Los Angeles Business Journal

Tax Break to Speed Construction at Westfield Topanga

By Business Journal Staff Friday, June 28, 2013

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to move forward with a potential $59 million tax break for Australian developer Westfield Group LLC, billed as a way for the firm to speed up construction of its Village at Westfield Topanga project.

The plan allows the company to keep 42 percent of net new tax revenue generated by the project, which is estimated to cost $750 million. The vote sends the plan to the Budget and Finance Committee for review.

A Westfield spokesman told the Council that the incentive will allow the company to finish the project in the next three years, rather than 25.

Representatives of nearly a dozen Valley business groups, including the Valley Economic Alliance, Valley Industry and Commerce Association and local unions voiced their support of the tax break to the Council.

The Council was expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday but delayed action at the request of Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes the mall property. Zine has long backed the development.

Despite the two-day delay on a vote, the proposal has been fast-tracked by the Council. A report by city staff was issued Monday, and the vote was scheduled to take place before the term of the current Council expires Friday.

The project will connect the Westfield Topanga and Westfield Promenade malls and includes a 158-room hotel, a Costco and office buildings. However, it has been tied up in litigation for more than a year by the Woodland Hills Homeowners Association, which argues the Costco violates Warner Center building guidelines by encouraging car use.

The project is expected to generate $140 million in tax revenue over the next 25 years, and add 1,600 permanent jobs, according to the city staff report, which was called for by Zine.

In exchange for the tax break, Westfield is offering a community benefits package that includes a $100,000 contribution to the local police division, free use of the hotel meeting space for community non-profits and a promise to hire locals for the construction and permanent jobs.