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DENSER HOUSING ON THE (HIGH) RISE 1,400 UNITS GOING UP NEAR DOWNTOWN NOHO TRANSIT HUB.

Byline: Alex Dobuzinskis Staff Writer

For an example of smart growth that reduces traffic, officials point to the condos and apartments going up near North Hollywood's subway station, terminus for the soon-to-open Metro Orange Line.

Officials expect the 1,400-plus housing units will help revitalize North Hollywood. But residents elsewhere in the San Fernando Valley are weary of dense housing developments being built in their neighborhoods - high-rise projects in traditionally low-rise Southern California.

``All of us are sort of immigrants coming here and we all really like Los Angeles, but at the same time we want to keep it the way it is,'' said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. ``And we don't want more traffic, we don't want more pollution, we don't want more crowded schools and parks.''

Housing prices are up, but the demand for single-family homes is still high. Moreno Valley and Rancho Cucamonga in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are among Southern California's fastest-growing cities, and many residents there drive into Los Angeles for work, Stern said.

Last year, the Southern California Association of Governments released a growth plan that called for accommodating an expected 6 million more residents in the next 25 years by cramming housing along major thoroughfares and bus and subway routes.

But critics say that even if freeway traffic was controlled by building housing denser and closer to where people work and shop, local intersections could be jammed and park space and government services could be lacking.

Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, said the stretch of Ventura Boulevard through his neighborhood is one thoroughfare that can do without tall housing developments. The boulevard is bounded by the Santa Monica Mountains to the south and the clogged Ventura Freeway to the north, with no parallel feeder streets.

``The people that are going to move into all these buildings ... they're not going to give up their cars,'' Silver said.

Condo- and apartment-dwellers will still use the freeways to get to work, despite the best intentions of city planners, he said.

``It's called the job-housing balance, and it's ridiculous. It doesn't work,'' Silver said.

Homeowners in Burbank earlier this year came out in opposition to a 220-unit condominium project proposed at Olive Avenue and Lima Street. Burbank officials approved the condos, contending they will put residents closer to their work in the Media District. Neighbors said the condos will block their views of the mountains and help turn the area into another Century City.

In Glendale, one city councilman welcomed the prospect of a 19-story downtown condo along busy Brand Boulevard, where a trolley or streetcar line is also under consideration. But the mayor called the condo project, which is in jeopardy of losing its building site, much too big.

Beth Steckler, policy director for the nonprofit Livable Places, said population will increase regardless of whether enough housing is built. Livable Places promotes building near public transportation, and building vertically in cities instead of outward into distant suburbs.

``We're a mobile society; we change jobs, we move, we buy houses and stay put,'' Steckler said. ``So I'm not saying it works for everybody all the time. But if we could get a quarter of the people taking public transportation, it would solve our traffic problems.''

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge said dense housing works around the North Hollywood subway station, which in a month will be the terminus of the Metro Orange Line busway, because the area is such a transit hub.

The NoHo Tower, which is being built near the station, will have 181 condos and be at least 15 stories tall, making it one of the Valley's tallest residential buildings built in a decade. The NoHo Commons across the street will add another 830 apartments by June 2006.

``It's ambitious, but I think it all comes together,'' LaBonge said. ``This is the way urban planning should proceed in the future.''

Eric Reuveni, a member of the Mid-Town North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, said all the housing developments under construction in the area will add a total of 1,400 new residential units. He said he has been waiting 20 years for such revitalization to occur in the neighborhood.

But areas outside North Hollywood with less well-developed transit routes are expected to experience more growing pains, and the look of the region could change in the years ahead.

``In the past, they didn't build high-rises in L.A. because of earthquake problems, but they appear to have solved that and are able to build much taller buildings,'' Stern said.

Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304

alex.dobuzinskis(at)dailynews.com

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Photo:

Construction progresses on the NoHo Commons apartment complex near bus and subway hubs in North Hollywood.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 2, 2005
Words:794
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