By HOWARD FINE

Staff Reporter

The city of Los Angeles, hungry for high-paying jobs, has begun granting zoning breaks in an attempt to establish a multimedia district near Marina del Rey.

The area has several ingredients that make it ripe for multimedia use: a large supply of old warehouses that could be converted to hip offices; proximity to the thriving creative communities of Venice, Culver City and other Westside locales; nearby beaches (which multimedia types seem to crave); and the possibility that DreamWorks SKG will go through with its plan to develop a new studio campus at nearby Playa Vista.

"The city is trying to get out the word that we want multimedia and entertainment jobs here," said Jeffrey Walden, a staff member of L.A.'s Business Team in the office of Mayor Richard Riordan. "These businesses need quick turnaround time and this makes it easier for them to locate here."

The primary tool being used is allowing warehouses to retain their "light industrial" zoning designation even after they are converted to accommodate multimedia tenants. Up to now, multimedia uses required a "commercial office" designation.

That one change makes converting warehouses less expensive for landlords. The requirements for parking and traffic mitigation in "light industrial" projects are far less than the requirements for "commercial office" projects.

If not for the zoning reclassification, the warehouse conversions would jack up rents far above what multimedia tenants could afford.

Allowing the warehouses to retain their "light industrial" designation also enables landlords to avoid the costly and time-consuming permitting process that might prompt multimedia companies to look elsewhere, Walden said.

The concept for the marina-area multimedia district grew out of efforts to keep advertising agency TBWA Chiat/Day from moving its 450 employees out of the city.

The agency had outgrown its Frank Gehry-designed "Binoculars Building" in Venice, and needed to move to larger quarters. It was looking at relocation sites in several nearby cities, but decided to relocate to a 160,000-square-foot warehouse at the corner of Jefferson and Grosvenor boulevards near the Marina (90) Freeway.

The deal was made possible because the city classified TBWA Chiat/Day as a multimedia company eligible for a "light industrial" zoning designation.

Work on the warehouse conversion will begin next month and TBWA Chiat/Day is slated to move in around Labor Day, said Chief Marketing Officer Laurie Coots.

The move to create a multimedia district near Marina del Rey follows the L.A. City Council's decision last year to lower business license taxes by 80 percent for companies designated by the city clerk as "multimedia."

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