Marc Huffman, vice president of planning and entitlement for Playa Vista, provided a project update of the development’s Phase I and Phase II, also known as The Village, at the Marina Affairs Committee meeting Wednesday, April 15th.
Huffman said that The Village Phase II project — considered the “heart of Playa Vista” in the middle of the project, consisting of 111 acres — is the same project that was approved in 2004. It’s comprised of 2,600 residential units, 150,000 square feet of retail, 175,000 square feet of office space, and 40,000 square feet of community serving space.
In Phase I, four new parks totaling 11.4 acres are completed, and a riparian corridor at the base of the bluff was completed in the summer of 2007. The 25-acre habitat corridor has taken hold and is teeming with wildlife, said Huffman.
In September 2007, The Village project was halted after an appeals court found that “the environmental impact report on the project was deficient in its analysis of land use impacts, mitigation of impacts on historical archeological resources, and wastewater impacts,” according to court documents.
The public comment period for this partially revised EIR will end on Thursday, April 30th. The Los Angeles City Council will then review the EIR and public comments, and a final EIR will be submitted for public hearings by summer, said Huffman.
After the public comment period for the final EIR is completed, the document will be sent back to court for approval, Huffman said.
If the court approves the final EIR, construction could start by mid-2010, he said.
“A lot of work had been done on The Village between 2004 and 2007 on the northern part, and all utilities are in, with lots graded. Once the EIR is approved, we can get this done in short order,” said Huffman.
Regarding wastewater, very conservative projections on the original EIR had indicated that the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey would not have enough capacity to accommodate sewage, Huffman said.
The city’s planning process —completed in 2006 by Integrated Resources Planning — subsequently found plenty of capacity, and city officials say they no longer believe wastewater treatment capacity is an issue.
The court found that if archeological resources were encountered during development, an “archeological preservation in place” process should be utilized that would leave the archeological resources in place, and reroute portions of the project, Huffman said.
In Phase I, significant archeological resources were discovered. The tribal remains of 1,500 Gabrielino/Tongva Native Americans were reinterred in a private ceremony in December.
In the Phase II portion, a small amount of archeological resources were found during the building of the Riparian corridor, which were later replaced.
In these circumstances, the court looks at what could have been done instead, and it also looks at what could be done in the future. Removal of the Riparian corridor would not be practical now that it’s complete, Huffman said.
“What was not addressed by the court is global climate change analysis. In 2003-04, cities weren’t including this issue in EIRs,” Huffman said.
“Now, legislation and regulations have changed, and the subject is included in an EIR. Analysis of the EIR document shows that all regulatory guidelines, design management practices, ‘green elements’ and other requirements are being met by this EIR.”
Two of the companies moving to Playa Vista are working on a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) concept for their buildings.
Huffman answered questions from the audience regarding total population, retail stores, jobs, physical improvements and public transportation.
There are currently 6,000 residents at Playa Vista, and the number is anticipated to increase to approximately 11 to 12 thousand after The Village project is completed.
Huffman said development officials have not yet spoken with retail developers because of the legal issue with the EIR and the current economy, but they will do so once the court has made a decision.
No “big box” stores will be located at Playa Vista, and smaller scale, neighborhood-serving retailers are being sought. Huffman said retail would be on a similar scale to the Marina Waterside development.
Jobs are even more important now than in 2004, said Huffman, and thousands of construction jobs are anticipated, along with tax revenues. The EIR calls for approximately 1,100 permanent jobs.
The Village project includes a number of physical improvements such as traffic signals and widening of Jefferson Boulevard and Centinela Avenue.
Playa Vista purchased three buses during the Phase I development for the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus line. Playa Capital plans to purchase buses for Culver City that officials say would enhance travel down Jefferson Boulevard to Marina del Rey and the beach.
The internal shuttle, used as a beach shuttle from Memorial Day to Labor Day, has operated for five years and partnered with the County of Los Angeles for the past three to four years, said Huffman.
Once the Village has been completed, the shuttle will go to external destinations such as Loyola Marymount University, the Howard Hughes Center, Playa del Rey and other locations.
All of the streets at Playa Vista are city streets, and were always intended as city streets. Because the improvements required formal approval by the city, there had been a perception that traffic enforcement was not required, said Huffman.
The local City Council office worked with the Department of Transportation to get enforcement put in place, he said.
Some members of the audience said that traffic from Playa Vista has not turned out to be the massive congestion that many surrounding community members had feared.
One individual said that most of the traffic in the area was headed toward the freeway or Home Depot, and not to or from Playa Vista.
Fox Interactive Media, which oversees the social networking site MySpace, will consolidate its Los Angeles facilities in 421,000 square feet of office space by June, relocating more than 2,000 of its employees.
Technology company Belkin International Inc. will also consolidate its other Los Angeles-area offices and will move to Playa Vista when the new office buildings are completed, said Huffman.
New public parks for The Campus area, which includes the Los Angeles Clippers training facility located on a two-acre parcel on Centinela Avenue, will be on 12 acres dedicated to spacious athletic fields, an outdoor amphitheater, botanical walks, a garden, water features and public art.
The 7.9-acre Campus Center Park will be the centerpiece of the area, including recreational facilities with an artificial turf soccer field, a sand volleyball court, a full-court basketball court and an area for boccie ball.