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Universal

universal/13″/dt1st/jc2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter In an apparent victory for homeowners, Universal Studios Inc. has agreed to a 40 percent reduction in the size of its planned expansion project. The revised plan submitted by Universal this month is radically smaller than originally intended. The plan still includes the almost 1.2 million square feet of new studio and office space proposed before, but a 750,000-square-foot theme park on the southeast portion of the studio’s 415-acre property at Universal City has been eliminated. Highrise hotels are also gone, and the number of new hotel rooms was reduced from 3,400 to 1,200. New retail space primarily on CityWalk, Universal’s collection of restaurants, stores and movie theaters has been reduced from 358,000 square feet to 250,000 square feet. The plan for the entire expansion project was reduced from 5.9 million square feet to 3.3 million square feet. “We feel that our original proposal was a real well thought-out and do-able plan,” said Helen McCann, vice president of the master plan for Universal Studios. “But we’re realists.” The reduced plan is now in compliance with a recommendation from county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilman John Ferraro in early June, which called for a 40 percent reduction in the size of the project, elimination of the new theme park, less hotel rooms and other changes. Other demands by the two lawmakers that will be met under the scaled-back plan include new noise control measures on such attractions as the “Waterworld” show, the elimination of a helicopter landing site, and a new pedestrian and bike path along the Los Angeles River. Also, the project will be completed over 15 years rather than 25, and will be built in two phases. The project is currently up for approval by the city and county planning commissions. Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Association and one of the project’s most outspoken critics, said Universal is moving in the right direction. “It sounds like they certainly have responded to some of the initial reactions to their plan, and that’s certainly encouraging,” Lucente said. “What we now need to see is some specifics.” The various homeowners groups surrounding Universal City have in the past six months held numerous meetings with Yaroslavsky and Ferraro. They also swamped the public meetings held on the project, with more than 700 people at each hearing. Homeowners expressed no opposition to expansion of Universal’s motion picture and television production facilities, but found the noise and traffic associated with a theme park and hotels unacceptable. Political consultants said Universal erred by failing to attract more neighborhood support. But some said that Universal never expected to garner support for a new theme park and highrise hotels, and may now be proposing what it wanted all along. “What if they put all these extra developments into the plan with the intention of giving them away later?” said one City Hall insider. “Maybe now they’ve gotten exactly what they really wanted.”

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