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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

An urban 'burb

March 11, 2007|Maggie Barnett | Times Staff Writer

Outside the Metropolitan Warner Center, a new condo conversion complex in Woodland Hills, a young woman waves a giant arrow reading, "Sleep in. The luxury of living minutes from work." As Los Angeles gridlock worsens every year, that siren song may be more beguiling now than when this live-and-work neighborhood was first envisioned.

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Beginnings

Standing in the shadow of the 20- and 25-story Warner Center Towers, it's hard to imagine that nothing taller than corn graced the landscape in the early 1900s.

In the 1970s, developers and public policy makers began planning a high-density business hub in the West San Fernando Valley.

"One of the premises was to try to create a 24-hour live, work and play environment," said Brad Rosenheim, president of Rosenheim & Associates, a consulting firm that advises the Warner Center Assn. property owners group. Residential developers were offered tax and building incentives to bring housing into the business park.

Warner Center today has less commercial space than originally envisioned, and the demand for housing has pushed the number of condominiums nearly to the build-out point.

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What it's about

The neighborhood is a lively mix of apartments, condos, high-rise office buildings, manufacturing, shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a 318-room hotel and a 20-acre park squeezed onto about 1,000 acres. It sits on the Valley floor, roughly bordered by Ventura Boulevard, De Soto Avenue and Victory Boulevard and includes a pocket between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Shoup Avenue.

The Westfield Promenade -- a shopping center originally designed to compete with the shops in Beverly Hills -- opened as the Promenade in 1973. But it failed to attract a high-end anchor. Ironically, it is the once dowdy Westfield Topanga nearby that has lured boutiques and a Nordstrom store.

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Insiders' view

Woodland Hills residents initially were worried that the development would spoil the close-knit neighborhood. But, said Realtor Audrey Joyce, who has lived in the community for 27 years, the mixed-use concept "turned out to be a really great thing."

On weekends, Warner Center residents can walk to the movies. Plus, Joyce said, "you are only 25 minutes from Topanga Beach."

Barbara Weitekamp likes the convenience of having everything within walking distance. She can walk to her bank and cross the street for coffee at the Westfield Promenade.

Now retired from Kaiser Permanente, she enjoys the summer concerts and the art exhibits in Warner Ranch Park. "I considered moving in retirement," she said, "but I'm a city person."

What 11-year resident Weitekamp doesn't like is the increased congestion that has come with more residents and the Metro Orange Line bus, which started express service to the Metro Red Line's North Hollywood station in October 2006.

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Good news, bad news

The Woodland Hills community has a history of activism to maintain its quality of life.

Residents drew the line in 1990 over a planned 810,000-square-foot complex with seven office buildings, a restaurant and a parking structure.

The Warner Ridge Homeowners Assn. successfully lobbied for zoning restrictions on new commercial development, limiting it to west of De Soto Avenue.

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Housing stock

Just east of De Soto, the Bella Vista apartment complex is being developed; 315 units have been built and an additional 269 are under construction. Rents range from $1,675 for a 749-square-foot, one-bedroom unit to $3,330 for a 1,431-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment.

Formerly the Warner Center Apartments, the Metropolitan's converted 1,279 condos are about 50% sold. A 660-square-foot, one-bedroom unit goes for $302,000. The three-bedroom, two-bath model is priced at $530,000. Amenities include a fitness center, four pools, four spas, six tennis courts and two racquetball courts. Monthly fees range from $241 to $290.

Buyers at the Metropolitan run the gamut from college students bankrolled by parents to seniors, but they are mostly young professionals, said sales agent Anice Luftig. About one-fourth of the buyers at the Metropolitan work nearby.

About 20 resale condos are on the market -- from $279,990 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom 600-square-foot unit to $469,900 for two bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in 1,263 square feet.

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Report card

Students are served by Taft High School, which scored 689, on the 2006 Academic Performance Growth Index, and Woodland Hills Academy (formerly called Francis Parkman Middle School), which scored 709. Serrania, Woodlake Avenue and Calvert Street elementary schools scored 867, 858 and 784, respectively.

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maggie.barnett@latimes.com

Sources: Claritas; api.cde.ca.gov.

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