A Santa Monica-based development company, known for its ability to win the approval of government for its projects, will attempt to resolve the controversies surrounding the $1-billion Playa Vista project south of Marina del Rey.
Playa Vista, a massive planned community proposed for a 957-acre parcel owned by Summa Corp., has been mired in controversy over its density and threat to nearby wetlands.
An official of Maguire Thomas Partners, which acquired an interest in Playa Vista for an undisclosed amount and will step in as managing general partner, said the firm will take a "fresh look" at the project to see how community concerns can be addressed.
Nelson C. Rising, who will head the development team for Playa Vista, said it was too early to say what specific changes in the plan could be made.
Redesigning the Project
"We are about three to four weeks premature," Rising said. "We want the dialogue with Councilwoman (Ruth) Galanter to continue. We want to move as fast as we can to understand all the concerns."
Los Angeles Councilwoman Galanter, whose 6th District includes Playa Vista, defeated incumbent Councilwoman Pat Russell in 1987 in part because of Galanter's opposition to Playa Vista.
Last August, Galanter called for a 40% reduction in the amount of office space in the project, for expansion of the wetlands and for a new environmental impact report. She claimed the report certified by the city in 1986 is "inaccurate, inadequate and outdated."
After a 30-minute meeting last week with Rising, Galanter said in a prepared statement: "The conversation with Mr. Rising was very cordial and I am looking forward to the process of redesigning this project to correct the serious flaws that existed in the previous plan. I told Mr. Rising that I expect a Maguire Thomas project to be compatible with both the natural environment and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Deal With Issues
"The reality is that Maguire Thomas will have to deal effectively with air quality issues, sewer limitations and traffic problems or they will not be building any project.
"I also told Mr. Rising that this time around, Playa Vista won't be planned in the back rooms of City Hall, but in an open, public process that will bring the community in at the beginning."
The city and the state Coastal Commission in 1986 approved plans for the parcel bordered by the San Diego Freeway, Westchester, Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey, and crossed by Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards. Under those plans, Summa was allowed to build up to 8,837 housing units, 5.9-million square feet of office and research space, 970,000-square feet of retail space, 2,400 hotel rooms and a 40-acre marina with 700 to 900 boat slips.
Summa agreed to set aside 175 acres of wetlands and 41 acres of sand dunes and bluffs as a natural preserve, and pledged $10 million to the National Audubon Society to restore and maintain the wetlands.
A 70-acre portion of the parcel in the northeast corner of Lincoln Boulevard and the Ballona Channel was acquired by the state last year as payment of taxes on Howard Hughes' estate. Hughes had owned Summa Corp. However, state Controller Gray Davis has said that he wants to trade the parcel for preservation of more wetlands.
Rising would not say whether Maguire Thomas is interested in a trade, but company officials have hinted that there may be significant changes to plans for Playa Vista.
Robert F. Maguire III, the firm's co-managing partner, said last week that he envisioned Playa Vista "borrowing the best from the enduring and graceful buildings and public spaces so beloved by Southern California, such as the Pasadena City Hall and its public gardens, the Santa Barbara City Hall and park, the Los Angeles Central Library and the Palisades Park in Santa Monica."
Elected officials that have had dealings with Maguire Thomas said that the firm is willing to mesh community concerns with its own financial concerns.
In Los Angeles, Maguire Thomas is providing $125 million in cash and in kind contributions for the restoration and expansion of the Central Library, which was slated for demolition, in exchange for being allowed to build the 73-story First Interstate World Center and the 52-story Southern California Gas Center.
"They have a broad view of development as it interacts with public policy," said Los Angeles Councilman Marvin Braude, who is a personal friend of the managing partners of the firm. "I can't imagine more enlightened developers who are likely to cooperate with public policy concerns."
In Pasadena, Maguire Thomas said 25% of the work is going minority contractors in exchange for being allowed to build Plaza Las Fuentes, a $270-million, mixed-use project under construction on six acres next to Pasadena City Hall.
Pasadena City Director Rick Cole was the lone vote opposing the project, but even he is impressed with the firm.