After more than three years of wrangling over growing congestion in Westwood, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved planning guidelines for the area that reduce by half future residential development and establish design standards for new projects.
The guidelines also include a temporary traffic control ordinance that for the first time attempts to tackle Westwood's vexing traffic problems by controling traffic volume through much of the Westside. The ordinance requires developers of all large projects between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills to submit their plans to the Transportation Department for review, provide extra parking and agree to help pay for regional traffic improvements.
The traffic ordinance, which gives the Transportation Department the authority to require such things as street widenings and ride-sharing programs, is intended to address traffic problems over the next year while the city works on a permanent transportation program for the area.
The planning guidelines are in the form of 22 ordinances and a revised Westwood Community Plan, which sets out in general terms what kind of development can take place in Westwood over the next two decades. The ordinances actually make various aspects of the plan law, by doing such things as down-zoning property and creating a design review board for new projects.
The updated community plan, one of several in the works throughout Los Angeles, is the first to come to the City Council since the so-called slow-growth movement gained momentum in recent years. It is intended to replace less stringent controls in force since 1972, when city officials were less concerned about the implications of widespread development and specifically designated Westwood for high growth.
Westwood-area Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who hopes to ride the anti-development wave into the mayor's office, has hailed the new plan as a prototype for communities throughout the city to cope with their traffic and congestion problems.
"This plan is really at the cutting edge, as far as city plans are concerned," Yaroslavsky said at the council meeting. "These tools which we are incorporating into this plan . . . will not only go to the benefit of this community planning area, but I think just about every planning area in the city."
City Planning Director Kenneth Topping agreed.
"Westwood is significant because of what we have learned," he said after the meeting. "It creates a model for better community planning."
Residents and homeowner groups have generally praised the effort, although some have criticized the guidelines for not going far enough.
"We are thankful for what we are getting, but that is in the context of damage control," said Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, a homeowners group that has been particularly critical of development in the area.
The group had unsuccessfully pushed for more stringent development controls in areas where traffic is virtually at a standstill.
The council did not consider a set of planning guidelines drafted specifically for Westwood Village, a crucial component of the overall Westwood Community Plan. City officials said the complex provisions have been held up in the city attorney's office and probably will not be ready for council consideration until the middle of next month. The guidelines, among other things, would place a cap on hotel development in the village, reduce commercial development and impose stricter height limits.
Some of the key provisions in the guidelines approved Tuesday are:
- A massive down-zoning of multiple-family residential areas and the imposition of stricter height limits, new landscaping and open-space requirements for multifamily projects.
- The establishment of a seven-member design review board to approve plans for all new apartments, condominiums and commercial projects in the Westwood area, which will consider such things as architectural compatibility and the aesthetic integration of parking structures.
- The selection of about a dozen architecturally or historically significant buildings in North Westwood Village near UCLA as potential city landmarks, which, if eventually designated, would help protect them from demolition.
- The encouragement of affordable student housing near UCLA by allowing developers to build larger projects than normally permitted if they provide some student units.
- The imposition of a 45-foot height limit in the North Village.
The council also held a lengthy debate on a proposal to place a moratorium on high-rise development on Wilshire Boulevard from Glendon Avenue in Westwood to the Beverly Hills city line. That proposal, while not formally included in the planning guidelines for Westwood, is closely tied to efforts to establish limits on development in the Westwood area.
The six-month moratorium would restrict development along the corridor--with its conspicuous high-rise buildings--to six stories while new permanent restrictions are drafted. Five proposed projects that range in height from 12 to 27 stories would be included in the ban.
Yaroslavsky, who pressed hard two weeks ago to win approval for the moratorium from a council committee barraged by angry developers, was unable to persuade the full council that the high-rise restrictions were necessary. The council, with Ernani Bernardi absent, was incapable of taking any action on the moratorium because it continually deadlocked at 7 to 7. The council is expected to take up the issue again today.