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Playa Vista Is Ambitious Try at Neo-Village

August 29, 1993|WILLIAM FULTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Playa Vista, the 1,087-acre area south of Marina del Rey, is the most ambitious neotraditional community currently being proposed in the Southland. The site south of Marina del Rey, formerly a private airfield owned by Howard Hughes, has been described as the largest urban in-fill project in the nation.

Duany/Plater-Zyberk was one of five design firms on the Playa Vista team. Doug Gardner, project manager for developer Maguire Thomas Partners, said the project was too large and complex for any single firm.

Duany, and other members of the design team--including Moore Ruble Yudell of Santa Monica, Moule & Polyzoides of Los Angeles, Ricardo Legorreta of Mexico and landscape architects Hannah/Olin of Philadelphia--were chosen because they are "all enormously competent designers, had demonstrated very good thinking in community making, and were accustomed to working in public forums," Gardner said.

A series of charettes, or public design meetings, occurred in 1989, allowing an active interchange between Playa Vista designers, neighbors and the general public. The current design, as described in a draft environmental impact report, envisions a project of 13,000 homes and apartments, 1,051 hotel rooms, 600,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and 5 million square feet of office space. The design of the residential areas emphasizes a low-rise, small-town atmosphere, although the developers are expected to allow a variety of different architectural styles throughout the project.

If the new community has a traditional, small-town feeling, project manager Gardner said he wants to create a city with a genuine Southern California character, not a theme park of make-believe images. "Playa Vista cannot be some vision of Paris or Nantucket. It has to be about Los Angeles."

Although the development partnership, which includes Summa Corp. of Los Angeles and JMB of Chicago, set aside some 260 acres of the Ballona Wetlands two years ago to settle a long-standing lawsuit with environmentalists, the project remains controversial among some local residents. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who has been a vocal critic of the project, wrote an 18-page critique of the environmental report in December, attacking the document for failing to anticipate damage to the development's surrounding wetlands and views. If developers succeed in winning approval for the first phase of development, construction could begin in winter of 1994.

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