Playa Vista, the massive residential and commercial project proposed for south of Marina del Rey, is shaping into neighborhoods with a mix of mid-rise office buildings and low-rise residential complexes.
At public meetings on Thursday and Friday, Nelson C. Rising, who heads the development team for Maguire Thomas Partners, unveiled preliminary drawings that showed three- and four-story residential courtyard complexes down the street from five- and six-story office buildings in a campus-like setting.
Rising said he does not expect any residential complex to be taller than six stories, or any commercial office building to be taller than 10 stories, which is below the ridgeline of the nearby Westchester bluffs.
Besides providing some early glimpses of the development's overall architectural look, the latest plans show several significant changes from earlier versions.
About 2,300 residential units and 70,000 square feet of retail business space that had been planned for the southwest corner of Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards have been relocated. Those 47 acres will remain open, although an interpretive nature center may be built.
The elimination of development on this site is contingent on settlement of a lawsuit filed against the developers by Friends of Ballona Wetlands, a preservation group.
The previous developer had agreed to set aside 175 acres of wetlands and 41 acres of sand dunes, and had pledged $10 million to the National Audubon Society to restore and maintain the wetlands. These provisions have been incorporated by Maguire Thomas Partners.
A six-story senior citizen housing complex that had been planned for the far west corner of the parcel is being replaced with a one- or two-story recreation center that will be accessible only by foot, bicycle or shuttle.
The number of streets will be increased in the southeastern part of the 957-acre tract, where most of the development will be concentrated. Rising said this will allow for a mix of shops, homes, offices and parks rather than clustering each use in separate areas that are accessible only by car.
In some neighborhoods, people will live above street-level retail and office space.
Overall, the developers plan to build 11,100 residential units, about 5 million square feet of office space and about 680,000 square feet of retail space.
"We're trying to create neighborhoods where everyone is within six minutes' walking distance of town centers," Rising said. "People will not need their cars to get from one place to another."
In effect, said principal architect Andres Duany of Miami, the developers will attempt to build a new city by borrowing many of the elements of small towns before 1940. Ideally, many residents will be able to work and shop within walking distance of their homes.
Almost all the housing will be in multifamily complexes of apartments, condominiums and townhouses.
Since becoming the lead developer for the project in February, Maguire Thomas has engaged in extensive consultations with residents in communities surrounding the project. The revised plans announced last week--showing a significant increase in the number of residential units coupled with cuts in the amount of commercial space--were a product of those meetings.
New plans for the northwest quadrant of the parcel--which was to include a 40-acre marina with up to 900 boat slips, 1,800 hotel rooms, 1,226 residential units and 150,000 square feet of retail space--will be discussed in late July or early August after an environmental study is completed, Rising said.
Last week, the team of architects, designers and planners met at the Playa Vista center on the corner of Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards. As late as Thursday morning, designers were still sketching on yellow tracing paper, traffic consultants were eliminating some proposals as unworkable, and architects were moving around blocks representing buildings to see where they fit best.
Renderings were still being colored in for Thursday night's presentation.
"We're a lot further along than I thought we would be, but we're still a long way from a finished plan," Rising said.
The changes represent a victory for residents living near the project and for Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who defeated former Councilwoman Pat Russell in 1987. Russell's support for the project as envisioned then was widely viewed as a major cause of her ouster.
Vow to Reduce Scale
In her campaign, Galanter said she would fight to have the project scaled back, even though it had already been approved in 1986 by the city and the state Coastal Commission.
Last August, Galanter called for a new environmental impact report, the preservation of a larger portion of wetlands and a 40% reduction in the amount of office space.
A spokesman for Galanter said she would not evaluate the project until all the proposed changes are made.