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After several years of effort, city officials have secured $4 million in funding to build a transit hub in Warner Center that would serve as a gathering point for shuttles and buses throughout the west San Fernando Valley. What the city doesn’t have is support from key businesses. In particular, the owners of Westfield Shoppingtown Promenade, which is adjacent to the proposed hub at Owensmouth Avenue, are worried that the transit facility would create traffic and parking hassles. The mall wants assurances from the city that the facility will not interfere with its businesses, but so far company officials say those assurances haven’t been forthcoming. “At this point, we haven’t seen a plan to resolve the issues,” said Pat Healey, a spokeswoman for Westfield Corp., owners of the Promenade and the adjacent Westfield Shoppingtown Topanga. “And until then, we’re concerned about it.” City officials have been meeting with Westfield and other businesses in hopes of reaching a compromise, but time is running out. The city has until July 1 to earmark funds for the project or lose $2 million in funding that would come through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick, whose district includes the neighborhood, is hopeful the two sides can come to an agreement in the next few weeks. “I very much see this transit hub as a way of reducing traffic congestion to, from and in the Warner Center area,” she said. The city has been pushing for a transit hub for two years as part of the Warner Center Specific Plan, which calls for transportation improvements to reduce traffic in the busy office district. As part of the plan, developers are required to pay so-called “trip fees,” a charge of $4,907 for every trip into the area that a new project is expected to generate, to help pay for transportation improvements. The trip fees, which are designated for road improvements in the Warner Center area, contributed about $1 million of the $4 million the city has set aside to build the transit hub. The remaining $1 million would come from federal transportation funds. In its simplest form, the hub would consist of a couple of lanes on either side of Owensmouth Avenue between Erwin and Oxnard streets for buses and shuttles to pick up and drop off passengers. But to truly encourage commuters and shoppers to leave their cars at home in favor of riding the buses, city officials believe they need to build a more elaborate bus depot with such things as coffee kiosks and retail shops. “Ideally, the purpose and focus is to create the most convenient, attractive amenity to the community,” said Brad Rosenheim, president of Rosenheim & Associates, consultants who are assisting the city with the project. “So if you provide certain amenities for the project, it may make it more attractive for people to use.” But a more elaborate transit hub would require Westfield or Blue Shield of California, which has its offices nearby, to give up some property. So far, neither company appears ready to commit to that idea. Westfield’s Healey said that even a minimal depot will require reducing the number of traffic lanes along Owensmouth from four to two, and that is likely to create more traffic problems. Westfield is also concerned that the hub could turn into a park-and-ride facility, with travelers driving to the area, using up the mall’s valuable parking spaces and then using the buses to continue to other destinations from that point. “If people are looking for places to park, that’s going to impact traffic, too,” Healey said. Another factor likely to hold up a decision on the project is the planned renovation at the Promenade. Westfield is working on a plan to transform the shopping mall, possibly into a Power Center with big-box retailers, and until those plans are completed the company is reluctant to make any other decisions about how its space will be used. “It could potentially impact the remodeling,” Healey said. Blue Cross officials said city officials had not discussed the proposal with them, according to Rhonda Seaton, a spokeswoman for the firm. Chick believes the sticking points can be worked out. “The next step is to sit down with the key interested parties and come to a final decision. Is it going to be state-of-the-art or is it going to be a very basic (hub)? Either way, I intend to achieve the transportation improvement goals,” she said.

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