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101 Project Could Take 800 Homes

Caltrans says the freeway widening might also destroy hundreds of other properties.

May 07, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Nearly 800 residences, including houses and apartment buildings, could be demolished to make way for the proposed widening of the Ventura Freeway from Studio City to Thousand Oaks, according to the California Department of Transportation.

The proposal could also affect more than 250 commercial buildings, along with 27 schools and churches, 14 medical and government facilities, eight cultural sites and eight parks and recreation areas.

The freeway proposal was announced last week by a group of transportation planners who recommended adding two carpool lanes in each direction and an additional regular lane in areas that currently have four. Caltrans estimated the $3.4-billion package of projects -- which would also include improving ramps, nearby streets and public transit -- would affect 545 acres.

This week, Caltrans released a draft estimate of the potential devastation to freeway-adjacent neighborhoods.

The Caltrans estimates, based on aerial maps, have a margin of error of 20 feet.

Although Caltrans has not released a specific list of affected properties, mid- and east-Valley residents believe their densely developed neighborhoods along the existing freeway would lose the most structures.

"It's totally unfair," said Gordon Murley, president of the San Fernando Valley Federation, a coalition of homeowner groups. "This is to accommodate Ventura County and Agoura Hills and Calabasas.... They want to ship all their people to Los Angeles and encumber the lives of people in Los Angeles."

Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., agreed, saying, "This is going to be a major battle between people who live west ... and people who live east."

But some in the west said they also oppose the freeway widening. "There's too much built-on land. It's infeasible ... the displacement of people would be horrible," said Calabasas Councilwoman Lesley Devine, whose city contains state parkland that would be destroyed by the project.

Some who represent the Valley's commercial interests say improving transportation is vital for the region, even if it means that some buildings have to go.

"The thing that we lose sight of is, communities are dynamic places, and the people who live in the Valley today do so at the expense of someone in the past," said Robert Rodine, a financial consultant who co-chairs the transportation committee for the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. "Everyone driving the freeway today is driving through someone's backyard that had to be displaced."

The proposal will be considered May 23 by a steering committee of transportation agencies and elected officials, who will decide what to present to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board for a vote.

The proposed widening, which would help alleviate some, but not all, future congestion, would push the freeway out by about 33 feet on each side, said Tom Jenkins, a vice president at New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., the consulting firm retained by Caltrans to study ways to reduce congestion in the 101 corridor.

To fully accommodate population growth and do away with congestion, the Ventura Freeway would need seven additional lanes on each side, said Linda Taira, the Caltrans manager in charge of the study of the 101 corridor. With the proposed two- to three-lane widening, Jenkins said, "it'll still be congested in places, but it'll be better."

Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss said the information released by Caltrans highlights the need for hearings and discussions before any decision is made.

"What people need to understand is that this is the beginning, not the end, of a long public process," said Weiss, who has not yet taken a position on the project. "Because it's early in the process, I want to hear from people in the affected areas, and affected commuters as well."*

Times staff writer Matea Gold contributed to this report.

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