The Los Angeles Times — July 19, 1990

Rock Star Joins Audience in Assailing Encino Project
By Leslie Berger
The Los Angeles Times — July 19, 1990

Rock star Tom Petty joined about 100 other Encino residents Wednesday in condemning as a monument to greed a massive commercial building that includes a six-screen movie theater planned for the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Hayvenhurst Avenue.

“This is sheer madness and it’s being done for greed, rather than the good of the community,” said Petty, who said he has lived in Encino at least 15 years and watched the neighborhood’s gradual change from small family-owned businesses to sterile office buildings.

“Encino is already prone to small businesses being wiped out and a high vacancy rate in office buildings,” said Petty. “I don’t understand why we need one that’s nearly a mile long.”

Focusing mainly on the project’s impact on traffic, one speaker after another objected to the 375,000-square-foot granite, glass and steel structure. The project, which would include three stories aboveground and four stories below, making it the largest now proposed for Ventura Boulevard, is a joint venture between David Roberts, chairman of Unity Savings and Loan Assn. in Beverly Hills, and Jona Goldrich, the developer.

Homeowner leaders Rob Glushon and Gerald Silver have both expressed worries that Goldrich’s prominence and political connections would smooth the way for the project. But Goldrich dismissed their concerns Wednesday.

“If I was politically connected I wouldn’t have these problems,” said Goldrich, referring to the angry crowd that gathered at the Van Nuys Women’s Center. “The only reason we’re going to get what we want is because of the law.”

At one point in the hearing, tension rose as Goldrich and a homeowner walked toward the meeting room’s exit, exchanging angry words. Several audience members followed the pair, and the disagreement dissipated.

The volatile public forum was unusual because the project, despite its size and controversial theaters, requires no discretionary action by the city Planning Department and ordinarily would not have been reviewed at a public hearing.

The hearing was scheduled by City Councilman Marvin Braude’s office in response to residents’ phone calls and letters opposing the project.

Traffic, especially that expected to be generated by the movie theaters, was the subject of most of the negative comments. One real estate broker’s statements in favor of the theaters brought boos and groans from the rest of the audience.

“It’s a 25-minute ride to Universal City to the nearest theater, which certainly increases traffic,” said Michael Lushing. “It would be very nice to simply walk down the hill.”

The comments made at Wednesday’s hearing will be taken into consideration by the Planning Department when it drafts a final environmental impact report on the project.

Spokesmen for both Encino homeowner groups–Homeowners of Encino and the Encino Property Owners Assn.–asked that the project be scaled down by at least 100,000 square feet. Aides to Braude, Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles) and state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles), all of whom represent Encino, said they support the homeowners’ demands.

The Encino Property Owners Assn. mailed 8,000 notices urging residents to attend the hearing. The residents were asked to send back a card to Braude’s office indicating their preferences for construction at the site. Glushon, the group’s president, said he received 600 cards back, and the majority of respondents said they opposed the movie theaters.

Glushon said he was not disappointed by the turnout at the meeting. “This is the biggest turnout for a public hearing I’ve ever been at.”

Benjamin Reznik, an attorney for the developers, said additional turn lanes and traffic signals would be added at several intersections near the project to accommodate an estimated 10,000 car trips per day that are expected to be generated by the offices and movie theaters.

He added that the project’s design deliberately encloses the theaters, parking areas and loading docks below ground in an effort to please neighborhood residents.

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