The Manhattanization of Warner Center

When I was preparing for my move to Los Angeles in 2006 and 2007, there was a lot of discussion in the media of Mayor Villaraiogsa’s plans to “Manhattanize” Downtown Los Angeles. Opposition to Villaraigosa’s proposals seemed almost as much about the name he chose, than about the substance. Seven years later, Villaraigosa’s vision is pretty much coming to reality, but you never hear of “Manhattanizing” anymore.

The new "zones" for Warner Center.

And that’s probably a good thing. If Downtowners couldn’t stand the thought of being Manhattanized, just think about what Valley residents would think.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved Warner Center 2035, which allows 30 million square feet of commercial space and 32 million square feet of residential space in the 1,000 square acre community located in Woodland Hills. The number of residential units doubles from the current plan of 9,000 to 20,000.

But more exciting than the new density, the new plan encourages car-free or car-lite travel. The center is divided into eight districts, each of which has its own internal pedestrian and bicycle circulation plans. Wider sidewalks, areas designated for outdoor eating, and bicycle facilities leading to, and from, the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit line.

Denser development, better transit connections. Sounds a lot like Manhattan to me.

But that’s the appeal of Warner Center 2035. Despite doubling the allowed residential units, the plan seeks to reduce the amount of car trips in the area. Workers who commute to Warner Center are more likely to take advantage of transit options when it is easy and comfortable to move inside the Center once arriving.

Bob Blumenfield is one of the loudest supporters of the plan. He represented the Warner Center area as an Assembly Member before being elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

“This new plan reinvents a Warner Center that was conceived in the 1970’s as a collection of monolithic structures and expansive parking lots into a modern, pedestrian and transit focused community,” said Blumenfield in a press release yesterday.

Blumenfield has been touting the “transit oriented development approach” of the plan for months, but the plan does face some challenges.

Over the past several years large apartment and condo complexes have opened within walking distance of Orange Line stops and offices in Warner Center without spiking Orange Line traffic.

AWestfield LLC is doing site-prep work on its massive $450 million The Village at Westfield Topanga. 

Westfield Group of Australia is planning its $500 million mixed-use development connecting the Westfield Topanga and Westfield Promenade malls. United Technologies Corp. plans to turn the 47-year-old Rocketdyne site into a development with a hotel, residences, offices and retail. And this summer, Farmer’s Insurance announced that they would move their headquarters to Warner Center.

And of course, when people outside the immediate area think of Warner Center, they think of either the two malls or the hospital which serves 2 million patients every year.

But the new plan seeks to do more than “mitigate” new traffic, it seeks to get people out of their cars. The Los Angeles Daily News is considered a more conservative paper than the ones that publish Downtown, but even the Valley’s hometown paper enthused, “Warner Center 2035 Approved, area to become pedestrian hub.”

Another example is how the gigantic blocks between buildings are being broken up. The following graphic shows some of the improvements that are planned for the area.

Image via Patch.
  • A trolley will connect transit hubs inside of the Center, leading to a transit option from the Orange Line to the various locations.
  • An internal street network will break up the monotony of some of the longer blocks and provide an internal walking network.
  • Driveways are located to avoid conflict with crosswalks.
  • Frontages of larger buildings are designed to create a more attractive experience with frontages, opening between buildings and glass entrance areas.

To pay for all of these improvements, developers will be assessed a “mobility fee” that will fund the improvements. The fee will apply to any new developments, or improvements made to current developments.


  • David Galvan

    Fantastic! I live close to the Orange Line bike path. Once this is finished we’ll be biking there often, I think. There are also plans to put a Costco in this development, which is good because the current Costco in Canoga park is in a very small and outdated building.

  • Herbie Huff

    What about parking? I was on the edge of my seat waiting to hear about how much parking the City will require, also known as the extent to which they will undercut their multimodal vision.

    Also, a trolley? Boo.

  • huge shout out

    Hopefully no section 8’er are allowed.

  • Anonymous

    Building up a node 27 miles from downtown? That’s not Manhattan, that’s pure LA polycentrism. And it’s great! :)

  • davistrain

    A trolley? Do we mean a real electric streetcar or a bus dressed up in a fake streetcar body?

  • mark vallianatos


    base parking requirements for residences are 1 space minimum, 2 maximum.

    residential buildings of less than 100 units also have to include .25 guest parking spots per unit

    residential projects can go up to 12.5% above the maximum if they physically separate extra parking from base parking

    Non Residential

    commercial parking requirements = minimum 2 and maximum of 4 per 1000sf

    office, R&D and medical = minimum 1 and maximum 4 per 1000sf & minimum 3% for hov/carpools

    light industry = minimum 1 and maximum 3 per 1000 sf + minimum 3% for hov/carpools

    theaters, trade schools, religious institutions, conventions centers etc = 1 per 5 seats or per 50sf

    mixed use combines residential and non residential requirements based on percentage of building used for each

    any project that includes more than maximum has to reserve at least 10% of additional spaces for clean fuel vehicles

    all parking above minimum can be used to meet the parking requirements on any building in the plan area

    projects have to meet general LA requirements for disabled parking and bike parking

    parking on new streets built can meet parking requirements for projects in that district of plan

  • Sirinya Matute

    and before anyone goes off and says everybody drives to costco, I’d like to put it out there that it is actually possible to do a grocery run at Costco and transport your stuff home, within reason. Oftentimes we use our bikes. It turns out you can easily haul meat and cheese home in an Ortlieb.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Sheesh. Oh, heaven forbid this neighborhood would accommodate those of different income levels!

  • Per Sjofors

    I live about a mile from Warner Center and I just love this (now decided) proposal. I can take my bike there and shop, eat and enjoy myself and will not have to drive. I love the density. But, like others here say, what does trolly mean? A dressed up bus is not any good. It need to be train system similar to what they have in many airports. Driver-less, electric, noise-less, smoke-less, etc. It does not have to be elevated as in airports but can run on street level. Enclosed or fenced in for safety, or to have advanced anti-collision technology that now are starting to become available in cars, should somebody jump on the tracks.


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