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Mulholland Plan Revised to Appease Critics

August 04, 1988|RON RUSSELL | Times Staff Writer

In a bid to quell criticism of a plan to restrict development along Mulholland Scenic Parkway, city planners have recommended that nearby residents be assured a greater voice in any future plans to build overlooks along the popular roadway.

A revised draft of the would-be ordinance, known as the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan, also eliminates a controversial requirement that new buildings and homes, including those rebuilt after fires or other disasters, be painted in earth or rock tones.

"We've bent over backward to make the plan worthwhile and at the same time not hurt individuals. Now we'll have to wait and see to what extent it gains acceptance," city planner Violet Moyer said.

Bickering for Years

The revised plan, which has yet to be made public, is expected to go before the Planning Commission in October, city planner King Woods said. It is to be made available to members of a citizens advisory panel and other interested parties within a couple of weeks, he said.

Environmentalists, property owners and developers have bickered over the future of the scenic roadway for years.

In the late 1960s, legislation was introduced in the state Assembly to appropriate money to build a freeway along Mulholland. The bill never passed, but the issue helped galvanize those interested in preserving Mulholland's rustic character.

As a result, the City Council in 1971 designated Mulholland a scenic city parkway and created a citizens' advisory committee to keep an eye on development proposals affecting it.

The bickering over the parkway's future intensified last year after a series of public hearings on the proposed specific plan, which environmentalists and others insist is long overdue.

Under the plan, commercial development would be prohibited along 22 miles of Mulholland from Hollywood to the county line at Topanga, with the road retaining its legendary curves and rustic character.

Bitter Debates

But the proposal has stirred bitter debate among thousands of homeowners living within a mile-wide corridor of the affected area, some of whom are convinced that proposed controls would violate their property rights, including their ability to remodel or relandscape their mountain residences.

The issue of constructing overlooks atop the Mulholland ridgeline has long divided those who favor the area being opened for public use and homeowners who complain of increased traffic, graffiti and crime in their once-quiet neighborhoods.

Woods said the latest revisions were an effort to "demonstrate flexibility" in dealing with what he called "a couple of the most sensitive aspects of the plan."

Meanwhile, community activists on both sides of the long-simmering dispute expressed pleasure with the changes, with some more skeptical than others.

"From the sound of it, eliminating the 'colors' provision is exactly in line with what we had requested," said Barbara Fine, vice president of the politically influential Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., which includes about 45 homeowner groups. "As for the overlooks issue, I'm all for more public input anytime."

'Good Job'

Barbara Blinderman, president of Mulholland Tomorrow, which has generally been supportive of the plan, said she hoped the changes would speed its acceptance. "It has been my opinion that the Planning Department has done a good job," she said. "It's time to get on with it."

However, George Caloyannidis, who heads Hands of Mulholland, whose members have been among the most vociferous opponents of the proposal, offered a more skeptical view.

"I'm pleased if it means residents will have a greater say in what actually takes place, but (city planners) until now still haven't addressed our concerns about security, fire danger, trash and gang activity in connection with the existing overlooks," he said. "Unless and until they do, we'll probably be just as opposed as before."

Caloyannidis and others insist that problems with vandalism, noise and graffiti have become worse since the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that administers much of the public land along Mulholland, built the first of three scenic overlooks four years ago. There is also a fourth overlook, but it was not built by the conservancy.

Although the details have yet to be worked out, city planners hope to submit a companion ordinance to the Planning Commission to address the issue of improving maintenance and security at the four existing overlooks and another nine that have been planned.

Sensitive Issue

The issue of future overlooks is particularly sensitive, with some Mulholland residents saying their concerns were ignored during the construction of the existing overlooks.

To address such criticism, the revised document assures that a security and maintenance program be in place and that the Planning Department conduct a public hearing to consider residents' wishes before the development of any new major vista point.

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, which conducted public hearings before developing previous overlooks, said that the overlooks provision provides "little that's new."

"It's probably meant to address the perception that (Mulholland residents) would get a more politically sensitive reading out of the city (Planning Department) than the conservancy," Edmiston said.

"It's a way to split the baby in half. I think the planners in their mind want overlooks for the public enjoyment. This is their way of not foreclosing on the option of having more (overlooks), while saying to people, 'Yes, we recognize there are problems here.' "

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