The “ayes” have it.
The majority of community leaders and residents at the public hearing Wednesday for Westfield’s Promenade 2035 plan supported the project.
Only about 200 showed up at the Hilton Woodland Hills to comment on the proposed development.
Promenade 2035 will transform the old Promenade mall into a mixed-use commercial, residential, retail center with hotels, a grocery store and 15,000-seat arena. It is anticipated to bring 12,500 construction jobs and 7,900 permanent jobs to the west valley, with $7 million in mobility fees.
Larry Green, Westfield Vice President, said that they are inspired to create a space that reflects the “essence of the community,” as they have done at Topanga and The Village.
He said that Promenade 2035 adheres to all requirements of the Warner Center Specific Plan, and in some instances goes beyond. 2035 has one million fewer square feet than allowed under the specific plan, and breaks up the 35-acre site into nine separate blocks where the specific plan required only three.
“We are creating a neighborhood with an urban street edge, a place to live, work and play,” said Green. Ten acres are devoted to green space in Promenade Square, a community park larger than a football field.
Supporters of the project include the West Valley Warner Center Chamber of Commerce, United Chambers, The Valley Economic Allowance, VICA, Canoga Park Neighborhood Council, Abundant Housing LA, Valley Cultural Center and the Warner Center Association.
Representatives of many of these organizations spoke to the Planning Department panel, calling Westfield a “great community partner.”
Major concerns expressed by opponents to the project included the size and intended use of the arena and its incumbent noise, traffic and parking issues.
Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization president John Walker said that the stadium was “out of scale – taking one third of the project.” Because the stadium use has not yet been determined – sports arena or concert venue – he said it would be “hard to judge the impact.”
Another WHHO concern was the phasing of the project. Walker said the build-out in different phases would allow a developer to build only the profitable residential units without holding to the commitment to build the commercial portion of the project. He asks that the proposal be sent back to the Planning Commission.
Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council president Joyce Fletcher also questioned the phasing issues and its ultimate result.
Community residents’ concerns concentrated on noise, traffic, neighborhood parking and increased crime.
Salient points raised from community members said that with the increase in population and density Warner Center needed its own police station and more schools. The lack of affordable housing was also raised as the 1,400 residential units at Promenade 2035 will be market rate.
Other minor suggestions included saving the bells from the old Robinson’s (later Macy’s), keeping the trees on site and allowing local schools and clubs use of Promenade Square.
Several organizations asked to be included as users of the site, including the San Fernando Valley Fair, Museum of the San Fernando Valley, and the West Valley Boys & Girls Club.
Some less convincing arguments including returning the parcel to space research a la the old Rocketdyne property, asking that no helicopters or boxing be allowed on site, and that the homeless be given places to live.
Associate Zoning Administrator and Manager of Major Project Section for the Planning Department Charles Rausch, wrapped up the hearing after Westfield addressed some of the issues, saying he wanted a definite plan regarding parking at the stadium and assurance it would not impact adjacent neighborhoods.
He also expressed concerns about the phasing issues, and said he too would address it by requiring the commercial portion of Phase 1 to be built before development of Phase II.
Westfield executives seemed pleased with the hearing, which drew a smaller crowd and fewer opponents than expected.
Green said that Promenade 2035 is Westfield’s future – a green, transit-oriented future where valley residents can stay local and get everything they need right here. “We have a history of working with the community and are going to deliver 100%.”
Comments and concerns on Promenade 2035 can still be forwarded to the planning department before May 14 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Planning Commission will review all comments and letters and issue their decision on the project after May 14.