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.
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.
- 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.