Cyclists & Drivers: Why Sportmen’s Lodge Matters to You

It’s takes a scarce knowledge of valley news to hear that there’s been a lot of plans brewing in Studio City to much of the community’s dismay.

The Harvard-Westlake expansion and the Weddington Golf Course sagas have spanned years, but the Sportmen’s Lodge mall project has thrust itself forward out of nowhere.

The hotel has flirted with separate plans over the years, but none has ever seemed as concrete as the current proposal. Developers plan to tear down the western non-hotel portion and replace it with a 97,807 square foot mall complete with an upscale gym, five restaurants and 24 retail stores.

While I’m willing to lend an ear to redevelopment possibilities, you don’t need a deep mathematical knowledge of scale to figure how disproportionate this plan is, especially considering current traffic and parking conditions.

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Wednesday night’s meeting was well attended, leaving a standing room only crowd that probably neared a couple hundred. Most were against the plan, but it seemed like there were a number of staffers there with a solid look of blank stares.

IMG_20150325_171258After an overview of the project was read by the planning commission, those for the appeal(against the proposal) took the platform. Attorney Ben Reznik led most of the talk, providing a detailed argument why this project wasn’t properly vetted. He stated the proposal didn’t meet the Ventura Blvd. Specific Plan, where they would need 702 instead of the 440 the development said would be required. By the way, this part of the lot holds 445. Coincidence?

Furthermore, about half of these spaces would require a valet. Sounds efficient if carbon dioxide was good for the environment. An increase of parking above the magic number of 445 would trigger an EIR, something the developers want to avoid.

The other matter was the approval of the shared parking study, but unlike a movie theater & office building whose usage would vary separately during the day, the mixture of retail, restaurants and health club obviously intersect.

Residents also spoke up about the lack of notification, details of the project being hidden and the absence of cooperation from the property’s management. Make your own judgement about residents being notified, but even the developers ADMITTED that door to door notices only went out last week.SL01

Now, the developers did try to placate Mr. CiclaValley by adding 92 bike parking spots, but I quickly realized that is fool’s gold! Cyclists avoid Coldwater Canyon, specifically between Ventura & Moorpark because of the poor striping and shoddy road conditions. Cycling on Ventura Blvd. itself is an adventure if you aren’t very advanced, but even then…

They also promise to open up the LA River behind the lodge, but only for the portion along the property, which in other words would be creating a dead end.

Fred Gaines took his turn to represent the development spending a good portion of his time discussing the aesthetics(which was one of the smallest concerns). He sat back pointing out how the Studio City Neighborhood Council, Homeowners Association, DOT and Planning Department had approved the project.

That would make it sound like due diligence was done, but he did nothing to address the specific concerns of Reznik and the homeowners. If this project needs only 440 parking spots, why not take us through that process how you got that numbers like Reznik did? Watch the video and judge if Gaines’ body language displays confidence:

Mr. Gaines, if you want to convince me about your project, state facts. If you’re going to say the detais were already covered, then cover them when asked. If people accuse you of using nefarious tactics, then come forward and state specifics. As they say, win the press conference. You did not.

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This project strikes a nerve for Mr. CiclaValley as no intersection has played a bigger part of my life more than Coldwater & Ventura. My parents moved up the street in 1986 and that’s where my family has been based ever since.

Knowing what a mess occurs on these cross streets only reminds me how all road users, whether it concerns people who drive, bike or walk, are given backend considerations, instead of pushing mobility as a way a community grows.

We constantly feel like Little Boy Blue, where a dam built, holes begin to spout and someone is left to plug it up, except we’re the ones who always have to use our thumbs.