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SONC Land Use Committee Stalls Again on Il Villaggio Toscano Approval

Development team frustrated by committee’s second delay on decision over proposed five-acre, Sepulveda Boulevard housing & retail project.

For a second time in two months, the Land Use Committee of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council backed off on a decision on Il Villaggio Toscano, a $100 million housing and retail project planned for Sepulveda and Ventura boulevards.

Although the developer had made further incremental changes to the project to try to obtain committee approval, those were not sufficient to overcome concerns over the project’s density, size, height and traffic impacts. At Thursday evening’s meeting at the Van Nuys / Sherman Oaks Senior Center, the proposed project was sent back for more work to a smaller, five-person subcommittee.

Committee member and SONC vice president Art Fields said he wanted the subgroup to meet with the developer “to ameliorate some of the concerns of the committee that all we’re getting is a traffic problem.”

No specific date was set for the next reconsideration.

The project’s latest iteration was presented Thursday evening by Paul Krueger representing developer M. David Paul. The newest version includes 399 units instead of the original 500, 7,000 square feet of retail versus the original 10,000 and 13,000 square feet of public space including a quarter-acre “public plaza” with pavers, a water feature and trees.

Krueger said the developer would also provide an enhanced streetscape along Sepulveda Boulevard leading to the project with street trees, planter boxes, sidewalk improvements, bike racks, bus shelters and street furniture to create a “gateway” to Sherman Oaks.

“These are ideas that [Land Use Committee member] Jeff Kalban came to us with and I think they are good ideas,” Krueger said.

Yet, those changes barely registered with the 35 speakers for and against the project, many of whom wore paper badges reading “Right for the Site” or “TOSCANO” with the last ‘O” a red circle with a diagonal through it, symbolizing “no.”

Opponents, as they had in the past, argued that the project is too large and would create further traffic problems in an already traffic-beleaguered intersection. Supporters said the project would bring economic benefits and would help relieve traffic congestion by prompting a change in commuting habits because of the walking-distance proximity of offices, entertainment and bus lines.  

But at the end of nearly three hours of presentation, discussion and public comment, the Land Use Committee members appeared reluctant to recommend approval of all the zoning changes, Specific Plan amendments, density increases and height exemptions the project will require to go forward.

Instead, they began musing about further changes to the project, such as adding more commercial space to make it more of shopping attraction and thereby reduce anticpated morning traffic or adding more public space for recreational uses. Those ideas finally had the development team sputtering in frustration.

“I’ve changed those [architectural] drawings time after time after time,” said architect Wade Killefer. “If I put this park in, Jeff will come up with something else!” 

Krueger argued that more retail would compete with the nearby Galleria and that residential developments typically don’t include open space.

“I’m a little concerned where all this is going,” he added.

In the end, with only minutes left before the 10 p.m. center closure, the committee referred the matter back to the subgroup for more discussion.

"I didn’t think they would vote on it tonight,” said project opponent April Blair, as she left the meeting. “The project is so big and complex and has so many elements.” 

Doug Kriegel March 16, 2012 at 08:58 PM
We would welcome a response from Jeff Kalban or anyone else who attended the meeting on this major development in Sherman Oaks.
BJ Killeen March 17, 2012 at 02:10 PM
It is amazing at how much this committee stalls on everything...would you rather have a blighted, dirt-filled empty lot that begs for drug users, squatters and other undersireables hanging out, or a productive, clean, community-based property? No wonder Sherman Oaks is becoming the cesspool of the Valley. The impotence of this committee to step up and make a decision about anything that will move this city forward is mind boggling. Common sense is gone. Want proof? Just attend one of their meetings...
Scott Killeen March 17, 2012 at 03:22 PM
FYI- SONC Land Use committee member Jeff Kalban an architect (http://www.kalbanarchitects.com) hijacked this meeting! He literally took control in forcing his view point / ideas of what this project should be. He had the gall of producing his own concept drawing of what he thinks Il Villaggio Toscano should be! A sitting SONC Land Use member telling a developer how and what he needs to build. How would you feel if this was your project and someone tells you what you should be building? Kalban's ego was showing through no matter how you dispute it. Kalban took control of the meeting from chairman Ron Ziff by always having a rebuttal to another committee persons comments and forcing his view across as being the right and only way to see things. He was basically saying HIS expertise is better than developers M. David Paul's, always bring up his company's recent jobs that were designed and built. This project has been in the works for eight years, even if the SONC Land Use committee approves it, the SONC board then must approve it and then even more approvals must come from LACC committee's downtown. Minimum start time to move the first dirt load is two years away. Builders build when the economy is in a low, the opportunity for this project or any project to be built maybe closing. Sherman Oaks, get ready for eight more years of Cal Trans renting the lot for truck storage and seeing a chain link fence in Sherman Oaks.
Jay March 17, 2012 at 06:49 PM
HMM. I wonder if the KiIleen family has a vested interest in the development. No one in their right minds would believe the b.s. promulgated by the developers like: "Supporters said the project would bring economic benefits and would help relieve traffic congestion by prompting a change in commuting habits because of the walking-distance proximity of offices, entertainment and bus lines." Right. Like people are going to walk from their homes to their offices; like everyone who works there is going to live there; like the rents or purchase price of condos would be affordable. Sure. Developers have ruined the Sherman Oaks I have lived in for 34 years. You used to be able to get around easily, especially in non-rush hours. Now thanks to multi- story units replacing homes and buildings with less units, it is a mess. The intersection at Sepulveda and Ventura is a horrible mess. This city has always been a developers heaven and I applaud the neighborhood council for delaying the horrendous project. And, yes, Mr. Killeen, I would rather see and empty lot or a maybe a hotel that would have much less negative impact. BTW, what is you connection to this development? I want full-disclosure!
Scott Killeen March 17, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Jay, We have ZERO vested interest in the development! BELIEVE OR NOT! When was the last time you where at a SONC meeting? Ever? I want full-disclosure of what you have done for this city! Now why would you say "Developers have ruined the Sherman Oaks I have lived in for 34 years" when the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association has been protecting Sherman Oaks since 1964 from developers? Along with your 35 years worth of Los Angeles City Council members for our district. Sherman Oaks is in a valley of over 1.2 million people and a city of 5 million more. You are aware of that, right? And now the last empty lot in Sherman Oaks will absolutely destroy the whole infrastructure if built upon. You may get your wish on the empty lot but be aware, it's zoned for a big box store or an industrial complex TWICE the size of the purposed building, 700,000 square feet! Now how bad does a 350,000 square foot building seem bordered by two freeways and a 6 story parking structure?

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