More on Westwood
In response to your article relating to the “theater project” in Westwood (“Theater Project Would Revitalize Westwood, Study Says,” March 31), I note that you quote an attorney from the law firm of Irell & Manella pointing to the “garbage in vacant storefronts, uneven sidewalks, and trees covered with carvings and graffiti.” He says, “It’s sad to see this when there is so much potential here.”
I agree that it is sad to see it the way it is.
If the attorney is really concerned about the condition of the property, why does he not call his client and tell him to get rid of the garbage, pave the sidewalks and clean up the trees and graffiti which so offends him? The reason the property is in its present condition is because the owner of the property has failed to maintain it. To allow a property owner to permit his property to deteriorate, and then reward that deterioration with a permit for a 600,000-square-foot center, does nothing but encourage deterioration. It rewards the developer for his own neglect.
No doubt a plan could be developed in conformity with the Westwood Specific Plan to provide a market (which developer Ira Smedra desires). No doubt a plan could be developed which would “restore the community’s faded glory” (which Mr. Smedra desires), within the confines of sound development practices. But the present plan does not do that.
Not every area of the city has to have a 600,000-square-foot development with 14- to 15-screen multiplex theaters. This is an approximately 14-acre complex in the middle of Westwood!
I think what is needed is something to restore Westwood to its former charm, within the parameters of the 21st Century, not some imaginary “glory” (whatever that may mean). Anyone who knew and loved Westwood knows the contemplated project does not restore Westwood, it will destroy it both during the construction and afterward.
In my opinion, the main thing this project will bring to Westwood and the environs is gigantic, permanent gridlock.
SAMUEL W. HALPER
– – –
Ira Smedra’s proposed movie mall clearly violates the Westwood Village Specific Plan. That Specific Plan is city law. The community relies on the protection of that law.
It took hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, and thousands of hours of community time over a period of years, to develop the Specific Plan. All the stakeholders in the Westwood community participated in the process homeowners, businesses, landlords, developers, UCLA, the city.
The Specific Plan process took a measured, comprehensive view of the entire Village as an integrated whole. The Specific Plan reflects hard-won compromises among all the competing interests. It represents the consensus of the entire community as to what kind of development should take place in the Village. The Specific Plan is a ceiling on development, not a floor from which developers can begin to negotiate.
It is true that Westwood has changed in the past 10 to 15 years. Several new highrise office buildings have come online in the Wilshire corridor, in Century City, and on Santa Monica Boulevard. UCLA has grown tremendously.
During that same period major competing retail/multiplex movie venues have sprung up throughout the Westside in Century City, Westside Pavilion, the Beverly Center, Beverly Connection, the Third Street Promenade which didn’t exist during Westwood’s heyday.
Because of these profound fundamental changes, it may in fact be appropriate to revisit the Westwood Village Specific Plan to determine whether amendments may, in fact, be called for. However, any such revisit:
– Must consider Westwood Village as an integrated whole (not piecemeal, developer-by-developer).
– Must involve all the stakeholders (not just 20 individuals who represent no one but themselves, as the current Smedra working group is structured).
– Must be structured to provide an independent, fresh look at the entire Village situation.
– Must focus on the really fundamental changes that have so impacted our quality of life on the Westside.
– Must develop a strategy for quality revitalization the obvious solution is an arts, cultural and civic model that leverages off of Westwood’s many unique treasures (not merely duplicating a mediocre, formulaic movie mall, with chain stores that are already all over the Westside).
In short, it is totally unconscionable for the city to even consider a Specific Plan amendment merely as a way for Mr. Smedra to get what he wants on one site in the Village, at the expense of the rest of the community.
SCOTT H. WHITTLE
I respect the need to balance your coverage of the Village Center Westwood by quoting an opponent of the project. But Laura Lake seems a poor choice. Her view is as biased as Ira Smedra’s. Laura represents the most impacted group, those who live in the blocks immediately adjacent the project. I have never met anyone who wanted to live next to a major commercial project.
As we discuss this and other projects in the city we must bring the focus of the discussion to the larger level of the benefits and burdens to the many, not just the most impacted few. I hope you can find ways to balance your coverage of these issues without narrowing the scope of the discussion.