The West Hollywood City Council on Tuesday began hearings on the city's long-anticipated general plan, amid sharp disagreement between proponents of slow growth and their more development-minded opponents.
"The general plan's provisions were too restrictive (in the beginning), and the Planning Commission's revisions have made them more restrictive than before," said Fred Vanacore, president of the West Hollywood Community Alliance, a merchants' group.
Vanacore, whose group wants provisions for more parking and eased height restrictions for commercial buildings, was among more than 20 people speak at the hearing. When adopted, the plan will serve as a blueprint for development in West Hollywood.
A second hearing has been set for Feb. 22, and Mayor Alan Viterbi said additional hearings will be scheduled if necessary.
Urban Village Concept
Elwood C. Tescher, the consultant instrumental in devising the 2-inch-thick draft, expressed hope that the council will preserve the urban village concept that he said represents the central theme of the plan.
However, parts of the plan promise to remain controversial, especially since the document calls for a 50% reduction in the maximum amount of development that was allowed under county guidelines in effect before West Hollywood gained cityhood in 1984.
Among its more controversial aspects, the plan provides for limited parking areas--known as parking overlays--on what are now residential lots behind commercial property, mostly on Santa Monica Boulevard but also on Sunset and Beverly boulevards.
Merchants contend there is not enough parking for their customers, whereas residents are more concerned with traffic congestion, noise and exhaust fumes.
"(Parking overlays) bring us face to face with what the city's position is going to be when it comes to preservation," said Joyce Hundal, who spoke on behalf of the West Hollywood West Residents Assn. "The overlays represent a destructive incursion which threatens to erode the integrity of our residential neighborhoods."
Hundal's remarks put her at odds with the Writers Guild of America, West, which wants to expand its headquarters at 8995 Beverly Blvd. and build a parking structure of 30,000 square feet, which nearby residents say threatens their neighborhood.
Wants Houses Razed
Last September the guild bought two houses on a residential street behind its offices. It wants to tear them down to build the parking facility and to add 12,000 square feet of office space.
Thomas Mesereau, an attorney for the guild, appealed to the council Tuesday to authorize a zoning variance to the general plan that would enable the proposed project to proceed.
"We are asking for your help to enable us to stay in West Hollywood," he said.
John D. Teel, whose home is near the guild offices, was among several residents who voiced opposition to the expansion and to "commercial expansion into residential areas" in general, which they claim the parking overlay provision represents.
"This is why this entire discussion (about the general plan) is important," Teel said. "If it is (the guild) today wanting an exception, it will be someone else tomorrow."