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Fox Development and Quality of Life

April 25, 1993

A careful look at the "battle" between 20th Century Fox and Westside citizens may give us a picture of how Los Angeles will fare during the coming years.

In the struggle to keep the economy alive, have California and local legislators decided to hand over control of development to the developers themselves, effectively telling citizens that quality of life is no longer a vital issue? Apparently, this project is so important to our economy that Sacramento's concerned legislators have sunk their political fortunes into its success, indiscriminately supporting the developer. Perhaps it's easier than finding a comprehensive solution to the economic problems of the state.

Based on vague (and sometimes specious) promises of an increase in jobs, under threats that Fox will leave the area (Can you imagine them leaving some of the best real estate in L.A. for the boondocks?), and with project plans embarrassing in their lack of detail, the city Planning Commission has handed the golden goose over to the giant.

For example, they have, in effect, given Fox approval to substantially exceed allowed traffic impact for much of the year without penalty (that means several days a month during which it may well be impossible to drive in the area of the studio). To boot, they handed Fox control of trip monitoring. Fox? Hen house? Sound familiar?

With questionable foresight and claiming its importance to the economy of Los Angeles, these planners have thus guaranteed gridlock on Westside intersections, mayhem on residential streets and a stupendous increase in the value of a piece of real estate with questionable control over it in years to come.

In a passionate expression of concern for the community, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky demands negligible mitigations (in comparison with those recommended by experts) and token reductions in the project, with the ultimate effect of giving Fox essentially what they want. He will certainly cover his rear end and likely come off smelling like a rose. Meanwhile, he will have satisfied large business interests and trashed a historic development plan for Century City, a plan he helped create and which he insisted was crucial to the protection of the community.

Fox, portraying itself as the injured party, howls at every inch given to the well-being of the local community (so far, amounting to almost no inches). Their need for this project is questionable. The necessity of a significant zoning change is, at best, vague. The possibility that, after city approval, Fox will find the land too valuable to keep and begin selling pieces of it (remember, future developers always have the right to ask the city to bend their rules), with potentially disastrous consequences for the Westside, is too frightening to contemplate. Either way, the Westside loses.

In this battle, Fox's "win" guarantees nothing for Los Angeles and presents prospects worse than the present situation. This wholesale granting of rights, in rampant disregard for quality of life in the local community, can only foretell worse to come. If the resurrection of L.A.'s economy will be at the expense of its citizens, what will be left to call "community?" Maybe that's why people are leaving.

ALLAN RABINOWITZ

Los Angeles

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