SPOTLIGHT ON FOX HILLS
Further Growth of Office Market Causes Traffic, Safety Concerns
By ANDY FIXMER
When Ann Post moved to the Fox Hills section of Culver City a quarter century ago, the area was surrounded by golf courses and a two-bedroom condo cost $60,000.
Times have changed. There are now more than 4,500 people living in 33 condominium and apartment buildings ringed by large office parks that draw thousands of workers to the area every day. Other than two large cemeteries, the 10-acre Fox Hills Park is the largest remaining tract of open space and an average two-bedroom condo fetches more than $300,000.
“It’s grown up,” said Post, 80, a Fox Hills Neighborhood Association board member. “And traffic has become a nightmare.”
A new office development is in the offing that could further change things.
The first, 300,000-square-foot phase of Symantec Corp.’s new corporate headquarters, is in the planning stages for a site at the corner of Slauson and Hannum avenues. The second phase, scheduled to begin in 2007, will add another 200,000 square feet.
The project will follow on the recently completed Howard Hughes Center near the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Centinela Avenue. Its office component draws thousands of workers weekdays, while its mall has become an active weekend draw.
Compounding the increased traffic from the new developments, motorists trying to escape the congested San Diego (405) Freeway have begun using the community as a shortcut to the Marina (90) Freeway and Slauson Avenue.
“People are driving too fast down these residential streets,” Post said. “They get off the freeway because it’s so jammed and they cut through Fox Hills. Moms are scared to let their children play outside because of all the traffic.”
The neighborhood association has created a traffic committee to lobby the police department and city council, Post said, and has asked for stop signs or speed humps along Canterbury Drive and Buckingham Parkway.
“We have been working on the issue for many years,” she said. “Now the police are doing something about it. They are stopping people for speeding. Maybe if enough tickets are handed out people will get the message.”
Before being annexed by Culver City in 1964, Fox Hills had few traffic problems mostly because the unincorporated territory was blanketed by the Fox Hills Country Club’s Baldwin Hills and Fox Hills golf courses.
But by the late 1960s, Home Savings and Loan Co., which owned the country club, struck a development agreement with the Culver City Redevelopment Agency to build more than a dozen apartment complexes and office buildings on the 330-acre parcel.
Despite the housing growth, Fox Hills never developed a business district of its own. Even with the influx of corporate neighbors, the local business mix has been centered in a Bristol Avenue strip mall. Nick’s restaurant and the Mandarin Dish are the oldest local eateries.
In the same mall, the only Fox Hills grocery store closed a decade ago and was converted into a Marshall’s. Most residents now shop for groceries on Sepulveda Boulevard.
The big commercial push came in 1972, when the Redevelopment Agency entered into a partnership to build the Fox Hills Regional Mall on 50-acre site in the crux of the freeway interchange. With its three department stores, the three-story enclosed mall quickly became the most popular shopping destination on the Westside after it opened in 1975.
But for more than a decade the aging mall has languished, losing shoppers and name-brand tenants to newer malls until Westfield America Trust bought it in 1998. The company has been slowly renovating buildings and signing leases with national retailers. .
The community’s office center has grown to encompass nearly 3.5 million square feet in 32 office buildings, though it did suffer with the rest of the Westside in the dot-com meltdown.
Office vacancies fell in the July-September period to 14 percent from 19.3 percent the earlier quarter in the wider Marina/Culver City market. “There’s a lot of momentum in the market right now,” said Chris Strickfaden, vice president at commercial real estate and property management firm PM Reality Group.