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Fight Threatens Studio City Plan

An ongoing dispute between the developer and property owners could derail a plan to demolish Studio City’s landmark Sportsmen’s Lodge event center and replace it with a nearly 100,000-square-foot outdoor mall. The proposed $60 million Sportsmen’s Landing retail center by Weintraub Real Estate Group of Malibu had won the support of the local neighborhood council, residents’ association and the business community last December. Early this year, however, some local homeowners said they had not been adequately notified about the development, which would feature five restaurants, 20 shops and a 40,000-square-foot Equinox fitness center. Complaining that it would worsen traffic and parking congestion in the neighborhood, they filed nine appeals against the project and packed a contentious hearing by the South Valley Area Planning Commission in March. Despite the opposition, the five-member commission voted unanimously to reject the appeals and allow the development to move forward. But now, the owners of the adjacent, 39,000-square-foot Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel have sided with the dissident homeowners. Last month, Ventura Blvd Associates LLC, a North Hollywood holding company representing the New York family that has owned the hotel since 1961, sued Weintraub and the city to stop the development. The lawsuit, filed May 21 in L.A. Superior Court, asks the court to set aside the environmental review of the project and the planning commission’s rejection of the appeals. It also seeks a new parking study. In the lawsuit, the hotel owners argue that the 446 parking spaces allotted in the plans for the retail center – 256 fewer than called for under the area’s specific plan – will be inadequate, pushing shoppers’ cars onto hotel property. “It’s a motor lodge, where people park their cars by their doors. If people take up those spaces, it will negatively impact hotel operations,” said Benjamin M. Reznick, an attorney with Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP in Century City who represents the hotel owners. Fred Gaines, an Encino attorney with Gaines & Stacey LLP who represents Richard Weintraub, principal of the development group, said the suit is meritless and called the parking concerns “a made-up issue.” He argued that the parking plan for the Sportsmen’s Landing was a shared-parking situation similar to what has always worked well on the property, where the hotel shares parking space with the restaurant and event center. “We think it will be quickly determined in our favor,” he said. “Hopefully it will be dismissed by the end of this year.” Weintraub – who previously has told the Business Journal he wanted to start construction before the end of the year – purchased the four acres surrounding the hotel, including the events center, in 2007 for $29 million, according to real estate data firm CoStar Group Inc. He also holds a long-term ground lease for the hotel that he obtained in 2008 that allows him to operate it through 2062. Last year, Weintraub completed an $8 million renovation of the hotel. He had earlier updated the events center, but said in March that he was still not able to make a success of the complex, which has hosted countless Valley bar mitzvahs and wedding receptions over half a century. This latest legal skirmish is not the first to pit the Sportsmen’s Lodge property owners against Weintraub. They also are seeking to terminate his lease in a separate action filed last year, also in L.A. Superior Court. It alleges that the developer did not obtain the necessary permits and approvals for his year-long hotel remodel. That suit is pending.

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