By ELIZABETH HAYES
Ira Smedra's controversial Village Center Westwood retail-theater project is once again making waves, this time connected with an attempt to amend the state's pedestrian mall law.
Under state law, when developers convert a street to a pedestrian promenade which would be the case with Glendon Avenue in Westwood under Smedra's project they have to settle all claims of damages from property owners in the affected area before construction can begin. A bill in the state Senate being pushed by the California Business Properties Association would allow construction to proceed, and claims settled later.
Smedra supports the amendment, saying it makes matters fairer for developers of pedestrian malls. The bill should be assigned to a committee this week, said Sandy Brown, deputy chief of staff for Sen. Tom Hayden, who opposes it.
"It's changing (the law) for a specific project. It changes state law and it's a self-interest law just to take care of (Smedra)," Brown said.
Smedra said the bill would deprive no one of his or her rights, nor does he foresee that people will be able to prove they've been damaged "if the village is revitalized."
Brown disagrees. Unlike the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, which could be reconverted to a regular street if the mall ever became a failure, the Westwood project would sink the street 20 feet, she said. "The road is gone," she added.
Cathedral ready to proceed
With a recent lawsuit dispensed of, construction is expected to begin this fall on the $150 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, said Father Gregory Coiro of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Morley Group Inc. of Santa Monica is the general contractor for the cathedral, which will be built at the corner of Temple Street and Grand Avenue downtown.
A court ruling earlier this month cleared the way for work to proceed. Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien ruled in favor of the archdiocese in a lawsuit by Vera Rocha of the Shoshone Gabrielino Nation and Spirit of the Sage Council. She contended the cathedral site was an ancient Native American village and burial ground.
But an archaeological investigation showed no evidence of a prehistoric settlement or anything else of archaeological or historic significance, according to the archdiocese.
The new cathedral will replace the earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana's Cathedral as the archdiocese's headquarters. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony originally had wanted to build the new church at the site of St. Vibiana's, but preservationists have fought the demolition of the old cathedral.
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