Friday, September 24, 2010

Odds and Ends 187

I don't usually post newspaper articles before they come out in the day's newspaper, but since I am quoted in the article, I think you know that I knew what was coming out.

Here is today's article by Ms. Donna Littlejohn regarding the newest plan for Ponte Vista at San Pedro:

Ponte Vista developers offer new scaled-back plan
By Donna Littlejohn Staff Writer
Posted: 09/23/2010 07:08:13 PM PDT
Updated: 09/23/2010 07:28:51 PM PDT

After months of silence, developers of San Pedro's controversial Ponte Vista housing project have announced another revision that further reduces the number of homes proposed.
They also indicated an entire new round of traffic and other studies will be conducted on the new proposal for the site, which has been vacant since 1997.

The latest incarnation - which already has a received favorable reaction from Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn - calls for 1,135 homes to be built on the 62.5-acre former Navy housing site on Western Avenue.

That's less than half the original number - 2,300 homes - proposed in 2005. But it's still higher than than the 800 to 900 homes that many critics had called for to keep the development within its current zoning.

"My thoughts are it's higher than my particular preference of 831, which is the equivalent of the housing density of the Gardens (a nearby San Pedro town house project)," said Mark Wells, a long-standing and early critic of Ponte Vista.

But he added that the scaled-down numbers may be enough to finally move the stalled project forward.

"I am certainly encouraged by the new management team's ability to work with the community and to come up with better plans," Wells said.

John Stinson of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council said the new housing proposal is "a nice place to start negotiations from" but that the issue "is still about protecting our quality of life here in San Pedro and on the Peninsula."

In a written statement, Hahn said she was encouraged by a private meeting she'd had recently with iStar Financial, the owner of the Ponte Vista property.

"... This number is much closer to what makes sense in this part of San Pedro," she said.
As part of the revised proposal, a new environmental impact report - which will include new traffic studies - will now be done. That will take about a year.

Steve Magee, vice president of iStar Financial, said in a written statement that developers were "committed to working with the community to ensure that the project reflects the unique character of the Harbor Area."

While no details or drawings have been released, Magee said the project will be of "high quality" with a mix of housing types, including "town homes, condominiums and apartments" for a range of income levels.

Stinson said whatever happens next, "it should be an open, public and transparent" process.
Ponte Vista has been mired in controversy since former developer Bob Bisno first rolled out the plans five years ago.

Bisno Development, which had become a lightening rod in the community during Ponte Vista's first few years, was bumped from the project in December 2008. Credit Suisse and DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners took over the project after that and, in April 2009, the Los Angeles Planning Commission directed developers to work more with the community to bring the housing numbers down.

Five months ago, iStar took the reins and has been reviewing alternatives since then.

Traffic and housing density have been the major sticking points with critics who say Western Avenue already is too congested.

But the project also has had its supporters in the community who contend that more housing stock, especially for seniors wishing to downsize, is needed.

Meanwhile, the stretch of abandoned Navy housing at 26900 S. Western Ave., across from Green Hills Memorial Park and just south of Palos Verdes Drive North, has become an eyesore in the northwest part of town.

In a 2007 letter published in the Daily Breeze, Wells called building 1,950 units on the property "irresponsible, unreasonable, unrealistic and, most importantly, disrespectful to the community. ..."

Will a reduction to 1,135 homes be enough to mollify critics?

Perhaps, he said, although it will depend on the new studies that are yet to be done.

"I wonder if most of us on the board (of the opposition organization) will simply kind of travel into the sunset after we make our comments," Wells said.

Others, like Stinson, aren't so sure.

When Hahn called him Thursday to advise him of the new proposal, Stinson said, "I tried to curb my enthusiasm. ... I was wondering when the issue would rise again like a monster from the deep."
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What I talked to both Councilwoman Hahn and Ms. Littlejohn about included my thoughts that Ponte Vista at San Pedro should have the same housing density as The Gardens, nearby.

The Gardens is an 1,100-unit condominium development on 80 acres of land and residents there have much greater access to Gaffey Street, thus usually avoiding having to take Western Avenue.

To have an equivalent housing density as The Gardens, Ponte Vista's 61.53 acres should have no more than 831-units, in my opinion.

My opinion isn't really going to change on the number, but I doubt that I will strenuously oppose 1,135-units at this time.

What I really need to see if that no density bonuses could be applied for by future owners of the site, should iStar Financial simply be granted the entitlements and then sell them off to other groups who could seek a density bonus of up to a 35% increase in the number of units approved for construction by the Los Angeles City Council.

A 35% increase in the now-planned Ponte Vista community could create a new neighborhood of up to 1,532-units.

I think there is still great opposition to having as many as 1,532-units built at Ponte Vista so I am hoping Councilwoman Hahn will be successful in attempting to find ways to prevent future landowners from building any more than 1,135-units at Ponte Vista, if that is the number voted approval for.

I am very encouraged that a brand new traffic study will be conducted as part of a new Environmental Impact Report for the project.

Much of the information that needs to be gathered in the traffic study will focus on the anticipated number of daily vehicle trips on Western Avenue resulting from a completed Ponte Vista project.

Since 2005 it has been estimated that daily vehicle trips along Western Avenue on portions from Palos Verdes Drive North to 25Th Street have increased about 1,900 daily trips per weekday.

The increase is based on the Western Avenue Task Force's finding that in 2005 there were about 37,500 daily vehicle trips along Western Avenue and that there will be a 1% growth each year in that rate, until at least 2025.

What is also very important to note and remember is that during the studies conducted for the Western Avenue Task Force's report, summary, and recommendations is that NO NEW vehicle trips were estimated for Ponte Vista because it was not being considered for development when the Task Force did its work.

So what we need to focus on is both the reality of what is going on today along Western and the accurate study of potential daily trips generated for a 1,135-unit Ponte Vista development.

Traffic will continue to be the number one issue regarding whatever is built at Ponte Vista.

I will write more in the future about some of the things that were talked about over the years and perhaps we can all work together to find more ways to deal with the expected huge increase in traffic.
Personally I am becoming more and more embroiled in the Marymount College issues relating to its development projects.

A recent full page advertisement by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Marymount College has, some folks believe, singled me out for critisism of The Marymount Plan and Measure P.

Naturally I am critical of something I oppose. I really didn't feel all that bad about Mr. Arnold's inclusion of "online blogging" about The Marymount Plan in his 'letter to the editor' which was not really a letter to any editor but was actually the first of two full pages Marymount College paid for in Thursday's Palos Verdes Peninsula News.

I trudge on though, with my: postings. I must be making some difference if I am now considered slightly more than a nobody in Marymount's eyes.
I want all of you to come and enjoy "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" opening on November 12 at the historic Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.

I know I stated that I was done being onstage focusing more on my backstage job as the carpenter in residence of the Relevant Stage Theatre Company.

But I played a man of the cloth last year onstage and the new show has a preacher's role that I just could not pass up.

Playing preachers onstage and doing ministerial duties (not often) in real life is something that takes me away from things like Ponte Vista and Marymount College.
So, who has NOT been to Amalfitano Bakery yet? I know there are some folks out there who have not stood in line for some of their great treats.

Please visit all the shopping and dining opportunities in Rancho Palos Verdes and I will continue to shop in San Pedro, too.
Summer has officially FALLen away and autumn is here.

The days are now growing shorter but there are still lots of activities, events, and issues to keep everyone able to participate in many things.

The next meeting about the U.S.S. Iowa is in early October and should it or another former Naval vessel (Amphibious Assault Ship/Carrier) come to our port, it could provide jobs, volunteer work, a new tourist attraction, and some very needed revitalization to the downtown area and just about all of San Pedro and eastern Rancho Palos Verdes, I believe.

We can't stop the future so we should prepare for it and be active in it when it becomes our present.

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