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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Warner Center Development Short-Circuits Specific Plan

When the Warner Center Specific Plan was first introduced in 1993, most figured it would take about 20 years for that vision to be realized. Well, the future is now. Development currently approved or in the pipeline in the area is so close to meeting the ceilings envisioned in that roadmap that residents and city officials have drafted a motion that would begin the process of revisiting the specific plan, presumably to map out the next twenty years. The Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council has forwarded to Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes Warner Center, a draft motion for an interim control ordinance that would require greater scrutiny of future residential development projects until the specific plan can be updated and amended for the area’s next stage of development. “The councilman is going to be introducing a motion in support of this, and it’s being drafted,” said Jennifer Forkish, communications director for Zine. The motion being readied would subject residential developers to some of the same guidelines and requirements that have long been in place for commercial developers. Until now, requirements have been more lax for residential developers because the specific plan was intended to create a balance between housing and jobs, and residential development had not caught up to the commercial side. But the apartment projects recently approved for the area will bring the total number of housing units near to the benchmarks set in the original design of the area, forcing a new look at the specific plan. “The specific plan, when it was drafted, identified that the area could accommodate 3,000 new residential units in order to create that balance between housing and jobs and provide more opportunities for people to live and work,” said Brad Rosenheim, principal of Rosenheim & Associates, a land use and policy consulting firm that works in the area. “With the advent of the projects that have been approved, that 3,000-unit count is pretty much there. So the neighborhood council is saying we’re concerned about all the residential.” The specific plan sets 3,000 housing units as a benchmark and states that greater analysis of further development is required beyond that number, but it doesn’t offer any specifics on the kind of analysis that must be done. The interim control ordinance would provide an opportunity to define the analysis that should take place. Currently under the plan, residential developers do not have to pay the same fees that commercial developers are subject to. The reasoning for the distinction was that the incentives would help to create the housing/jobs balance. But the community now says that the large apartment complexes currently under development create many of the same problems that industrial developments cause, and it wants residential developers to be subject to the same policies industrial developers must adhere to. “A car is a car is a car is a car,” said Gordon Murley, vice chair of the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council. “We would like to force any residential developer to pay the same premium that commercial developers pay into the traffic fund.” The motion for an interim control ordinance still has a long way to go before it is approved, and it will be interesting to watch the process unfold. More than a decade ago when the original specific plan was going through the city approval process, Warner Center was far less developed, and there were few residential developers showing any interest in the area. Today the community is a hotbed of developer interest, and the market for multifamily housing is stronger than ever. (See story below.) Meanwhile, residents are dealing with the same problems every urban metropolis faces, and the neighbors have become much more involved in the political process. Apartment Rents Rise The apartment market in the San Fernando Valley shows no signs of slowing down, according to a report just released by RealFacts, a Novato-based research firm. As of the third quarter of 2004, average asking rents in the Valley have increased an average of 4 percent over the prior year, and vacancy rates continue to hold at less than 5 percent. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased 4.6 percent in the third quarter to $1,154. Rents on two-bedroom, two-bath units rose 3.6 percent to an average of $1,504, the RealFacts data showed. Rent increases were highest in Northridge, where the average rental rose 6.9 percent to $1,248. Close behind, the average rent in Reseda rose 6.2 percent to $1,011. The smallest increases occurred in Burbank and Van Nuys. Both communities showed apartment rents rose 2.2 percent in the third quarter of the year. The average rent in Burbank was $1,367 and the average in Van Nuys was $1,055. Rental rates in Woodland Hills rose an average of 3.2 percent to $1,450, according to RealFacts. Investor Boosts Portfolio Adler Realty Investments, a Woodland Hills-based private investment and development firm has gone on a buying spree. The company has acquired a high rise office building totaling 323,607 square feet in Phoenix for $16.8 million. Adler also acquired three office buildings in Orange totaling 107,352 square feet for $6.45 million. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123

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