Memo To JMB Developers and City Planning: The Century City Center Will "Trip" Up the Westside!

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ALPERN AT LARGE-Having experienced the awful ordeal fighting the Casden Sepulveda project, only to be stymied by a Mayor, a City Council and a City Planning Politburo that confuses the terms "variances" and "exemptions" with the term "legal" or "by right", I am naturally inclined to join the ranks of those concerned about the attempts of JMB Developers to thwart the Century City North Specific Plan and "trip" up the Westside with traffic gridlock. 

 

As with the Casden Sepulveda developers, JMB does a great job lobbying, funding local organizations and political campaigns (I'll let others decide if the word "bribing" is appropriate or not), and ramming through a process which City Planning delightfully deliberates during daytime hours. 

And--as with the Casden developers, we MUST each and every one of us weigh in to City Planning (see below) to preserve the rule of law in our City and to preserve the economy, environment and quality of life in our City. 

What is the Century City Center?  In short, it's a proposed 37-story office building located at the northeast corner of Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City that is 731,000 square feet in size.  Unfortunately FOR JMB, the rules of the Century City North Specific Plan (CCNSP), which has been used for every development in Century City for the past 30 years, allows FOR a much smaller office building (261,000 square feet) at that site. 

So JMB is now trying to build an office tower that's three times the size it legally ought to be. 

Part of what determines development rights are the rules (and we still DO have rules, right?) that the CCNSP and other Community Plans establishes, including and especially GENERATED TRIPS by a given project that help determine traffic and related impacts of a given development.  

The CCNSP is also flexible, and allows developers the right to transfer such trips to adjacent properties--which is what the JMB developers did in previous years-- for the Sun America tower and the former MGM/Constellation Place tower, each of which is larger in size than would otherwise have been allowed based on their own originally-allotted development trips.  

"No harm, no foul", as the expression goes, for those previously-transferred trips.  

In 2009, the JMB developers decided NOT to build a 261,000 square-foot office tower (which it could, and still legally can, with its remaining allotted development trips), and obtained the rights for a 483 residential condo project (also allowed with its remaining allotted development trips), which was also legally OK... 

Again, "no harm, no foul" so long as the rules are adhered to. 

...but NOW the JMB developers have changed their minds yet again, except this time they want their OWN special, arbitrary rules! 

Now, there's harm, and now we all have to cry "foul"! 

JMB has decided it wants another office building (the Century City Center) but this time it will be a whopping 731,000 square feet, which would require roughly three times the remaining trips they legally have.  

To do this, JMB needs a different measure of trips generated by their new project, an option provided for in the CCNSP for unusual applications and one which has been implemented but ONCE in the entire history of the CCNSP (since 1981).  

That one exception was for a telephone switching facility that had no staff and generated no peak hour traffic.  So this change of the rules that JMB wants for its office building (its own special formula, really) carries with it a terrible precedent for the neighborhoods surrounding Century City, if not the entire City.  

This irrational and arbitrary exception would rip open the current cap on development in Century City, with resultant impacts from Santa Monica to the Mid-City.  After all, how could the City grant such an exception to JMB for THEIR oversized office building and then deny it to others who seek to build new oversized office buildings that are prevented by current rules? 

So it's not hard to figure out that other developers would also want the privilege of their own special development formulas and rules once it became clear that the City was open to ignoring its own rules (even more than it already does!). 

But the Century City Center is no utility switching facility, and it's not staffed by robots and computers.  There will be real people, and real traffic impacts, and real gridlocked intersections for miles around, and real congestion/pollution/reduced quality of life, felt by the entire Westside when actually 14 trips per 1000 square feet is magically reduced to only 5 trips per 1000 square feet. 

IN A NUTSHELL, THE PROJECT WOULD BE CREDITED FOR MUCH FEWER TRIPS THAN IT WILL ACTUALLY CAUSE...AND "TRIP UP" THE ENTIRE REGION WITH UNNECESSARY GRIDLOCK. 

Opposition to the thrice-oversized Century City Center is widespread, and extending even to the neighborhoods in Mar Vista and West Los Angeles.  Positions opposing this project were universally supported by my own neighborhood council and the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee. 

This regional opposition was similarly evident at a meeting held last Friday in the West LA Municipal Building (thankfully, it was in the Westside and not Downtown or in the Valley, but it was still held at 10 am when only a fraction of those opposing the project could attend). 

I understand that CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz, whose district this proposed JMB Development lies, is still "listening"...which quite frankly should terrify us all, because Councilmember Koretz was "listening" for too long on the Casden Sepulveda project, and the lack of parking and/or mitigation and/or transit amenities at this Casden project site and for the three Expo Line stations in his council district are woefully inadequate. 

I may not be comfortable with Councilmember Koretz's slow, cautious approach on an issue where he SHOULD be fighting for his constituents in the same way CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin is AGGRESSIVELY defending his own constituents by fighting against an illegal pot shop in Mar Vista.

The hearing officer for the project (Nicholas Hendricks) has left the file open for this project for additional written comments until next Friday (11/29/2013).  If you were unable to attend the hearing and/or would like to contribute your input, you can contact him (please reference the project title/numerical assignment, as listed below) at: 

Nicholas Hendricks, Department of City Planning

nick.hendricks@lacity.org

Subject: CPC-2013-210-SPP-SPRMSC ("Century City Center Project") 

With copies to:

Paul Koretz, Los Angeles City Council District 5

paul.koretz@lacity.org 

Shawn Bayliss, Director, Planning & Land Use, Council District 5

shawn.bayliss@lacity.org 

As with the Casden Sepulveda development, ordinary citizens will have to spend time away from their work and their families must rise to the occasion, defend the rules our elected leaders have established (and who appear all-too willing to bend or break), and fight for a maintained quality of life. 

We have a problem with developers too focused on their profits while being unwilling to pay for the regional impacts caused by their own projects, and too many elected leaders and Planning gurus who are more than happy to enable them.

The EIR for the project can be found here.   

We have to show that we have rights, too, and demonstrate to JMB that if they want to arbitrarily change the rules for their own personal profits (to the suffering of everyone else) that they're...well...they're "tripping!"

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at   Alpern@MarVista.org This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us . The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern)

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 94

Pub: Nov 22, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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