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Developer Prompts Changes in Ventura Boulevard Mix

Developer Prompts Changes in Ventura Boulevard Mix By SHELLY GARCIA Senior Reporter A two-and-one-half year journey ended last year when Gold Mountain Enterprises LLC finally received approval to build the first mixed use project ever on Ventura Boulevard. The development, Encino Heights, promises to help ease the housing crunch in the San Fernando Valley. But more important, the approval has laid the groundwork for similar projects along the Valley’s most famous street, setting into motion what many believe will be a transformation in the long-held lifestyles of Angelenos. By placing apartment units along Ventura Boulevard and other corridors that provide access to mass transit and offer neighborhood services within walking distance, planners and other city officials see the chance, finally, to get residents out of their cars and alleviate the mounting traffic congestion in the city. “When you continue to allow sprawl, you create even more traffic, so we have to look to mixed use projects along transportation corridors,” said City Councilman Jack Weiss, whose district includes the development site, when the project was approved. Weiss was one of many who initially opposed the project, worried that adding multi-family housing to a neighborhood tradition bound in single-family homes would taint the quality of life for long time residents. But the quality of life in the Valley as in other parts of the city, has already eroded, and many believe suburban sprawl has played a major role in that decay. By building out instead of up, the city has created an insurmountable traffic problem that is only going to get worse as the population grows. That was precisely the approach the developers took as they navigated the project through the tangled web of ordinances and zoning problems that stood in the way of the project. “We knew if we were going to convince the city this was an appropriate project, we had to raise the debate to a higher level,” said Benjamin M. Reznik, partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP, the land use attorney that worked with Gold Mountain. “That’s the direction we took.” At its start, the developers found virtually no supporters, except for the Valley Industry & Commerce Association. “Everyone else, including the Encino Chamber of Commerce, was against it,” Reznik said. So the team began to build support, one person at a time. They invited the chief of the city’s planning department to walk the site. They met with city council members and listened to their objections, revising the project to try to accommodate the issues raised. They talked to the planning and land use committee (PLUM). “What won over in City Hall was the policy argument of, if we’re serious about providing housing, if we’re not going to put these apartments on Ventura Boulevard, where are we going to put them,” Reznik recalled. “That was my pitch, and it resonated.” When the process was completed, Encino Heights was entitled for 125 apartment units that will sit atop 16,000 square feet of retail shops. But the project still has a way to go. The developers, who would not respond to phone calls for this story, are not builders, and they were only willing to take the project through the entitlement phase. Encino Heights is currently on the market for sale, and it could be some time before another developer buys it and begins to build on the property. But several other developers, some who are also builders, are already following the path of Gold Mountain, seeking entitlements for other projects along Ventura Boulevard. Thanks to Gold Mountain, many say their road is certain to be easier. Most Influential Development Project: Encino Heights Developer: Gold Mountain Enterprises LLC, Calabasas Rene Bernasconi, Vice President, Acquisitions Mike Minder, Principal Attorney: Benjamin M. Reznik, Partner Jeffer Mangels Butler & Marmaro LLP, Los Angeles Largest Office Sale The Pinnacle, Burbank Seller: Jeffrey M. Worthe Principal M. David Paul & Associates, Santa Monica Broker: H. Carl Muhlstein Senior Director Cushman & Wakefield, Los Angeles Is any commercial property worth a staggering $365 per square foot? Apparently, it’s worth that much to Deutsch Bank and RREEF America, a German real estate investment adviser which purchased the 393,000-square-foot Pinnacle office building in Burbank. The bank paid $143.5 million for the six-story structure. H. Carl Muhlstein of Cushman & Wakefield represented M. David Paul & Associates, a Santa Monica developer and co-owner of the edifice in a sale that was signed off on in November of last year. The building’s tenants include the who’s who of the entertainment industry: Warner Music Group, Clear Channel Entertainment and NBC. There are plans to expand office space near the Pinnacle with another structure. Slav Kandyba

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