Earlier this month, the Planning Department released the draft environmental impact report for the Warner Center Regional Core Comprehensive Specific Plan, which will serve as both a plan and guidelines for building in the area through 2035. The plan organizes the Warner Center into eight districts (1. Business Park, 2. Canoga River Improvement Overlay, 3. Downtown, 4. Eastside, 5. Northeast Village, 6. Southwest Residential, 7. Topanga West, and 8. Uptown), roughly bound by the LA River, the 101 Freeway, De Soto Avenue, and Topanga Canyon Boulevard--about one and a half square miles. The 1993 Warner Specific Plan ended at Vanowen Street, so the new plan's LA River boundary reflects an expansion of the plan's area. Today the Daily News quotes City Planner Ken Bernstein, who describes the new vision for Warner Center as more "cosmopolitan, 21st century." The paper adds: "The plan would allow 40-story skyscrapers. Small retail shops - where locals could walk to buy basics - would be encouraged, in an area now dominated by national chains and big malls. The long superblocks and six-lane thoroughfares would be 'cut up' by adding paseos and crosswalks to create a more intimate feel for pedestrians."
A recent email from Land Use Matters, posted by the AIA|LA Design Advocate blog, shares more details of the plan: "The Specific Plan proposes to increase the floor area ratios, height and density for most lots within Warner Center; authorize flexible parking rates; and provide urban design guidelines. A supplemental sign district is also proposed for the Regional Core" (that last part means there billboards would be allowed). The plan proposes high-rise residential towers for the Uptown area, pedestrian and bike infrastructure for the River District, transit-oriented development in the Northeast Village section.
Although Warner Center is sometimes referred to as the "Downtown of the Valley," the area has yet to achieve a real downtown feel. As noted by Dennis T. DiBiase, who served on a committee that helped shape the plan, in the LADN: "There's no place to go...You can walk, but there's no destination." According to the DEIR, some of that failure is a result of the "overly restrictive" 1993 Warner Center Specific Plan, which failed to encourage density, pedestrian activity, open space, transportation connectivity, mixed-use projects, and all that other stuff you need for livable development.
Public comments on the DEIR will end on February 6, 2012, and the city will hold a public workshop for the plan on January 9, 2012.
· Warner Center Regional Core Comprehensive Specific Plan [DEIR]
· Warner Center blueprint calls for 'cosmopolitan' design [Daily News]
· Land Use Matters - A Publication of Alston & Bird's Land Use Group [Design Advocate]