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Home Builders Still Dedicated to Playa Vista Despite Delays


Despite delays and environmental concerns, a pioneering group of home builders say they remain committed to building the first phase of 1,500 housing units at the Playa Vista development near Marina del Rey.

It was nearly a year ago that development officials said that seven home builders had agreed to buy lots and then obtain city building permits within 60 days to construct a mix of apartments, multistory condominiums and luxury homes.

But soon afterward, concerns about pockets of methane gas and an earthquake fault underneath the approximately 1,000-acre property prompted the city of Los Angeles to study the problems and potential solutions. That study, which is still weeks away from being released, has put most of the plans for residential development south of Marina del Rey on hold, say executives of Playa Vista and the builders.

The project's challengers say the potential problems related to methane gas should be enough to prevent the development of thousands of homes on the property.

"We have said since the beginning that this land is not made for the kind of high-density development that has been proposed," said Marcia Hanscom, executive director of the Wetlands Action Network.

But Playa Vista officials and the home builders say there are proven methods of minimizing the environmental risks and they will press ahead with the project.

"The builders have put deposits down. They are eagerly waiting to get started," said Playa Vista spokesman Neal Sacharow. The first batch of apartments is expected to be completed in the second quarter of next year, he said.

"We are under contract and very committed to the project," said David McKinzie, president of the Los Angeles division of John Laing Homes, which plans to build 100 townhomes priced at $400,000 and up.

Playa Vista last year announced deals with six other home builders: Fairfield Residential, Lee Group, Olson Co., Ryland Homes, Shea Homes and Warmington Homes of California. Officials of John Laing, Lee Group and Shea Homes confirmed their plans at Playa Vista. Representatives of the other builders could not be reached for comment.

The builders will be constructing homes that differ from the suburban-style tract home. Shea Homes, for example, will build pairs of two-story townhomes stacked on top of each other, resulting in a four-story building atop a garage.

"We are looking forward to starting," said Less Thomas, president of Brea-based Shea Homes.

On a separate portion of Playa Vista, a partnership between Los Angeles developer Maguire Partners and Equity Office Properties Trust is awaiting city review and permits to build a 426,000-square-foot office project called Water's Edge. Maguire Partners executive Timothy Walker said the city is scheduled to respond today to the firm's plan to mitigate and control methane gas on the property.

Walker said construction on the first phase will begin in late spring if the city grants all the necessary permits and approvals. No tenants have been signed for the office project, which is expected to take 14 months to construct, he said.

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