More than 250 area residents and Westfield employees filled the Trillium Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Woodland Hills on April 30 to express their opinion about the proposed $1.5-billion development at the Promenade Mall site.
Westfield Senior Vice President of Development Larry Green stood before members of various city departments to promote the project, dubbed the Promenade 2035 Specific Plan, in a nod to the Warner Center 2035 Plan proposed for the surrounding area.
Bordered by Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Owensmouth Avenue, Erwin Street, and Oxnard Street, the Promenade 2035 Specific Plan is being promoted as a lifestyle community to be built in four phases over the next 15 years.
During the hearing, Green presented various aspects of the Promenade 2035 development, including the 34-acre complex’s proposed 1,400 residential units, hotels, shops, cafes, grocery store, dry cleaning, and office building, and “10-acres-plus” of open space.
Westfield also plans to build a 15,000-seat stadium at the corner of Topanga Canyon and Oxnard St. yet remains unspecific about its use as a sports or entertainment venue. Green also remained vague about whether the stadium would be open-air or enclosed to contain noise in the neighborhood. (For more information: Promenade2035.com)
The meeting was convened to elicit comments regarding the release of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR), which layers additional information on top of the detailed environmental analysis already conducted as part of the Warner Center 2035 Plan.
The document can be viewed in its entirety online: planning.lacity.org/eir/Promenade_2035/deir
Green said more than 8,200 full- and part-time jobs at the development would generate $1.6 billion in total economic output and $12 million in net new annual revenues for the city’s General Fund.
He also spoke about Westfield’s integrated parking and transportation strategy, especially regarding the stadium, which he said would not hold events during peak shopping hours.
Prior to the meeting, attendees were met at the ballroom door by Westfield employees issuing large “YES!” stickers for supporters to wear.
During public comments, the panel heard from more than 70 people, most of them in favor of the project due to economic development or housing growth.
Project supporters included the Valley Economic Alliance, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, the Valley Cultural Center, and West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce.
There were skeptics, however, who expressed doubts about the lack of affordable housing, the size of the stadium, parking, traffic, and noise.
John Walker, President of the Woodland Hills Homeowner’s Organization, expressed acceptance of the project in general.
“There are some components of the project that are actually good, but the stadium doesn’t belong here,” Walker said. “It’s basically vague and out of scale. We don’t know how big it will be.” Walker commented later that the Organization would likely not condone “phased development,” as proposed by Westfield.
A Woodland Hills resident spoke about the lack of parking in the development and increased traffic, citing that the 15,000-seat “entertainment” venue or stadium, as proposed, would nearly equal the Forum, Staples Center, and Greek Theatre in size.
The resident also said the stadium would directly face the adjoining neighborhood and attendees would be tempted to park in the neighborhood instead of paying for parking. Additionally, he spoke of the dangers of impaired driving over Topanga Canyon Blvd. to PCH.
The panel was headed by Charlie Rausch, Associate Zoning Administrator and Manager of Major Project Section at City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning, and included William Lamborn of the Deputy Advisory Agency; Melinda Gejer of Recreation and Parks; Georgic Avanesian, Engineering; Win Pham, Street Lighting; and Vicente Cordero and Armando Hurtado of Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
At the end of the four-hour meeting, Rausch commented on the project, citing the lack of guaranteed parking and the phasing of construction. He said parking needed to be available “by covenant, not lease,” and suggested that each phase be started prior to moving to the next phase.
“Zoning code requires that parking within 750 feet of a site must be by covenant,” he said in a later interview. “People don’t want to encumber their properties…it’s a more concrete way to do it; leases can be broken, covenants can’t.”
Rausch also noted that the Southwest portion of the subdivision that includes the proposed sports/entertainment complex is scheduled for Phase Three. “It’s right in the neighborhood,” he said. “They have to provide guaranteed onsite parking; if it’s not covenanted they will have a problem building the arena.”
French commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco purchased Westfield in 2017 for $16 billion.