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Marina Del Rey Argonaut News
Playa Vista Also Planning Its Second Phase EIR, EIS
by
David Asper Johnson
27 May 1999

Snoopin' Around by David Asper Johnson


While a lot of attention has been given to the proposed DreamWorks SKG studio at Playa Vista and the other Playa Vista proposals in the development's first phase, Playa Vista officials are already quietly moving forward with plans to develop the rest of the Playa Vista project.

Playa Vista developers have entitlements for the first phase of their project which includes the entertainment, media and technology district where DreamWorks will build its new studio.

The first phase also includes a residential and retail component near Jefferson and Lincoln Boulevards.

Basically, the first phase includes the area east of Lincoln Boulevard and south of Ballona Creek in what Playa Vista officials are calling their Area D.

However, not all of Area D is included in the first phase.

The western portion of Area D included in the first phase includes the area roughly eastward of Lincoln Boulevard to about where Home Depot is located and a second portion at the far eastern end of Area D, where the entertainment properties will be developed.

In the middle is a huge chunk of Area D that will be included in the second phase.

The second phase will also include Playa Vista's Area A - an area in unincorporated county-jurisdiction west of Lincoln Boulevard and north of Ballona Creek - and Area C - east of Lincoln Boulevard and north of Ballona Creek.

Also included in the second phase is a portion of Area B - west of Lincoln Boulevard and south of Ballona Creek - where Playa Vista plans some residential development near Lincoln Boulevard.

Tuesday evening, Playa Vista officials came before the Villa Marina Council for an update on second phase progress.

SECOND PHASE EIR - The environmental documents for the first phase of Playa Vista can fill a large couch.

The volumes - yes, volumes - of first phase environmental impact reports are measured in feet when placed end to end.

And this for an area considerably smaller than that in the second phase.

Tom Paradise, Playa Vista vice president of operations, told the Villa Marina condominium owners Tuesday evening that he expects the second phase environmental impact report and environmental impact statement to be ready for public viewing "by late summer."

It will take you most of the rest of the year just to wade through the thing.

Public hearings on the second phase EIR could start as early as next spring, Paradise predicted.

Paradise noted that former officials at Playa Vista started preparing this second phase plan covered by the EIR "in the early 1990s."

"Now we in the process of putting together a comprehensive environmental impact report and environmental impact statement to be published in later summer," Paradise said.

The key word here is "comprehensive" - surely the local understatement of the year.

"Overwhelming" might be more appropriate.

The process for the second phase EIR and EIS will be the same as with the first phase.

After the reports are made available to the public, the public will have an opportunity to comment, and those comments will be added to the EIR and EIS and the reports can be changed, based on that public input.

Then the public hearing process will start, with the reports making their way through the various government agencies.

Tuesday evening, David Herbst, Playa Vista vice president of corporate affairs, reminded the condo owners that 70 different government agencies have some jurisdiction over all or part of the Playa Vista project.

All 70 have the opportunity, indeed the obligation, to participate in the process.

It is the manner in which some of these 70 agencies respond to the Playa Vista plan that is the fuel for all these lawsuits against the project now being filed by Playa Vista opponents.

In reality, the opponents have 70 different lawsuit opportunities if the opponents were to file a suit claiming each of the 70 government agencies failed its responsibilities in response to Playa Vista.

But the lawsuits won't start until the second phase EIR and EIS are certified by all the parties.

And that won't happen until the process works its way through the public input stage, which includes lots and lots of public hearings.

The EIR and EIS go to various Los Angeles City Council committees and finally the full City Council itself.

Because Area A is in the unincorporated area under the jurisdiction of the county, various county committees and the full Board of Supervisors will also be involved for Area A.

Because Area A and Area C are in the state coastal zone, the portions of the EIR and EIS dealing with those areas will require the input and approval of the California Coastal Commission.

After all those 70 agencies have given approval and the county, city and coastal commission have okayed their portions, building permits can be issued.

Herbst told Villa Marina condo owners Tuesday it will take "12 to 15 years to build out Phases I and II."

What an optimist. As we've told our readers too many times before, we attended the first press conference held by Playa Vista developers to announce the Playa Vista project.

That was in the mid-1970s and it was at the old Los Angeles Press Club on Vermont Avenue.

Then-Playa Vista spokesman James Le Sage told us it might take "ten to 15 years" to build out Playa Vista.

More than 20 years later, Playa Vista officials turned the first shovel to begin building infrastructure for the project.

Almost 25 years later, we still have not seen the first shovel turn on an actual building at Playa Vista - unless you consider that temporary office at Lincoln and Jefferson, which has since been torn down.

Alas, any actuary in town will tell you we won't be around to see how long it will take for Herbst's "12 to 15 years" of build-out of Phases I and II to occur.

But the folks do trudge on with optimistic determination and it is our duty to report the "plan of the moment" at Playa Vista.

PHASE II ALTERNATIVES - With each decade, plans at Playa Vista change.

Tuesday evening, Paradise offered still new proposals for Areas A and C in the second phase.

The Area A marina has gone through many changes and is now back to a saltwater marina - albeit a land-locked marina that would have no outlet to Marina del Rey.

The current Area A proposal favored by Playa Vista officials would have an underground culvert between Marina del Rey waters and Area A, carrying salt water into a land-locked marina.

Tide gates would allow salt water from the Marina to enter the Area A marina in tidal action and at the eastern end of the marina, a similar outflowing culvert and gates would allow the water to flow out into Ballona Creek, creating a flushing process.

The Area A marina would be flushed in part by the tidal action of the water entering and leaving the marina.

It all sounds like the flushing efforts of the Venice canals north of Washington Boulevard. If you want to learn how successful that process works, talk to some of the neighbors who live along the Venice canals.

The building component of Area A would be similar to an early Area A plan that was floated in the early 1990s by former Playa Vista official Nelson Rising.

At that time, the Area A marina would have had an opening into Marina del Rey at about where the present Arthur G. Will Marina Administration Center on Fiji Way sits.

Now, plans call for a public pedestrian promenade around the Area A marina waters.

There would be a southern extension of Admiralty Way to a newly realigned Culver Boulevard on the south.

A new ring road around Area A would be built on the south side, creating a new link south of the Area A marina between the southern end of Fiji Way and Admiralty Way.

Now Fiji Way ends near Villa Venetia.

In the new Area A plans, Fiji Way would essentially continue and loop back to the new Admiralty Way, giving Villa Venetia residents a quicker access to Lincoln Boulevard and the Marina Freeway.

The new southerly extension of Admiralty Way to a newly aligned Culver Boulevard would also create a new "southern entrance" into Marina del Rey.

Two hotels are still planned on Area A, one at the western end near Fisherman's Village and a second

on the eastern end near Lincoln Boulevard.

As for the Area A saltwater marina, Playa Vista officials see their marina confined to kayaks, canoes, electric boats and small sailboats such as sabots. A sort of Westlake Village-type lake.

AREA C - Playa Vista developers actually don't yet own Area C, the area east of Lincoln Boulevard and north of Ballona Creek.

Area C was given to the state as part of the Howard Hughes estate inheritance tax settlement.

But Playa Vista has an option on the site and the right to plan development there.

While the new Area A plans are essentially the same as early-1990s plans, proposed development in Area C has been changed considerably.

Developers now want to move their open space component in Area C to abut the Villa Marina condominiums to the north.

The earlier plan had residential units abutting Villa Marina. Those residential units could have been as high as four stories over several stories of garages, essentially creating as high as six stories next to Villa Marina.

Look for lots of debate among the Villa Marina neighbors as to whether they want pedestrian access opened between their Villa Marina neighborhood and the proposed open space park on the Area C directly south of Villa Marina.

Some neighbors like the idea of having a park next to them and others see the park as a nuisance, attracting more traffic to their neighborhood.

The present youth baseball fields along Culver Boulevard would be moved to the southeast corner of Area C.

Plans call for interchange access in all directions between Culver and Lincoln Boulevards. Rather than a freeway-type cloverleaf interchange, access would be provided through surface-street-like intersections that take up less land and don't appear as overwhelming as major cloverleaves do.

Culver Boulevard bisects Area C and the boulevard would be widened. There would also be a new bridge across Ballona Creek for a northerly extension of Bay Street, a new street parallel to Lincoln Boulevard that is planned between Lincoln and Alla Road. A short stub of Bay Street now exists west of the post office sorting station on Jefferson Boulevard.

NO REGIONAL SHOPPING Paradise again emphasized that there will be no regional shopping centers in Playa Vista.

Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter "doesn't like regional shopping centers" at Playa Vista, Paradise said.

The main retail in Playa Vista will actually be "inside" Area D, not facing Jefferson Boulevard, Paradise said.

Playa Vista planners want to have neighborhood-serving retail so Playa Vista residents and those who work there will not have to go far to find the items they need for day-to-day usage.

"We won't mind if you come over from Villa Marina and shop in our retail," Paradise mused.

But the concept of Playa Vista is really one of "self-containment."

Planners like mixed use, with retail on the ground floor and residential above. Very European.

Paradise talks of people walking to stores, of shuttles that can carry residents to work within the project and even shuttle schedules available on TV.

When you get ready to go somewhere, instead of pulling the car out of the garage, you look at the TV to see how quickly the next shuttle is coming by your front door.

Ah, Paradise bringing us true paradise in our time.

Or maybe by your grandchildren's time.

PHASE I PRICES - Playa Vista officials can't go anywhere these days without someone asking what the price will be on the residential units at Playa Vista?

As the years drone on, prices and plans change, but Tuesday evening Paradise predicted Phase I residential would range in units of about 700 square feet at $200,000 to 3,000-square-foot units going up to about $900,000.

INFO PAVILION - While the second phase is years away, look for some visual activity at Playa Vista soon.

The most noticeable will be a new information pavilion that will be built in the northeast corner of Lincoln and Jefferson.

The 8,000-square-foot structure will take shape soon and serve as an information center for Playa Vista, similar to the one that stood for years across Jefferson Boulevard.

Work on that sewer line on the south side of Jefferson Boulevard should be wrapped up soon, Herbst says.

As usual, it took longer than anticipated.

Fortunately, we've heard of no serious accidents caused as speeding motorists swung around from southbound Lincoln to eastbound Jefferson and found double lanes immediately reduced to one lane soon after the turn.

Playa Vista officials are also busy grinding up cement that earlier served as Howard Hughes' private airstrip.

Hughes had the longest privately-owned airstrip in the country and a lot of concrete was created when the airstrip was torn up to make way for the Playa Vista development.

Herbst points with pride to Playa Vista's recycling efforts and noted that by grinding up the concrete on site, developers are reducing the number of truck trips that would have been necessary to haul the stuff away.

Indeed, Playa Vista officials are recycling most of their old buildings and infrastructure to help cut down the truck traffic.

Herbst put the number of truck trips saved by the process "in the thousands."

The 8,000-square-foot structure will take shape soon and serve as an information center for Playa Vista, similar to the one that stood for years across Jefferson Boulevard.

Work on that sewer line on the south side of Jefferson Boulevard should be wrapped up soon, Herbst says.

As usual, it took longer than anticipated.

Fortunately, we've heard of no serious accidents caused as speeding motorists swung around from southbound Lincoln to eastbound Jefferson and found double lanes immediately reduced to one lane soon after the turn.

Playa Vista officials are also busy grinding up cement that earlier served as Howard Hughes' private airstrip.

Hughes had the longest privately-owned airstrip in the country and a lot of concrete was created when the airstrip was torn up to make way for the Playa Vista development.

Herbst points with pride to Playa Vista's recycling efforts and noted that by grinding up the concrete on site, developers are reducing the number of truck trips that would have been necessary to haul the stuff away.

Indeed, Playa Vista officials are recycling most of their old buildings and infrastructure to help cut down the truck traffic.
Herbst put the number of truck trips saved by the process "in the thousands."

To be used fore educational purposes.