Longtime Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association board member Fred Kramer, dubbed the ‘Father of the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan,’ died August 14 at the age of 91, four days before his 92nd birthday.
Kramer left a lasting impact on the Sherman Oaks community, as he was the driving force behind the inception of the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan, which to this day prevents high-rise developments from finding their way onto Ventura Boulevard.
During his nearly two decades on the SOHA board, Kramer served as vice president to current SOHA president Richard Close, and Close says that it was the warning signs in a neighboring city that prompted Kramer to act against large-scale development in Sherman Oaks in the late 80s and early 90s.
“A lot of high rise office buildings were being built in Encino and creating traffic and a lot of parking problems,” Close said. “But more importantly, it was changing the character on Ventura Boulevard in Encino, and we saw it moving towards Sherman Oaks.”
“We became most aware of it when one weekend, a Denny’s restaurant at Sepulveda and Ventura, bulldozers came in and knocked it down with no hearings and no notice,” Close said. “Then developers built a high-rise building. People were shocked.”
It was at that point, according to Close, that Kramer began working with chief deputy to then-Councilman Marvin Braude, Cindy Miscikowski, on how to put a halt to the development poised to reach Sherman Oaks.
“Fred Kramer took charge of how we could prevent that construction from happening in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Boulevard,” Close said. “The two of them, Fred and Cindy, came up with the concept to create a specific plan to control and prevent the destruction on Ventura Boulevard.”
According to Close, Kramer and Miscikowski’s plans were met with great indignation from developers hoping to make their way into Sherman Oaks. That strife is documented in an article published in the Los Angeles Times in February of 1990.
“The developers went crazy because they wanted to knock down everything on Ventura Boulevard and build high-rises,” Close said. “So Fred organized a hearing at the City Council of Los Angeles to support the Specific Plan. And we were able to get the plan signed through his efforts.”
The Specific Plan now reaches from Studio City to Woodland Hills.
“He felt very seriously about the importance of having a specific plan and something that was scalable for the community,” said Cliff Reston, who served on the SOHA board with Kramer and Close. “Sherman Oaks residents were always aghast at the level of development that was allowed in Encino.”
Close maintains that the ‘Father of the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan,’ his work will forever be invaluable in the Sherman Oaks community.
“Without Fred’s efforts, Ventura Boulevard would have turned into a street of high rise office buildings rather than the retail and restaurants boulevard as currently exists,” Close said. “Without him, Sherman Oaks would be quite a different community today.”