Local leaders give a unanimous nod to Annenberg Foundation facility planned for Playa Vista

By Gary Walker

Playa Vista could soon be going to the dogs (and cats), and community members apparently couldn’t be happier.

Plans by the Annenberg Foundation to open a domestic animal care and adoption center next to the site of Yahoo’s future Los Angeles headquarters received a 17-0 vote of support last Tuesday by the Neighborhood Council of Westchester – Playa.

The two-story, 36,000 square foot facility would exist in one of five creative office space suites currently under construction as part of The Collective at Playa Vista.

Annenberg must obtain a city permit to move forward with the plan because the animal center would be located within 500 feet of a residential neighborhood. The neighborhood council’s vote recommends that the city issue the permit.

The facility would focus on caring for homeless pets and finding them homes. It would also offer training workshops as well as classes on how people can become better pet owners. Plans include a leadership institute for animal advocacy as well as a learning center featuring a multipurpose auditorium and classroom.

“Our goal is to promote and strengthen the human-animal bond, with particular emphasis on companion animals, household pets and the role that they play in our lives,” said Howard Litwak, Annenberg’s project manager for the facility.

Litwak said the Annenberg Foundation hopes the center will make a significant difference in support of animal welfare causes.

“The idea of the leadership institute is to have a national impact through forums, discussions, annual analyses of issues and model legislation,” Litwak explained. “We all know that there are dozens of animal issues that come up every day. The point is to have the opportunity to make a policy impact as well as a personal impact.”

Annenberg’s first hearing before the city’s zoning administrator is slated for July 30. Litwak said construction of the facility could be completed by September, making January 2017 a target opening date if the project receives timely city approvals.

An animal care specialist would be on call at the Annenberg facility 24/7 hours a day for the animals that are boarded on site. These would include dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs, said foundation representative Jackie Jakkola.

“I think the Annenberg center at Playa Vista is an excellent, well thought-out project. Our communities and students will benefit from the learning center,” said neighborhood council member Garrett Smith.

The animal care center is a longtime dream of Wallis Annenberg, the foundation’s president and the daughter of Walter Annenberg, the philanthropic organization’s founder.

The foundation had earlier considered building a multipurpose nature and animal care facility in the Ballona Wetlands as part of a $50-million donation toward the restoration center, but the concept was widely criticized by environmental activists opposed to construction on state land.

Prior critics have praised the foundation for moving its proposal out of the wetlands.