As the deadline for public comment on the environmental review for the second stage of Playa Vista’s commercial component approaches, three local neighborhood councils have weighed in on the 111-acre project.
The Westchester-Playa and Del Rey councils have given the recirculated environmental impact report their respective thumbs up, but Mar Vista has expressed concerns with the document and how it will impact the surrounding neighborhoods.
Steve Donell, a member of the land use and planning committee of the Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council, said that committee members spent a great deal of time poring over all of the documentation that was provided to them by city officials in February.
“Based on the documentation that was provided to us by city officials, we concluded that we wanted to support the recirculated EIR,” Donell, a resident of Playa Vista, said in March. “The deficiencies that were identified by the appellate court have been rectified, based on our review of the documents.”
Westchester-Playa supported the EIR in March, shortly after its release in February.
The Del Rey Neighborhood Council supports the EIR and the retail and commercial stage of the development as well, and voted in favor of the environmental document on April 16th.
“We agree with the EIR as it was written and presented to us,” said Steve Knight, who chairs Del Rey’s planning and land use committee. “Whether there will be significant impacts on surrounding neighborhoods is unclear.”
The EIR is being redistributed among the public due to a decision by the United States Second Court of Appeals in September 2007 that overturned a previous ruling by a lower court that approved Phase II of Playa Vista, known as the Village.
The court ruled that the City Council violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) following its approval and certification of an environmental impact report that permitted construction for the development’s second phase in 2005.
“The (environmental impact report on the project) was deficient in its analysis of land use impacts, mitigation of impacts on historical archaeological resources, and wastewater impacts,” the court declared in its ruling.
Steven Sugerman, a spokesman for Playa Vista, is encouraged by the support that the developer has received from Westchester-Playa and Del Rey.
“We’re finding a significant amount of support for Playa Vista and for Phase II,” Sugerman said. “We’ve met with dozens of organizations, including homeowners’ associations and neighborhood councils, and we’ve found that the majority of them feel that it’s time to bring the Village forward.”
The Village will be comprised of new public parks, a neighborhood retail center and 2,600 residential units. Playa Vista officials say that it will have 175,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail space.
Not everyone agrees with the EIR.
Mar Vista’s Community Council voted to oppose the environmental document on April 14th after listening to Playa Vista officials and residents of the planned community, as well as the council’s own constituents.
“The Mar Vista Community Council recommends all these aforementioned significant impacts be analyzed in the (draft environmental impact report),” the council’s motion read, referring to the archeological, wastewater and land use impacts contained in the EIR.
“The Mar Vista Community Council also recommends the significant land use impacts of Playa Vista Phase II upon neighboring communities be assessed prior to any additional Playa Vista Phase II discretionary approvals by the city,” the motion stated.
The community council also recommended that “any negotiations take place with Playa Capital and Council District 11, a Mar Vista Community Council representative, a chair or co-chair from the Traffic and Infrastructure, and the Planning and Land Use Management Committees.”
The neighborhood councils’ actions will be taken under consideration by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Mar Vista, Venice, Westchester and Playa Vista.
Sugerman believes that the number of jobs that Phase II will provide is resonating outside the boundaries of Playa Vista, along with the commercial and recreational benefits that will exist.
“We’ve seen as we go out into the community, more enthusiasm and more appreciation for the economic benefits, through thousands of new jobs and the neighborhood-serving amenities that the Village will provide, not only for residents of Playa Vista, but for the surrounding communities as well,” said Playa Vista’s spokesman.
“While there’s not 100 percent support for the Village, we’re certainly pleased with the support that we have received.”
A number of environmental organizations remain opposed to Phase II. Sabrina Venskus, who represented the plaintiffs in the case that halted the Village last September, feels that the current drought conditions should be considered before the EIR is reviewed.
“We are in a much more dire situation regarding water and our water supply than we were in 2004,” Venskus, an environmental attorney, noted. “Will there be sufficient water supply for such a large population at Playa Vista?”
The EIR for Phase II has not come before the Venice Neighborhood Council.
The comment period on Phase II ends on Thursday, April 30th. The City Council will review the EIR later this summer.