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Monday, Jun 5, 2023

Getting Detailed on Warner Center Specific Plan

With the passing of the new Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan, the floodgates are indeed open for large development. Under the plan, the biggest boom will come from residential development. There are less than 10,000 units currently within Warner Center, and the plan allows that number to rise to 20,000. The city expects the plan will bring more than 42,000 new residents and nearly 49,000 new jobs to the area. “You’re talking about a major economic boom here,” said L.A. Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents Warner Center. “It’s going to be huge. Not only in terms of construction jobs for the development, but you are also talking about bringing in major retail and office tenants too.” The plan has been about eight years in the making and was unanimously approved by the City Council in October. It divides the 1.5-square-mile neighborhood into eight districts, with varying commercial, residential and retail uses. Some of the most notable changes under the new plan include no height restrictions for construction on most lots, streamlined entitlements and flexible parking requirements, as a key goal is to promote a more pedestrian lifestyle. Community groups have been mostly in support of the plan. Scott Silverstein is both chair of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council and a principal at the Calabasas office of Lee & Associates. He said the plan came to fruition after more than 100 meetings with the public. “This plan incorporated more input from the community than any other plan the city has ever done,” he said. “This plan is trying to make Warner Center a metropolitan center that’s walkable. We don’t want people to drive to get where they have to go. We want them to stay in Warner Center.” Policy process Warner Center is designated as the area from just north of Vanowen Street, where Canoga Park hits the L.A. River, south to the Ventura (101) Freeway, east to De Soto Avenue and west to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. In all, it’s about 1,000 acres. The neighborhood is named after famed studio chief Harry Warner. He owned the land back in the 1940s as part of his 1,100-acre horse ranch. The first development plans were formalized in 1971 in the Warner Ranch Specific Plan, which called for some high-density commercial and residential development. As the neighborhood grew in the 1970s and 1980s, the community began pushing for a more concrete path for development. That resulted in a 1993 plan that remained in place through last year but was amended 2,000 times. It woefully miscalculated residential growth, originally anticipating some 3,000 apartments would be constructed, about a third of what exists today. But Blumenfield said the new plan is not designed as a free-for-all for developers. He said that’s the reason behind Warner Center getting divided into eight districts as part of the plan. “The district concepts are to make sure the development is spread out appropriately,” he said. “And hopefully, this will mean less bureaucracy for developers. You’re not supposed to have to get a conditional use permit to build something that was envisioned in an area.” One developer who paid a premium price tag to get into Warner Center is Jim Dillavou, principal at Paragon Commercial Group LLC of El Segundo. His firm shelled out $47 million in September for the Woodland Hills Shopping Center, a retail strip anchored by a Toys “R” Us and Off Broadway Shoes. Dillavou said the firm may consider a complete revamp of the site down the line, as the plan gives them lots of options. “We’re still figuring out what the right play is and when that will be,” he said “But the area is changing and it’s simply a great investment.” – Districts At a Glance The Warner Center plan has divided up the neighborhood into eight districts. College: Intended to provide live-work opportunities. The plan envisions new residential development, but has a goal of retaining the existing industrial uses in the area. Commerce: Designed to be the most “jobs-rich” area, allowing for multiple employment uses, including industrial, hospital and health care. New pathways and streets are expected to improve pedestrian circulation. Downtown: The primary employment and entertainment center, providing a mix of restaurant and specialty retail uses designed to attract office workers during the day and area residents in the evenings and on weekends. North Village: Expected to be mostly residential. It is planned to have high-density, mixed-use projects with ground floor retail along pedestrian-oriented intersections. Park: Planned to remain a residential neighborhood of mostly townhomes and apartments. There may be some new ground-floor commercial geared toward everyday needs of the district residents. River: Planned to connect the L.A. River to the rest of the districts. The plan calls for the establishment of pedestrian and bicycle paths and new streets. Topanga: Expected to remain commercial. It will provide some uses for locals, but will also serve as a buffer between the core and the residential neighborhoods to the west. Uptown: Designed to include more “creative” jobs, including those in research and development, as well as professional and technical fields. The area is expected to accommodate a substantial number of new jobs, along with new housing. – Elliot Golan

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