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Valley Focus | Woodland Hills

Residents Review New Warner Ridge Plan

April 10, 1998|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

A developer's plan to consider throwing out the commercial portion of his Warner Ridge project in favor of an all-residential development got a mixed reaction from community members, many of whom had fought for eight years to kill the entire project.

At a meeting Wednesday night of the Woodland Hills/West Hills Neighborhood Planning Advisory Council, developer Jerry Katell floated the idea of scrapping the office building from the project and building 470 luxury rental townhomes instead.

Leaders of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization and members of the council--an advisory board to Councilwoman Laura Chick--said they supported the idea, but were concerned about 24-hour traffic patterns and the project's density.

The group also was adamant that the units be sold, not leased.

The council district office was pleased that the development might be only residential, said Ken Bernstein, Chick's planning deputy, but also agreed with the residents' concerns about traffic and density.

"This is not an ideal project for that site, no doubt about it," he said. "But, of course, we're open to finding something that's better."

Katell, president of Katell Properties, said Thursday he hasn't yet decided whether to move forward with the alternative plan, but that any deviation from the plan to address residents' concerns would make the all-residential option financially unfeasible.

He noted that the current market is for rentals and that the proposal's density is less than half what the property is zoned for.

Katell already has approval to build a 960,000-square-foot office project with 125 apartment units on the 21-acre site on De Soto Avenue between Oxnard Street and Victory Boulevard.

Bob Gross, a former president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization and longtime opponent of the project, said he would support the change to residential because it keeps businesses away from the east side of De Soto, something area residents have long fought.

"The community lost the battle and lost the war," he said. "But if this development ends up all residential, we would have lost the battle, but won the war."

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