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Universal

universal/dy/17″/mike1st/mark2nd DOUGLAS YOUNG Staff Reporter Opponents of Universal Studios Inc.’s plan to expand its Universal City development plan say they will recruit a larger contingent to turn out for the next public hearing on ther project, slated for March 3. They are seeking to bolster their ranks to offset a massive public relations campaign Universal has been mounting. The March session will be a follow-up to the Jan. 21 meeting, a standing-room-only affair that involved lengthy testimony from both opponents and supporters. Supporters of the plan say the expansion would bring jobs and growth to the local economy, while opponents argue the proposed expansion would create a traffic-and-noise nightmare in nearby communities. L.A. city and county planning commissioners listened for five hours at the Jan. 21 hearing, as supporters and opponents gave their opinions on a plan that could add up to 5.9 million square feet of additional hotel, studio, office and theme park development to the Universal City lot over the next 25 years. The hearing marked the first time commissioners heard what Valley residents had to say about the proposed expansion, which would add 13,000 jobs to the area and increase state and local tax revenues by $25 million a year, according to Universal’s estimates. Some 43 supporters and 70 opponents signed up to publicly voice their opinions, though only a fraction of those had time to address officials, leading to the decision for a continuance on March 3. Many of the plan’s supporters are members of a Universal-backed group called Universal City Tomorrow, comprised of homeowners from various Valley communities near the Universal lot. Meanwhile, homeowner groups from Toluca Lake, Studio City and the Cahuenga Pass area turned out the largest contingents for the opposition. Cahuenga Pass Property Owners Association President Krysta Michaels was among those who didn’t have a chance to speak at the January hearing because of time constraints. “I think it’s important for people to get up and have enough time to say everything they want to say. It’s important for (the planning commissioners) to hear how frustrated and desperate homeowners are,” she said. Michaels and other opponents of the plan pointed out that they are not particularly opposed to Universal’s plan to expand its studio operations. The strong opposition is actually to Universal’s plan to expand its theme park and build a resort district, which opponents claim would make noise and traffic levels unacceptable. To drive home its point, the Studio City Residents Association say they will try to get more of its members out for the March meeting, said association President Tony Lucente. He said his group was caught off guard by the large turnout of Universal City Tomorrow members on Jan. 21. “It’s very apparent that Universal has a well-orchestrated public relations campaign to give the impression that they have a lot of support in adjacent communities,” said Lucente. “Given that, I think we’ll also play the same game, to some extent, in ensuring the proper numbers (of opponents) are there and that’s visible to the commissioners,” he said. Specifically, Lucente said he expects to get a Studio City crowd of about 50 opponents out for next month’s hearing, compared with only about half that number that came out in January. Universal officials previously made a presentation to city and county commissioners detailing their expansion plans on Jan. 13. The company spent the Jan. 21 hearing on the sidelines, listening to feedback from supporters and opponents.

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