westwood/jas/14"/1stjc/mark2nd

By JULIE SABLE

Staff Reporter

Traffic will increase as much as 10 percent at the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood boulevards if the proposed Village Center Westwood is built, according to an environmental impact report on the project.

The EIR recommends that a shuttle system be implemented to improve accessibility in and out of the Village.

In addition, a proposed eight-story senior citizen apartment building that would be built adjacent to the retail center would need to be scaled back to five stories to fit in with the surrounding buildings, the report said.

The EIR was prepared for the Arba Group, which is proposing to build a 600,000-square foot theater, restaurant and retail project on the 5.17-acre vacant parcel bounded by Weyburn, Glendon and Tiverton avenues.

The inclusion of 14 to 15 theater screens has raised community concerns about too much traffic. But Arba Group president Ira Smedra said that the EIR vindicates his view that a mix of retail and theaters would be better for Westwood than just retail.

"An all-retail project would have greater rush hour impact," Smedra said. "The theater tends to spread traffic to non-rush hour."

Smedra said that plans are already underway to scale back the project, including the senior citizen apartments. Details will be released at the end of April.

According to the EIR, a local shuttle system to and from the Village would reduce traffic and parking problems at the project and within the wider Westwood Village area.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer, while reserving judgment on the project, said the EIR projections of traffic increases are to be expected.

"The intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards serves as the gateway to Westwood Village, and traffic there will worsen no matter what," he said.

In addition to the EIR, Smedra released the results of a poll of 507 residents in a four-mile radius of the project site, which extended as far as Briarwood Park to the north, La Cienega Boulevard to the east, Palms Boulevard on the south and Will Rogers State Park to the west.

The poll, which did not deal directly with the Smedra project, showed that 38 percent of the residents contacted rated Westwood Village as unappealing for errands such as shoe repair and dry cleaning.

In addition, 61 percent of the residents polled said they patronized the stores at Century City, Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade and Westside Pavilions and did not shop in Westwood Village. Only 9 percent of the residents named Westwood Village as their preferred shopping location.

The telephone poll, with a margin of error of 3 percent, was conducted by the Santa Barbara-based marketing research firm of Struman & Associates.

Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood and an opponent of the project, called the poll deceptive.

"They were asking for approval of elements of the project without explaining the specifics such as this is a movie-mall concept but that there are already 6,000 movie seats in the Village," she said.

Lake said that not every aspect of the project is a problem. "The problem is closing a public street, violating the existing height limitations, the movie use on top of existing movies and not disclosing that Mann Theaters is proposing a 10-screen multiplex in Westwood and bringing in a grocery store to the Village.

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