LaBonge Rallies the Troops Against “Metro Universal”

9_4_08_labonge.JPGOutspoken City Councilman Tom LaBonge is taking a stand against the massive planned development at the Universal City Metro stop.  Citing concerns about traffic and whether the development will use up the "Park and Ride" spaces that are set-aside for transit users, LaBonge’s office sent out a letter to his constituents providing them with information on where to find the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project and how to comment.

You can find the full text of LaBonge’s letter after the jump.  Emphasis added by Streetsblog.

One of the most crucial public issues right now for residents of the East San Fernando Valley is the development project known as Metro Universal on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority site. The project, which is directly across Lankershim from Universal City, is proposed in two phases:

  • Phase I, to be completed by 2011, would include 1.47 million square feet of new commercial and residential space in a 24-story office tower and a ten-story production site; and two parking structures: one with 1,900 and the other with 1780 spaces including 800 for the Metro Station.
  • Phase II would be completed by 2015 and would include either a 24-story office tower OR a 34-story hotel and residential project with 300 hotel rooms, 400 residential units, up to 11,000 square feet of retail and almost 1,800 parking spaces.

You may be aware that the DRAFT Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project was released to the public on Mon., Aug. 25, 2008. It’s important to note that this is a draft report, which means public comment is welcome for 90-days. I encourage you to read the report (posted online at: on "Environmental" on the left side of the page and then on "Draft EIR") and submit your comments to the public record. A copy of the draft EIR is also available at three branches of the Los Angeles Public Library: the North Hollywood Regional Branch (5211 Tujunga Ave., LA 91601); the Studio City Branch (12511 Moorpark St., LA 91604) and the Central Library (630 W. 5thSt., LA 90071).

For the record, I am opposed to this project as it is proposed. My key concerns are density and trafficmitigation. It is notjust the scopeof the developmentthat is overwhelming- 1.47million square feet — but whether traffic improvements are in place before any buildings are occupied.

Another key issue is prioritizing parking for those using the Red Line. After all, this land is owned by the MTA and the MTA’s mission is to accommodate commuters’ needs. Of course, I welcome NBC back to the City of Los Angeles and look forward to working with them and their developers to build a complex that works well for them and everyone else.

Additionally, the draft EIR for the Universal City Vision Plan, a 1.56 million square-foot commercial and residential development on the Universal property, is a separate document which may be released in the next few months. Please watch my weekly newsletters for information on how to comment on that report. If you have any question, please call my Planning Deputy Doug Mensman at (213)485-3337. Thank you for taking an active interest in this important issue in your community and city.

  • I love LA – the only city I’ve met that’s opposed to economic development.

    I wonder – Universal City isn’t in the City of Los Angeles, it’s unincorporated county. Is Metro Universal part of the incorporated area, or is Tom LaBonge a windbag? (granted, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.) I guess the structure and location of the EIR implies that LA is involved in some form or fashion.

    There’s a simple way to make sure that the park-and-ride parking isn’t used by tenants of the complex – check exiting vehicles for a valid Metro pass or ticket. It’s not 100%, and somebody may eventually figure out that a Metro pass is a cheap parking pass, but really.

    At least he pointed me towards the EIR so that I can submit my support to the City.

  • His primary political concern is that his district does not economically expand and that the cars flying through CD4 are not slowed down in the least.

    God forbid that car traffic wasn’t “mitigated” with road widenings and excessive parking facilities. Everyone knows that to mitigate automobile congestion you have to provide more places to use and drive you car for “free”.

    Everything about his policy seems backwards. I would insist on UNDER parking of this project, and high fees on automobile use to pay for pedestrian, and other local area, improvements. That would “mitigate” car traffic. Come on LaBonge! You’ve got everything turned upside down to satisfy the “This is Mayberry” homeowners in your district – but please think of the people who actually produce something for your area other than phone calls to complain about poor people cluttering the entrance to Trader Joes.

  • Nancy

    Why don’t we make developers contribute a certain amount to the Metro fund in exchange for any approval of their projects? And the bigger the project, the more they have to contribute in order to mitigate the environmental, noise, traffic impact their new construction would cause.

  • Bill

    The Barham/Cahuenga/Lankershim area is a logjam now. This project will NOT ‘mitigate’ gridlock. Who’s agenda are you with? Universal/NBC? They are trying to squeeze as much $ money out of every square foot and the only benefit will be their pockets -not economic development to benefit all.

  • Bill: Do you want to see the entertainment industry relocate to Vancouver? Because I don’t, and I don’t think most Angelenos do. NBC keeping the industry here will retain and potentially add numerous new jobs to the LA area and will help stem the loss of entertainment jobs to Canada. I’m a rather liberal Democrat (suffice to say that Dennis Kucinich and I would have a great discussion over coffee). But there is no way to get around the fact that a lot of these production jobs are good, Union and white collar jobs with health care, benefits, and good wages.

    Economic development means traffic and density, but it also means strengthening LA’s economy. If you’re opposed to economic activity, you’re living in the wrong city. Look at Phoenix as a place where a pure circular service economy means sharp, dangerous downturns that degrades the quality of living and makes it difficult to maintain a prosperous urban core. I don’t want to emulate Phoenix. Sometimes big corporations are evil (P&G in Cincinnati comes to mind) but in this case NBC may be the stopped clock that’s right twice a day.

  • Bike Girl rides past there on her commute. It’s in dire need of traffic calming

  • Bill,

    Really, who cares if a private property holder makes money off of the property the own – so long as our City, quality of life, and our environment are maintained or improved?

    The “logjam” you speak of is due to an excessive amount of automobile-only planning in the region. A project like this, adjacent a heavy commuter rail line, needs to have the area around the train station heavily oriented away from private automobiles. If the workers and residents at this new complex are offered more transportation options (at the expense of private car use) – then you will see a marked improvement in the quality of life, environment, and the maintenance of our City.

    The insanity of L.A. politics forces LaBonge to fight for more amenities for more cars to make everything more of a logjam.

    When will a little bit of good social science percolate up to the voting public and our representatives? I’m not holding my breath for an answer- I’d have passed out and died years ago.

  • Nancy


    Not sure if your comment was aimed at me, but I don’t work for NBC/Universal. I just want Metro to rail/subways/something – badly – and live in the Valley. And if that’s what it takes to get more train stations…

    LA will always get more jobs, and with it that comes housing (though not nearly fast enough), but they need to stop letting developers construct stuff – like white collar jobs and $500k+ condos – without the mass transit to handle it (ala “smart growth”). Most people who make that kind of money don’t take sub-standard transportation. The noise and traffic that we are all ranting about right now – it’s CARS, correct? You betcha.

  • Aaron, Metro Universal is actually in the City of Los Angeles, since the County part is across the street at Lankershim. I’d support the project with the following mitigations: construct the tunnel underneath Lankershim to serve the tram stop, and/or extend the tram across Lankershim to Metro property.


    How foolish……did anybody opposed to the project ever mention how much badly needed revenue this project would bring?

    Why should Los Angeles stop it’s densification just because stubborn Suburbanites won’t take Public Transportation; it doesn’t make absolutely any sense, regardless of how much traffic it may bring.


  • The problem is without adequate transportation infrastructure any large project, but especially these types typically cause more problems than they solve, and it’s not as though they are a part of a larger regional plan.

    Build the pedestrian and bikeway infrastructure and the rapid transit system first (and to be “rapid” you have to be going fast), while identifying where we want to increase density and HOW we are going to increase density, then begin the discussion of approving such projects.

    But that’s not what’s happening now.

    Additionally, traffic congestion does have an economic costs.

  • Ray

    Damien – I respect your points of view (reading from a far elsewhere). I will say its idealistic to think that mass transport infrastructure can somehow proceed demand. It’s just not the way things work. Your MTA is placing bets. And as decisions in the light rail arena are political and driven by legacy ROW’s. I’d say some of the bets they are making are poor.

    Let the Universal project rise. It’s the natural order of things. Congestion is GOOD. It will give the county the rationale to build out of the mess. The key is not following old suburban models with these new projects – and exacerbate the years of bad planning decisions. Reduce the parking to usable square foot ratio in all new projects. Don’t tolerate more space for the automobile. Start to make it difficult to drive. Car owners do NOT have a God given right to unlimited use of public resources just for their registration fee and gasoline tax. (I like to say here in NYC we pay $1,000 per square foot for a condo; why should a vehicle owner get 275 sq. ft. to park his car for free or a pittance?)

    Look at history. New York’s subway system was overwhelmed the day it opened in 1909. The demand was there. So desperate were they that they used shovels and human hands to build it. There were traffic jams on the streets all ready – horses and carriages. People needed a fast way to move up Lexington Ave.

    Fortunately, the builders had the foresight. Planning and constructing deliberately. They a. grade separated, b. developed both local and express trains, c. built platforms long enough to sustain foreseen growth in demand for 100 years (8-12 car trains). Today’s NYC Subway is nearing absolute capacity – 100 years to the day after entering service. We’re talking about removing the seats from trains for more standees! And once again despite lots of stop gap measures, its inevitable, we’re going to fall behind the system’s ability to deliver.

    Sometime 50 years from now we’ll be building our way out of a gargantuan mess.

    That’s what you have in LA. But not quite bad enough. It needs to be an overwhelming unbearable mess. So I say. BUILD. BUILD. BUILD. Then people will clamor for it. Damien you keep your activist hat on and keep supporting rail. I’d say your subway is the right project to support.


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