Says it’s time to embrace The Village at Playa Vista

To the Editor:

The Village at Playa Vista, the second and final phase of the Playa Vista community, received unanimous approval from the Los Angeles Planning Commission in December. The commissioners lauded the project as embracing the very smart growth principles that the city is trying to achieve in local neighborhoods.

As someone who has observed many public hearings on Playa Vista over the years, this one shows how far the community has come. Many of the commissioners had visited Playa Vista and spoke of their firsthand experiences. The discussion was cordial, straightforward and laudatory in tone. The sentiment was aptly summarized by the president of the Planning Commission who said, “What we see here Ö is a very smart and sustainable project. It’s something that I’m excited about and I think the city will be excited about.”

The opponents of Playa Vista could be counted on one hand. Supporters of the Village at Playa Vista were a diverse bunch, including residents, neighbors from Playa del Rey and Westchester, neighborhood council leaders, union leaders, education leaders, economic development leaders, and so on.

The point is this: Playa Vista is great for Los Angeles. It is a smart growth model for Los Angeles and the nation. The first-phase residential community is home to thousands of people who mirror the economic and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles. Both Playa Vista residents and neighboring communities use the parks, library, shops and restaurants. The whole place is walkable and it looks great.

The Campus part of phase one includes the recently completed Clippers training facility, about 700,000 square feet of newly completed office space, two new public parks and 11 historic Hughes Aircraft industrial buildings that have been renovated for re-use in the entertainment, media and technology business. Over 200,000 square feet of additional office space is currently under construction, along with a huge new Campus Central Park — which will bring even more sports fields, play areas and garden areas open to everyone.

These are great uses on both ends at Playa Vista. But The Village, the area at the center of the community, is what will make the live/work/play vision complete. The Village will link the residential and commercial areas and deliver substantial community benefits, including additional retail space, workforce and entry level housing, open space, new public parks and even more regional transportation improvements.

The Village is created with the same smart growth principles as the first phase. We need more mixed-use developments that allow people to live close to jobs, parks and shopping, particularly on the Westside. And during a time of great economic difficulty, The Village would create almost 7,000 construction jobs and millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues for the City of Los Angeles.

Construction on The Village has been delayed too long by litigation and senseless red tape. The Village was supported by dozens of organizations and approved overwhelmingly by the Los Angeles City Council in 2004. Support is even more substantial now, including the 6,000-plus residents who call the community home. The local neighborhood council overwhelmingly approved the project in an 18 to 2 vote.

It’s time for City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to join his colleagues on the City Council and embrace The Village at Playa Vista. Playa Vista is a great community. The Village completes the vision. And the community wants to see that vision achieved.

David C. Voss, Jr., Marina del Rey

Marina loses a treasure with closing of Johnnie’s Coffee

To the Editor:

When Johnnie’s Coffee closed its doors Friday February 26th, the Marina lost another neighborhood treasure. I have been going to Johnnie’s since 1993, when it opened in the old Waterside Marina shopping center long before Rick Caruso redeveloped it.

I was among the group of customers who followed, in 2005, to its new spot on the top floor of the Marina Marketplace on Maxella Avenue. Johnnie’s wasn’t cool or pretentious. There was never any attitude.

It was a place where locals would go because they felt welcome. I met a lot of valued friends at Johnnie’s over the years, including Johnnie, his wife Louisa and their manager Jorge.

I understand things change, and I hope to never be that person who pines away for “the good old days,” but as massive redevelopment continues to transform the Marina, the immense value of neighborhood places like Johnnie’s Coffee really hits home.

My sincere gratitude goes out to Johnnie and his staff for all the hospitality over the years.

David Adelson, Marina del Rey

Calls proposed medical and housing complex ‘ill-conceived’

To the Editor:

The Bundy Village and Medical Park project, a large-scale medical and housing complex planned in West Los Angeles, is ill-conceived.

As a physician who has seen reimbursements drop by at least 50 percent since passage of the Medicare Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and with an additional 21 percent decrease coming next month and 31 percent next year, the joke is on the developers.

The developers have not done their homework or talked to practicing physicians. The days are over for fancy medical offices and certainly at a distance from the hospital medical center.

Proximity to the hospital is most important for physicians nowadays, especially the specialist whose livelihood is closely connected to the medical center.

Physicians are struggling to pay their bills and do not have the time to spend in traffic. Traffic and gridlock, especially in the West Los Angeles area, are major issues for the public.

Those who conceived this project do not understand medical economics. I guarantee that if the developers build it, the physicians will not come and cannot afford the inflated prices.

The almost 400,000 square feet of medical office space does not make sense with only 208 residential units (77 “affordable”) designated for senior housing.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

Gives his perspective on recent local projects

To the Editor:

At last, the Washington Boulevard sewer project between Beach and Oxford avenues has started, only a few months late. It was meant to start in fall 2009 and end in summer 2010.

That’s anywhere from six to 12 months; great engineering precision for a mere 2,100 feet of pipe at a cost of $4.4 million. That’s about $2,000 per foot and six to 12 feet a day.

For that we get no street parking, no skinny bike lane and one lane of traffic in each direction whilst work proceeds at a snail’s pace.

Instead of just digging a trench, putting a pipe in and covering it up, which would be quick, they are doing micro tunneling to avoid street disturbance.

Time will tell how much disturbance we will have to put up with and for how long. Work is meant to be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. but they quit at lunchtime last Friday.

Fortunately for bikers, you can ride on the sidewalk per the Los Angeles Municipal Code but don’t stray into the county; just like rent control, good for the city but not good for the county.

And I can’t wait for the Venice Dual Force Main Pumping Plant project. Obviously it’s not really needed, because the county is suing the city over where the pipeline should go.

The Ballona Lagoon improvement project is also a gem, chopping down trees where birds nest, replacing non-native plants with native ones (who decides which is which), replacing a natural path with granite. Seven months for less than a mile at an unknown cost.

Finally, a Runway Safety Status Lights system for Los Angeles International Airport. Los Angeles World Airports thanks FAA for accelerating the project to upgrade 11 taxiways and one runway. Guess when it is expected to be finished, 2012! Until then, will we be unsafe?

Makes you wonder how a $1.55 billion world-class Bradley West Project at LAX can be done by December 2012 and create a whopping 4,000 jobs. No, don’t even think about asking me to figure how much of a job that is.

Obviously every politician even remotely connected had to show up for the groundbreaking instead of working on fixing the budget crisis.

Peter Crank, Marina del Rey

Says Culver commercial problems stem from more than poor parking planning

To the Editor:

I was delighted to see how many people appreciate our little park (Titmouse Park, Argonaut story in February 10th issue). Sorry that [one of the Playa del Rey property owners] hasn’t seen me there, since my husband and I have walked through the park frequently.

Once, I was distressed to see that the neighborhood tree chopper had visited and mutilated one of the eucalyptus trees. But generally, it’s been a happy experience, especially looking out over the Ballona Wetlands.

About the scary theory that hordes of people are going to visit the wetlands — that would be a miracle. I know of no wetland preserve that has a crowd problem.

And, of course, access will be limited except for certain areas and trails. Those who want unlimited access, please remember this is a wildlife haven, not a park.

Playa del Rey has the Del Rey Lagoon park, and we’re incredibly lucky to have a beautiful stretch of beach and Santa Monica Bay as our playground.

On the parking issue: it’s clear that we have a problem brought about by bad planning many years ago, as one letter writer noted. But the commercial area problems stem from more than that.

I tried a little experiment the other day. Driving home on Culver Boulevard, I imagined this was my first visit to the village. Well, it was a dismal experience and I can surely say nothing I saw would tempt me to stop and browse the shops.

Years ago, when we built the park, the students of UCLA who worked on the park design were interested in redesigning the commercial area, but there were no takers among the merchants.

In my opinion, improving the parking isn’t going to mean zilch unless Culver Boulevard is made more attractive to shoppers. Let me be clear: I don’t mean razing the place and ending up with taller, denser buildings, etc.

I just mean beautifying what already exists. And that’s up to the merchants themselves. No one else can solve that problem for them.

Ruth Lansford, Playa del Rey

Says land for golf course addition used to have homes

To the Editor:

It was about 40 years ago that the airport (Los Angeles International) acquired the land the (Westchester) golf course addition sits on [The Argonaut, February 18th issue]. There used to be houses there. The people lost their homes and had to relocate out of the community. There wasn’t enough housing in the community for them to relocate to.

The golf course is not an airport activity. Maybe Loyola Law School has an opinion about the city acquiring land for purposes other than what it was intended for.

Robert Mogck, Los Angeles

Calls review of LCP a ‘critical time’ for Marina del Rey

To the Editor:

Now is such a critical time in Marina del Rey, which was discussed at the February 11th evening meeting of the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) Periodic Review with a presentation of the county’s proposed response.

Design Control Board member Peter Phinney chaired the meeting and did a remarkable job doing so. He is truly an asset and we appreciate his voicing of “public opinion” that is now on record.

There was no posting of the evening meeting, so consequently there was a very small turnout.

We have had a reduction of boat slips (potential of 7,500 down to 4,500), lots of residential construction, and the public input has been discouraged.

The LCP is an actual guide for the public sanctioned by the California Coastal Commission. Sara Wan, a coastal commissioner, stated that there should be no reduction of boat slips.

A strange thing was that 44 ADA slips were needed while an estimated 294 slips are currently in Marina del Rey. Is there an agenda here?

The West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council as well as the Venice and Mar Vista neighborhood councils and We ARE Marina del Rey all support Senator Jenny Oropeza’s resolution SCR 56, which “Urges the county to undertake a comprehensive update of the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program prior to any further approvals of the coastal development permits and/or LCP amendments.”

A request for a full master plan EIR for cumulative impacts of the 19 pending projects must be done. Note: Supervisor Don Knabe reportedly is against a master plan EIR.

Marina del Rey has 18 parking lots with long-term leasing that are expiring. Private developers were permitted to build on the parcels, and when the leases expire, the land reverts to the county.

The revenue was used to pay off a bond that purchased the land and developed the Marina in 1993, which now allows the leases to revert.

The county has allegedly avoided doing a full master plan EIR on the cumulative effect of 19 new developments that will include 600 hotel rooms, 120,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 square feet of office space, 161,000 square feet of mixed-use/retail and 2,600 new residential units by a piece-meal presentation for each, which is illegal under CEQA.

No hospitals, schools, churches nor public restrooms are in any of their plans. The county has six projects that represent a change in methods/sampling to cover all their changes which will set a precedent for all changes in the future.

The California Coastal Commission has reprimanded the county for its alleged violation of CEQA and the claim that the Marina does not require a master plan EIR. It has been recommended by the Coastal Commission that the county take corrective action.

Approval and developments by the county have started or completed three of the 19 public parcels and 16 proposals are in the process for individual entitlements. The approved three projects were because of lack of community opposition.

The terms of the lessees should not be changed, and the original intent for land to revert to public uses should be honored. Public land should not be transferred to private developers, especially to result in the loss of community benefits.

Parks and open space should be honored rather than high-density development, which claims to produce lease/rental revenues. The 30 acres of Marina del Rey should not be turned over to private development.

The local community will benefit from low-cost recreational facilities, non-intrusive and symbolic uses that will bring others to use our parking lots; staging for bicyclists, runners/joggers, shuffleboard, basketball, public and paddle tennis, and elderly interests like stretching/exercising groups, as well as urban camping and a farmers market.

It’s just not appropriate to take more of our land for development when it was promised for recreation at the time the bond was paid off. Marina del Rey was created as a small craft harbor for recreational purposes, of which there are none in the county’s proposal.

The county has never held a single “public meeting” about the takeover of 30 acres that are zoned for public use and by law can only be used as a park or parking, not for redevelopment. We can thank Mr. Phinney for voicing public opinion at the last Beaches and Harbors meeting and we ask for the general public who agree with us to voice their concerns.

Dorothy Franklin, Marina del Rey