An unprecedented agreement was announced Thursday that would allow the city of Los Angeles to halt UCLA's planned growth if the school exceeds agreed-upon traffic quotas.
The agreement would be in effect until the year 2005.
As a state university, UCLA is not bound by local regulations, and the UC system's autonomy from local interference is closely guarded. Thus, the university's willingness to allow the city to police its traffic is a major concession.
UCLA is planning to add 3.71 million square feet of campus facilities under its Long Range Development Plan. The plan, announced earlier this year, has been met with complaints that such growth would choke the already traffic-plagued Westwood area.
Under the terms of the pact announced by city, county, state and university officials, UCLA will abide by a mutually agreed-upon limit of 139,500 non-rush hour "vehicle trips" a day, 10,500 more than currently measured by the city for the campus.
A "vehicle trip" is one car or truck crossing UCLA boundaries or entering or leaving an off-campus university facility. UCLA is the single largest traffic generator in West Los Angeles, officials said.
The agreement must be ratified by the University of California Regents and the Los Angeles City Council.
The additional 10,500 trips that will be allowed represent UCLA projects already approved or under way. The number of acceptable rush-hour trips is still under negotiation. Certain non-traffic generating projects, such as library facilities, were exempted from the pact.
"This gives the city of Los Angeles an unprecedented role in determining what will be developed on the Westwood campus," Westwood-area Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said at a press conference Thursday.
City Transportation Department spokesman Tom Connor further noted that this agreement is the first time the city will be able to monitor development so that a project lives up to promises not to increase traffic.
Officials lauded the agreement as a model for working out inter-jurisdictional disputes for the good of the greater community.
Yaroslavsky was joined by state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman, all of whom praised UCLA's willingness to be a "good neighbor."
UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young "showed tremendous courage and leadership in agreeing to enter these discussions," Yaroslavsky said. "He's basically saying he's putting his money where his mouth is."
Young was out of the country, so Vice Chancellor Peter Blackman represented UCLA.
The elected officials made clear that their accord on the traffic plan should not be viewed as support for the entire growth plan, about which they voiced continued reservations because of its environmental impact.
Conspicuously absent from the press conference were members of the local homeowner groups that have been fighting the UCLA plan, saying it is too much growth in an area that cannot cope with it.
"They played no role in it," said Yaroslavsky. But, he said, "it's hard for me to believe that anyone would not see this as a great step forward."
One of those who does not see it that way is UCLA Watch President Alvin Milder. Milder said he was disturbed that the lawmakers bypassed their constituents in making the agreement.
"I think it's outrageous. Elected officials are supposed to be representing the community and did not consult the community," he said.
"It's another joke on the community," said homeowner activist Sandy Brown. She said she does not view the city as vigilant enough for the traffic watchdog role.
The traffic monitoring agreement calls for the city and UCLA to independently measure "vehicle trips" in the third week of October, when campus traffic is high. UCLA has agreed to absorb some of the cost to the city for the extra monitoring. Both sides will submit disagreements to binding arbitration.
The agreement includes an escape clause for the regents and city. If UCLA shows "significant change of circumstances within the university, which warrants a modification of the long-range educational plans of the UCLA campus" it can back out of the agreement.
"This is an enormous out for UCLA," said community activist Laura Lake. "This means all they have to do is say, 'We changed plans.' "