Staff Reporter

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.

The new cathedral was designed by Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moreno and is scheduled for dedication in 2000.

Century City tower approved

Unless the Constellation Place office tower is derailed in court, L.A.'s first new high-rise in a decade will go up in Century City.

Chicago-based JMB Realty Corp. plans to erect a $250 million, 38-story tower across the street from the Century City Shopping Center on what is now a six-acre parking lot.

The City Council approved the project on a 9-3 vote last week, with council members Mike Feuer (whose district includes the tower), Cindy Miscikowski and Jackie Goldberg voting against it.

Architect Scott Johnson said the tower will be a "rather blade-like," narrow building and light in finish. Johnson also designed SunAmerica Center and Fox Plaza, but said the proposed tower will be "more modern even than those two" and more energy efficient.

Homeowners groups have major concerns about traffic and the effectiveness of a computerized traffic system that some including Feuer believe has been inadequately tested.

An environmental impact report released last year concluded the project would clog about 40 intersections on the primary routes to the property. But developers have agreed to spend $6.5 million on traffic mitigation.

"Our position is, they really don't know the effect (the mitigation plan) is going to have on the community," said attorney Sean Hecht, who represents a homeowners group west of the project.

The Tract 7260 Association plans to file a lawsuit claiming the environmental impact report needs to be redone and re-circulated to the public for review.

Koll grows Tri-Cities portfolio

Newport Beach-based Koll Development Co. has acquired a 50,000-square-foot office building in Pasadena for about $6 million, the first of several planned investments the company says it intends to make in the Tri-Cities office market.

Koll acquired the building, at 199 N. Lake Ave., from Glendale Federal Bank FSB for more than $6 million. Dick Schnell of Cushman Realty represented Glendale Federal and Koll represented itself.

Between strong interest from investors and vacancy rates of 7 percent, Pasadena is the place to be, said Gary Toeller, Koll regional partner and senior vice president of the Los Angeles region.

Koll has signed Glendale Federal to a five-year lease for 6,400 square feet of space for retail banking operations.

Homebuilder acquisition

Western Pacific Housing, one of the largest homebuilding companies in Southern California, has announced it will acquire Porter Homes, a Northern California homebuilder.

Established in 1993, El Segundo-based Western Pacific Housing has doubled its new-home sales each year and is now actively selling and delivering homes in 28 communities, with land development underway in nine additional communities. It built and sold 970 homes in the fiscal year ending March 31, up from 460 the prior year.

Industrial deals for Daum

Daum Commercial Real Estate Services reports several industrial leases and purchases in the cities of Commerce and Industry.

Howard Schwimmer of Daum represented American Brass and Aluminum in the $900,000 purchase of a 24,500-square-foot industrial building on Garfield Avenue in Commerce. American Brass is relocating from the Vernon area.

Also in Commerce, Dynaflare Industries has sold a 25,000-square-foot industrial building on Supply Avenue to Ron Clark to refurbish for a printing company. Schwimmer and David Freitag represented Dynaflare, which will relocate to a new facility.

Resilient Floor Covering Pension Fund has leased a manufacturing and distribution facility in Industry. The 36,200-square-foot concrete tilt-up building is being refurbished for Richway Plastics, the new tenant. Dennis Sandoval represented the pension fund in the transaction.

And Gayton Foods leased a former aerospace manufacturing facility on Proctor Avenue in Industry. Bob Dipre and Rudy Lara represented Gayton, which has outgrown its current facility in La Puente. The 64,000-square-foot industrial building will be transformed into a manufacturing facility for ethnic foods.

Business Journal reporter Elizabeth Hayes can be reached at 213-549-5225 Ext. 229.

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