Had he realized he would become the new head of Playa Vista, Steve Soboroff might have chosen to be a little less prickly toward James Hahn during the mayoral campaign.

Now Soboroff is faced with needing the support of Mayor Hahn, who the hard-charging developer chided and taunted during debates.

"Trust is important in politics," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior scholar at the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development. "You tend to listen to your friends and you tend to go a little further to help out your friends."

Hahn made complimentary statements in a news release announcing Soboroff's appointment. Whether that translates to support on project-related issues remains to be seen.

"All candidates, when they square off in elections, are in for the fight," said William Fain, an urban planner and principal at Johnson Fain Partners. "I think whatever differences they have all get washed away particularly since Sept. 11."

Soboroff said he and Hahn have had several discussions since Soboroff was knocked out of the race in the primary, and the new Playa chief insisted they would have no problem working together.

"We were both trying to get the same job," he said, referring to the debates. "That's part of the process."

Calls to Hahn's office were not returned.

If the two can cooperate, there's still the matter of whether Soboroff can placate Playa's chief opponents. Marcia Hanscom, of Wetlands Action Network, said Soboroff had "shocked" the Sierra Club's local chapter during a mayoral campaign interview. Hanscom said the club's political action committee was looking for a candidate to endorse and asked Soboroff how many parks he felt the city needed. He said none, according to Hanscom.

"We all practically fell out of our chairs," she said.

Asked about the incident, Soboroff said his answer had been that there was no money in the budget for new parks. He further contended that his electric car and his record of replacing 1 million square feet of asphalt with grass and trees should make him an environmentalist's dream.

Concrete Solutions

Rob Maguire is taking no chances as cities and property owners ratchet up their attention to public safety to guard against terrorism.

MaguirePartners spokeswoman Peggy Moretti said the company has installed eight, four-ton concrete barriers on the sidewalk along Fifth Street in front of the company's Library Tower downtown.

"It's a temporary measure while a more-permanent installation is completed," Moretti said. "It was a proactive measure on our part because we realized the building could be vulnerable to vehicular intrusion."

Moretti said the barriers, the same concrete slabs used to set off construction lanes on freeways, would prevent anyone from plowing into the building. The more aesthetically pleasing permanent barriers will be installed within weeks.

Weintraub Waffling

Richard Weintraub, the Malibu-based developer, has again changed the height of his proposed condominium development at Wilshire Boulevard and Malcolm Avenue in Westwood.

Already authorized by the city to exceed Westwood's six-story height limit, Weintraub has been battling design issues and community opposition in an effort to build the $100 million project.

The two-building development with a nine-story and 14-story structure on a little more than an acre originally provoked opposition from neighbors who complained it would obstruct views and block sunlight. Weintraub responded with an alternative proposal of one building, but significantly taller, at 34 stories.

That proposal raised opposition from different groups that claimed the taller building would cast a two-block-long shadow.

Now Weintraub has reduced the proposed height by 90 feet and is seeking approval for a 30-story building.

Sandy Brown, president of the Holmby-Westwood Property Owners Association, said she remains opposed to the project and wants Weintraub to return to his original two-building plan. She believes Weintraub scaled back to 30 stories not as a gesture of good faith, but because he had learned that the 34-story design would not be approved by the L.A. Planning Commission.

Weintraub said there's a hint of NIMBYism in Brown's charge and that his proposed changes have nothing to do with whether he thought it would be approved at 34 stories. "I just thought the building was, after analyzing it, really tall," he said.

Transamerica Space

Transamerica Center, a three-building campus on the southern fringe of downtown, is pushing availability of more than 400,000 square feet of office space. That's a tough sell, given the dearth of big-floor-plate tenants in the market and the building's out-of-the-core location.

Jeff Ingham, a vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, said Transamerica Tower at 1150 S. Olive St. has 73,000 square feet vacant on four floors. The building at 1149 S. Broadway soon will have 320,000 square feet vacant on seven floors and the building at 1149 S. Hill St. has 27,000 square feet on one floor vacant.

Large floor plates, abundant parking, a top-floor restaurant in the tower and proximity to Staples Center make the vacancy attractive, Ingham said. Ideal prospects are large corporate users and government agencies.

Not everyone shares Ingham's optimistic outlook. Other downtown brokers see issues that could keep that space empty for months.

Todd Anderson, a senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, said holding out hope for government agencies to snap up the space is unrealistic. As evidence, Anderson said, look at Caltrans's $170 million proposal to build a new downtown headquarters.

Then there's Transamerica Center's location.

"One of the advantages it has is it is separate from downtown and some people believe it to be out of the congestion," he said. "But you've also got South Park between it and (the Central Business District), so downtown's never going to grow down there."

Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 235 or at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.

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