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Valley Perspective

Galleria Area's Problems Need Solving Now

Mall's neighbors already suffer from traffic, parking and noise. Renovation promises even more of the same.

October 04, 1998|JILL DYCHE | Jill Dyche is a Sherman Oaks management consultant

The Sherman Oaks Galleria is a shadow of its former self. The site of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and a San Fernando Valley icon has witnessed its own demise in the last several years. Thus most Valley residents welcome renovation plans proposed by the Galleria's owner, Douglas Emmett.

The Galleria's proposed renewal proffers the addition of commercial office space while promoting renewed pedestrian traffic to specialty retailers. The plans include glass-fronted buildings and palm tree plantings and there is even $400,000 budgeted for "streetscape" improvements.

Residents living within blocks of the complex know that although the aesthetic improvements are enticing, the existing problems of the area will only be exacerbated by the development. Traffic cutting through residential areas, overflow parking and rush-hour noise are already nuisances near the intersection of Ventura and Sepulveda boulevards, the busiest in the Valley. Attracting more office workers on weekdays and shoppers and moviegoers on evenings and weekends could paralyze residential streets in the area, already-crippled by too many cars.

At a recent public hearing, Encino homeowners and concerned business owners expressed enthusiastic support for Galleria renovation. But none of these well-meaning attendees resides within a mile of the development. Those of us who do are more circumspect in our support.

Anyone who has been to Pasadena or Universal CityWalk on a Saturday night has observed an attractive shopping and dining area overrun by visitors. Old Town's diagonal crosswalks, added parking and widened sidewalks have failed to curtail the ever-increasing tide of pedestrian and automobile traffic. The difference between these two areas and the Galleria is that the latter abuts single-family residential homes.

In his usual rush to bless commercial projects despite neighborhood concerns, Councilman Mike Feuer has joined with the developer in attempting to calm nervous residents even as specific traffic statistics have yet to be furnished.

Emmett's representatives have presented a laundry list of possible "neighborhood protection" measures but insist that nothing can be done until entitlements have been granted. The developer has set aside $100,000-- one-fourth of the streetscape budget and the approximate cost of one traffic light--for these protection measures. Given that permits have been approved and there is widespread support for Galleria enhancement, it's a matter of time before building begins in one form or another.

These facts alone should move Feuer and Emmett to make a good-faith effort to remedy traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood and to enact these improvements before building begins.

Let's fix the neighborhood problems before they become irreparable. In other words, now.

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