To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Remaking the San Fernando Valley: Pedestrian-friendly, community-oriented projects underway


By Rick Orlov, October 22, 2013


 Looking to capitalize on CSUN and the new $125 million Performing Arts Center, a group of local residents and businesses wants to develop a "University Village" concept that would make the area stand out among San Fernando Valley communities. This a view of Reseda Boulevard near Nordhoff Street.

From Northridge to Panorama City and Sun Valley to Sherman Oaks, new efforts are underway to provide a greater sense of community to the disparate neighborhoods that make up the San Fernando Valley.

Borrowing from the “centers concept” developed by former Planning Director Calvin Hamilton in the 1970s, the latest plans focus on creating town centers in each community — areas that will be pedestrian friendly and serve as a meeting place for residents.

“The centers concept is very much alive,” said Alan Bell, deputy director of the city Planning Department. “When the concept was being developed, the vision was to protect single family areas while allowing the city to grow. And Los Angeles is still growing, unlike a lot of other cities.
“What we want to do is take the pressure off of densifying single family neighborhoods while providing the housing needed for our residents.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who takes credit for giving Hollywood — his district when he was on the City Council — more of a smart urban design with growth around transit centers, wants to take the idea a step further with his “great streets” proposal.

Under the plan announced earlier this month, a working group from eight city agencies will examine areas of the city where new medians, bus stops, bike racks, pocket parks and other amenities can be put at intersections to serve as a base for creating new commercial/retail areas with restaurants, shops and other services.

“The Valley will certainly be represented,” Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said. “But as for specifics, we will see what recommendations the task force develops.”

In its initial work, the task force will identify 40 options citywide.

Some communities have been actively working for years to accomplish similar goals on their own.
North Hollywood, for example, is seeing results from years of efforts to remake the NoHo Arts District into a regional draw with a concentration of live theater and restaurants and other transit-friendly development near the Red Line. Recently, Councilman Paul Krekorian won City Council approval to try to revitalize the Valley Plaza area.
“We need to move forward with a revitalized Valley Plaza shopping center that will uplift our community rather than degrade it, that will contribute to the ongoing economic recovery of the area and create jobs, and that will include neighborhood-serving businesses, restaurants and community amenities,” Krekorian said.

The Sherman Oaks area has also been working for years to create a sense of community, said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association.

“What I’ve seen, especially in the San Fernando Valley, is that people identify with their community,” Close said.

“You ask people where they live and they say Sherman Oaks or Studio City rather than the city of Los Angeles. We all know we live in the city, but we are more concerned about our local neighborhood community.”

Close said Sherman Oaks concentrates its efforts on Ventura Boulevard to let people know where they are in comparison to Studio City or Encino.

“We have worked hard to make our community different and better,” Close said. “We are not a high-rise community, but one that provides services our residents are looking for.”

Robert Scott, a former planning commissioner and consultant who works on community plans, said he sees a new renaissance for smaller urban communities.

“What we are recommending is creating a sense of place,” Scott said. “In Panorama City, we want to see it rediscover itself into the central shopping mecca it once was for the entire Valley. In Sun Valley, it’s a different problem. You have an obsolete industrial area and residents are looking to rethink what their community is and what makes it special.”

Scott helped to develop a proposal called Northridge Vision 2012 that looks to take advantage of Cal State Northridge and the school’s new Performing Arts Center as a draw to the area.

“We were looking to make the area of Reseda Boulevard more than a long hot blacktop,” Scott said. “We thought the best way is to take advantage of what CSUN and the Performing Arts Center brings to the region.”

Bell said a factor in making the various plans is to recognize how unique each area is.
“We are not taking a cookie-cutter approach,” Bell said. “Good planning builds on what is already there, and you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. You want to create a unique sense of place for each area.”