Westside homeowners and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky today will ask the Los Angeles Planning Commission to substantially scale back a proposed 160,000-square-foot addition to the Westside Pavilion shopping center.
The homeowners want the project, at the southwest corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards, reduced to the 105,000 square feet allowed by the area's current zoning. In addition, they oppose a 71-foot-wide bridge over Westwood Boulevard that would connect the existing mall with the proposed one. Most of the neighbors want a smaller bridge that would be limited to pedestrians and that would not include the retail stores and overhead parking proposed by the developer, Westfield Inc.
"You can't start building shopping centers in the sky in L.A.," said Sandy Brown, chairwoman of Westside Home Owners Alliance, an umbrella organization of six neighborhood groups fighting the project. "They're creating a lot in the sky and creating a building there and we're saying 'no way.' "
Many of the Pavilion's neighbors have complained for years about traffic congestion, smog and noise created by the mall. They said they fear the situation will become much worse with the addition of the new building.
Richard Green, president of Westfield, said the larger project and the retail-parking bridge are essential to maintaining easy access between the two buildings. The bridge would connect the third floor of Nordstrom department store, on the west end of the existing mall, with the east end of the new building, which would be on the northern half of a 2.7-acre property between Pico and Westwood boulevards and Ayres Avenue.
Westfield, which developed the Pavilion, acquired the property in 1986 after the community opposed a previous owner's proposal for a 205,000-square-foot entertainment center featuring a 3,000-seat movie theater, restaurants and other major stores.
The Planning Commission is scheduled today to review a recently completed environmental impact report on the 160,000-square-foot project and to vote on whether to permit a zone change needed to build the mall.
Planners said that without the zone change, the 160,000-square-foot structure would not be allowed under the city ordinance created by Proposition U, which was passed by growth-weary voters in 1986 to limit densities of new buildings in the city to 1.5 times the buildable area of the property.
The commission also will decide whether to exempt the developer from an ordinance limiting heights of new buildings in the area to three stories or 45 feet. Green said the mall should be the same height as the existing mall--59.5 feet--so the bridge won't have to be built at an angle and so the two buildings will have the appearance of one mall. The commission's decisions require approval by the City Council.
Yaroslavsky said he wants the new building's height limited to 50 feet or less.
Green said the mall he is proposing would have space for 60 stores. He said neighbors will benefit because the mall will not contain a large department store or movie theaters, as might be the case if a different developer owned the property, and because his company will pay for widening nearby streets in addition to providing many other so-called mitigation measures to the community.
"We have been doing petitions and open houses, and we see that more than the majority of the people support it (the mall) after they see what we're doing," Green said. "There's so much logic in it that it's hard to be against it."
Green also said the 160,000-square-foot project would include 1,000 new parking spaces, more than would be required under the city's parking code for the area. He said the spaces will help compensate for a parking shortage in the original mall.
Yaroslavsky said he wants the developer to build the smaller project but keep the mitigation measures required for the larger building. Green, however, said he offered many of the measures to secure approval of the bigger project and that he cannot afford all of the measures if his project is scaled back.
"The big picture here is that everybody recognized that something was going to be built on the southwest corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards, and our objective and the community's objective has been to limit whatever was going to go in there," Yaroslavsky said.
Not all the residents living near the Pavilion oppose the larger building. Leon Cardini, a Rancho Park resident who was president of the Rancho Park Chamber of Commerce from 1984 to 1985, said the owners of the Pavilion should be rewarded for sensitivity to community concerns, such as traffic.
"They've proven themselves since they built the (original) building" in 1985, he said. "They're not only successful, they're civic-minded. They're taking their profits and putting them back into the neighborhood."