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