections near his project if he bans such businesses as adult bookstores, bingo parlors, delicatessens and hardware stores.

Traffic engineers said such things as modernized traffic signals, new turn lanes and widened intersections will not be needed if Piken restricts tenants at his planned 2.3-acre "Center at Coldwater" project.

The engineers are proposing that Piken sign an agreement saying he will never rent to businesses that generate heavy traffic that adds to congestion along busy Ventura Boulevard and on other nearby streets.

Details of the proposed agreement--the first of its kind sought between the city and a developer--will be negotiated today in a meeting between Piken and city officials.

If the trade-off is a success, similar agreements will be sought to help solve potential traffic congestion problems at other development sites in the city, officials said.

"This is a ground-breaking type of thing," said T.K. Prime, a city transportation engineer. "It's been proposed before, but this is the first time we've gone this far to satisfy our concerns as well as the developer's."

Earlier, transportation planners had told Piken that he must pay for "mitigation measures" such as new turn lanes and widened roadways at five intersections in Studio City and nearby Sherman Oaks.

Targeted intersections include Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Ventura Boulevard, next to Piken's project site at the former site of the defunct Tail O' the Cock restaurant; Coldwater and Moorpark Street, and Coldwater and the Ventura Freeway. Others are Ventura and Whitsett Avenue/Laurel Terrace Drive and Ventura and Woodman Avenue.

Neither the city nor Piken has determined the cost of the proposed intersection improvements, which were to have been a requirement of his building permit. Officials acknowledge that seemingly minor changes to streets or traffic-signal systems can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, however.

Prime said the proposed agreement would call for periodic reviews of traffic flow at the shopping center to measure the effectiveness of the business restrictions.

"If he is able to restrict the amount of traffic in and out of his project, that should eliminate the major traffic problems like we have around other centers," Prime said.

A list of 23 prohibited businesses drawn up by the city includes movie theaters, churches, drug stores, dry cleaners, banks, convenience-type grocery stores, game arcades, tanning salons, liquor stores and videotape rental outlets. Officials said they may add others to the list.

Piken said Monday he thinks he can abide by the restrictions, although he wants to "clarify" some of the banned businesses. He said his goal always has been to develop the site as an upscale shopping center.

"I wouldn't want a liquor store, but we may want to have a gourmet food store that would sell fine wines," Piken said. "It's a matter of interpretation. I don't want a hardware store, but we might want a high-end housewares chain."

Piken said construction will start on the 16-store, 46,000-square-foot project as soon as traffic requirements are resolved and the city issues a building permit.

Nearby homeowners, meantime, expressed concern Monday over the proposed trade-off.

"It would do nothing to reduce traffic problems," said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. "We just don't understand how the city could do this. Traffic is the No. 1 problem in that area."

Close said residents will appeal to City Councilman Michael Woo to block the tenant-traffic agreement.

Woo--who earlier this year pressured Piken into drastically reducing the size of the proposed shopping center--is studying the proposal, a spokesman said.

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