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Developer Seeks Delay in Road Improvements : Traffic: Channel Gateway builder says the sprawling project is progressing slowly and producing fewer vehicle trips than expected. The request has outraged opponents but has Ruth Galanter's support.

March 22, 1992|JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENICE — The developer of the sprawling Channel Gateway housing and office complex now rising over Lincoln Boulevard in Venice has asked to postpone some of the nearly $3 million in traffic improvements he agreed to make when the project was approved.

Developer Jerome Snyder has told Los Angeles officials that he should be permitted to delay street widening and other improvements because the $400-million Channel Gateway project is progressing slowly and producing less traffic than expected.

Officials in the Los Angeles city Department of Transportation said they might agree to let Snyder make some improvements later, after finishing construction and leasing the 544 apartments that make up the first phase of Channel Gateway.

But critics said they are outraged that any portion of the project, which also will include 512 luxury condominiums and a 300,000-square-foot office building, could open without all traffic improvements in place.

When it approved the project in 1990, the Los Angeles City Council said occupancy of the apartments, condominiums and offices would not be permitted until "all public improvements . . . are completed to the satisfaction of the city engineer."

RuthannCarlisle, who lives in the nearby Oxford Triangle neighborhood, said Snyder "should have to do what he said he was going to do. Before he puts any more people in there, he has got to make the traffic better. I wouldn't give him an inch."

Word of a possible delay in construction of transportation improvements also frustrated officials in neighboring Culver City, who had opposed Snyder's project.

"He is saying, 'I got what I want, now I am not going to give you what I promised,' " complained Councilman Steven Gourley of Culver City. "It's a retroactive reneging by the developer . . . on the promises made for traffic improvements, on which people relied."

Jody Hall-Esser, Culver City's chief administrative officer, said: "It's an issue of great concern to us. We are going to look into it."

Snyder denied that he wants to break earlier commitments, saying he simply is asking to make road improvements as they are needed, not all at once. In the end, Snyder said, all the work will be completed as promised.

"We expected to have two condominium (towers) up by now," Snyder said. "But all we have been able to build is 25% of the project, instead of 60(%) or 70%, because of economic conditions. Since we are not going to generate the kind of traffic that had been anticipated, we are looking for a little relief."

Snyder said that he hopes to begin building the condominiums sometime this year but that he is not sure when demand for commercial space will increase enough to build the office structure.

The developer said the request for a delay is not due to financial problems. Snyder is past due with more than $400,000 in rent his company owes Los Angeles County for a nearby Marina del Rey condominium complex. But Snyder said that the partnership running the Marina condos is entirely separate from Channel Gateway and that his new project has no financial troubles.

City officials project that, when completed, Channel Gateway will put an additional 8,500 cars daily on already crowded roadways near Marina del Rey.

Snyder pledged during a long series of meetings with community groups and government officials to offset the crush of cars with a series of public works projects: a computerized traffic signal system at seven of the area's worst intersections; a widening of Lincoln, providing up to four through lanes; a relocation of the western end of the Marina Expressway to the south and expansion of turn lanes connecting the expressway and Lincoln, and widening the expressway near Mindinao Way, providing three through lanes.

Executives from the J. H. Snyder Co. first contacted the city Department of Transportation last month to ask that some of those improvements be phased in gradually.

The company's traffic consultant argued that during the first phase of the project, no street work at all should be required. The consultant argued that the 544 apartments will put scarcely more traffic on the roads than businesses that formerly operated on the property.

The traffic consultant said city officials used outdated figures that exaggerate the number of cars that will come to and from the apartments. City transportation engineers project that about 380 cars will come and go from 4:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon, while the developer's consultant, Crain & Associates of Southern California, predicted the apartments would produce just 216 cars.

But the city's traffic analysts have already rejected that logic and the developer's request to build no street improvements during the apartment construction. "I don't think that's a fair argument," said AllynRifkin, the city's principal transportation engineer.

Rifkin said, however, that a gradual construction of traffic improvements makes sense. And City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who serves the area, agreed.

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