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L.A. County supervisor opposes Universal Studios housing plan

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says housing at NBCUniversal's Universal Studios could lead to fewer production jobs on the back lot.

February 02, 2012|By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says in a letter that proposed housing at Universal Studios would "most certainly create additional pressure on the studio to constrain and/or curtail some of its current production activity."
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says in a letter that proposed… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky shot a torpedo at NBCUniversal's $3-billion "Evolution Plan," saying he opposes the company's proposal to build housing on part of its famous back lot in Universal City.

The supervisor asked Universal Studios President Ron Meyer in a letter to abandon plans to develop nearly 3,000 condominiums and apartments at the east end of the studio's property. Yaroslavsky's district includes Universal City.

The addition of such housing would have "considerable downside to Universal and to our local economy," Yaroslavsky said in the letter, dated Tuesday.

Neighbors have expressed concern that the housing, which would be served by nearby shops and restaurants, would lead to additional congestion on the streets and highways around the studio, but the supervisor framed his opposition mainly in economic terms.

Eliminating a portion of the back lot could reduce television and motion picture production at Universal because there would be less room for filming, Yaroslavsky said. That could cost jobs.

The new neighbors might also grow weary of being so close to the action, leading to further production cuts.

"The proposed specific plan would place nearly 6,500 residents only a few feet away from the studio and theme park," he said. "Such a development will most certainly create additional pressure on the studio to constrain and/or curtail some of its current production activity, threatening to shrink the studio and its related uses to a fraction of their current size."

Objections to the housing proposal have been noted by NBCUniversal during the continuing environmental impact review process, a company representative said.

"This is something we have heard from some members of the community and we are currently considering as part of the response-to-comment period we are in now," spokeswoman Cindy Gardner said.

Most of the communities surrounding Universal oppose its housing proposal, said Terry Davis of Communities United for Smart Growth, a nonprofit group made up of homeowners and other stakeholders in the area.

"It's the loss of production space," she said. "An area zoned for production that is once lost can never be regained."

Congestion in the area is sometimes "horrendous," she said. "Traffic is a major component and huge bugaboo there for any kind of development."

The city released a draft environmental impact report on the project in 2010, and the final report is expected this year.

NBCUniversal's plans also call for additional studio space and offices for producing movies and television shows, as well as a hotel, shops and tourist attractions.

roger.vincent@latimes.com

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