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Valley Perspective | Valley Voices / A Forum for Community

A Good Neighbor or Noisemaker?

November 08, 1998

Adding to the debate among area residents about noise and traffic issues stemming from Universal Studios' planned expansion, public records have revealed that the entertainment giant has acquired more than two dozen parcels on streets closest to its property line over the past several years.

Universal executives said the purchases reflect their commitment to improving the area and have nothing to do with its master plan. Opponents of the proposed 3.2-million-square-foot expansion claim that the acquisitions are an effort to silence those most affected by the plan.

DIANE WEDNER asked two homeowners who are vocal in the ongoing debate whether they believed proposed mitigation measures will sufficiently address noise concerns, one of the plan's more contentious issues, and what they thought of the land acquisitions.



Member, Universal City / North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

I don't think Universal is trying to silence the opposition by buying up land near the studio. I think they just want to expand their property. The people who bought homes or land up there could see Universal and knew what that entailed. They may have even bought their land because of the view of the studio, so nobody built up there without knowing where they were sitting.

Everything in the Universal Master Plan has been cut back. The children's theme park has been eliminated, for example. Every single item has been covered by the County Planning Commission; it's been carefully scrutinized and I don't believe they can sneak anything in nor do I see an intent to do so.

I have seen a reduction in the noise since I've been living here, and I'm right above the studio. They enclosed the amphitheater after complaints and they're going to enclose the WaterWorld attraction. After the neighbors complained about Jurassic Park, they quickly responded to that too. There is noise, yes, but to complain about filming on the back lot--that is [Universal's] business and their property. You cannot tell them to have no production. If the neighbors don't want to look at Universal anymore, they can build greenery around their properties.

My concern is for the economy of the area. In the 19 years I've been here, I've seen CityWalk go up--I can see it from my backyard--and I can occasionally hear noise from the park. It doesn't bother me. I've also seen auxiliary businesses grow over the years along Cahuenga Boulevard West and in North Hollywood and Studio City. This means a bigger tax base for the area.

My primary reason for supporting Universal is that they've been good neighbors and have shown that they care. They're building a bike path along the river and they support local schools.



Member, Toluca Lake Residents Assn.

My neighbors and I in Toluca Lake are on the front line of Universal [Studios] noise. Noise has been, and continues to be, a problem.

When Universal first began the expansion process, the initial environmental impact reports said there was no existing noise problem. In two years, it has gone from that assessment, to the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission's, which has said on several occasions that noise is the No. 1 problem.

Even with the scaled-back plan, the impact on this neighborhood will be significant. We expect that construction noise will go on for the next 10 to 15 years, and currently there are no restrictions that would be applicable to our neighborhoods. The reason, they say, is that construction noise only applies to within a certain number of feet from certain neighborhoods, such as Blair Drive, where [Universal] has been acquiring property. That street is the most seriously affected by noise, traffic and visual impact, and I don't think there is anything Universal can do to alleviate the problem.

The most essential thing we have to get is a noise enforcement program with teeth in it so that once construction begins there is a way for residents to get relief. The problem is that the program is a decibel-based solution--if the noise doesn't exceed a certain decibel level, [Universal] doesn't have to do anything about it. Also, if I'm sitting in my backyard and the birds are chirping, that creates a certain decibel level, but it's a natural sound. But if I hear the Universal dinosaur roaring or the falling bridge from Jaws, the decibel level may be the same as the birds, but it's a different quality of noise to me. That's the fallacy of the decibel-based system they want to employ.

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