Westchester and Del Rey residents are mobilizing in preparation for a vote by Culver City’s governing body that could green-light a 220-foot, 13-story complex on the Culver City-Westchester border that is certain to impact the surrounding areas in what some feel will be an adverse way.
The Entrada Tower project, a proposed development adjacent to the Radisson Hotel at 6161 Centinela Ave., is a 340,000-square-foot building that developer Centinela Development Partners has insisted can be a welcome addition to Culver City’s growing business infrastructure and provide an infusion of capital to the city’s coffers.
It will be the main topic of discussion at the Culver City Council meeting Monday, April 14th, and the planned development has generated controversy both in Culver City and its neighbors to the south and west.
Additional traffic woes, a loss of hillside views for some Westchester Bluff homeowners and deteriorating air quality are some of the detrimental consequences that residents on the Los Angeles side of the planned development have complained about. But what many of them — both in Culver City and Los Angeles — frequently mention is the height of the project, which is currently 220 feet.
The height limit on buildings in Culver City is 56 feet, which was passed by the council in the mid-1990s. But special variances can be granted to projects that lie in specified redevelopment areas, and the project near the Radisson qualifies, according to representatives for the developer.
The Culver City Planning Commission approved the Entrada project in February after a five-hour meeting, despite opposition from Westchester, Del Rey and Culver City residents.
The massive project has drawn the attention of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who expressed his concern in a recent letter to Culver City officials.
“In the spirit of fostering a collaborative effort between our two cities with respect to smart, regional planning, I’m writing to urge the Culver City Council to take an in-depth look at the proposed Entrada office tower project,” the mayor wrote.
“Although located in Culver City, the proposed project site shares three boundaries with Los Angeles. As such, the traffic and demand for public services generated by the proposed building will directly impact Los Angeles and its residents,” he continued.
Villaraigosa also referred to the height of the tower complex.
“In addition, the requested variance to Culver City’s existing height limit of 56 feet to 220 feet will negatively affect the viewershed and aesthetics of the Westchester community,” his letter states.
Westchester homeowner Diane Landis plans to attend the April 14th meeting with the intention of expressing her concerns about the proposed development and how it will affect the lives of her neighbors.
“We feel that this is a rush to judgment,” Landis said. “This building will create awful, awful traffic problems.”
The Los Angeles community of Del Rey will also feel the brunt of the large-scale project, says Mark Redick, president of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council.
“Environmental impacts of the project cannot be mitigated by rushing forward with this project,” said Redick, who is supporting Westchester opponents’ position that the proposed complex be delayed or denied. “The environmental impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods cannot be mitigated, and the developer has offered nothing to the affected areas.”
While there is some support for the project in Culver City, Tom Supple, a longtime Culver City resident, says that he has heard very little.
“Most of the people that I have talked to are not in favor of this project,” said Supple, who has followed developments in Culver City for more than a decade. He was dismayed that there were more Westchester residents at the Planning Commission meeting than from Culver City, and he plans to rally more of his neighbors to the council meeting.
Lisa Gritzner, a spokeswoman for Centinela Development Partners, in an interview last month said that the economic windfalls for Culver City could be substantial and the surrounding communities could also potentially benefit from the tower project.
“This added revenue will also attract businesses that add to the gateway of Culver City and to Los Angeles,” Gritzner said.
She said that the developer had worked with various governmental entities to conduct a “very thorough” traffic study of the area, and that the vast majority of the intersections near the development had been mitigated.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the Del Rey and Westchester communities, said that several of his constituents met in his Westchester office with Culver City Mayor Alan Corlin on April 4th to listen to their complaints and fears regarding how the tower project would affect their lives.
“It was an incredible discussion,” the councilman told The Argonaut. “It was a very positive and very constructive meeting for Culver City and for my constituents.”
Rosendahl said that he urged Culver City’s elected officials to postpone the vote or vote against the project, but he realizes that as it is an independent city, its officials have the right to do what they feel is best for their city.
“At the end of the day, they’re going to do what they do,” he said. “I’m very grateful that Culver City elected officials met very respectfully with my constituents, who are wonderful, bright and sensitive people, to listen to their concerns.”
Corlin, who leaves office along with two of his council colleagues at the end of this month, also thought the meeting went well.
“I absolutely understand their concerns and I will be keeping them in mind when we vote on April 14th,” he said.
Supple took issue with Gritzner’s statement that “the vast majority of the intersections near the development had been mitigated.”
“My neighborhood suffers from cut-through traffic from people coming into Culver City and going to Los Angeles,” he noted. “I don’t see how they can mitigate intersections like Sepulveda [Boulevard] and Centinela [Avenue] or Centinela and Jefferson [Boulevard].”
Supple, like the Westchester homeowners who spoke against the tower project in February, is concerned about the density and the height of the project.
“It’s four times the height limit,” he pointed out.
Landis noted that the proposed project is twice as large as the hotel and she believes that a development this size would necessitate a considerable number of construction vehicles, which would bring additional dust and particles to the atmosphere around her hillside home.
“I’m fearful about the air quality if they do a large project like this,” she said.
Redick and his Westchester counterparts also share another sentiment — they feel that their communities are slowly being encroached upon by large-scale developments that threaten the quality and character of their neighborhoods.
“For Del Rey, this is damaging because we not only have to contend with development in the Glencoe Avenue/Maxella Avenue corridor, but also the Archstone build- ing that is being planned for Grosvenor Boulevard, a building that could have 44 units per acre,” Redick said. “The best developments are best for everyone, and while this is a win-win for Culver City, it’s a lose-lose for Del Rey and Westchester.”
Supple and Landis said that residents of Culver City and Westchester who oppose the Entrada Tower have been working together to scale back or postpone the decision on the project.
“We’re trying to reach out to our Culver City neighbors, and we’re hoping for a large contingent of Culver City people for April 14th,” she said.
“We are working with the community to help them understand the benefits of the project,” said Gritzner, who is also an executive vice president of public relations with Cerrell and Associates. “We understand the concerns that residents may have with the project, and we have worked very hard with Culver City to revise the schematics to lessen any potential impacts that there might be.”
Redick sees it a bit differently.
“I view this as an assault on Westchester and Del Rey,” asserted Redick, who plans to speak at the council meeting. “We are all common stakeholders on the Westside.”
Landis said that she and many of her neighbors oppose the Entrada project because of the density and height and are not anti-development.
“We’re for responsible, downsized development,” she stressed.
Opponents of the project are hoping the Culver City Council will heed Villaraigosa’s letter, which concluded, “I request that the City Council take a closer look at the project to determine if any design alternatives are feasible and have fewer impacts on the surrounding communities.”