Westwood mall plans hit severe gov’t snag

Measure bad for business, critics argue

The Village Center Westwood, the entertainment and retail complex spearheaded by developer Ira Smedra, suffered a severe setback in Sacramento this week when a bill favorable to it died in the state Senate Judiciary committee.

The bill, AB 1768 introduced by 47th District Assembly member Kevin Murray, would have amended the Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960.

That law requires that before a city can close a public street to vehicular traffic, the city and the developer must settle and pay all damage claims to business owners, property owners and tenants harmed by the closing of the street.

Smedra, whose plan calls for turning Westwood’s Glendon Avenue into a pedestrian mall, lobbied to change the law so that those who wanted their claims decided by jury trial could be paid at some later date. Those claims could be worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The bill would also have changed the definition of a pedestrian mall to include the center’s planned 20-foot- deep sunken plaza.

The bill had already passed the Senate’s Local Government Committee. But even after several amendments, the Murray bill only had the support of four Judiciary Committee members, one shy of the five required to reach the Senate floor.

A number of people flew to the state capital to testify against the bill. Among them was West Hollywood mayor Steve Martin, who said he was against the measure because it would leave cities on the hook for damages if a developer went under in the future.

The Village Center Westwood has ties to a number of entertainment figures. Smedra’s partners in the project include A&M Records founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, and one of the key lenders is an investment fund controlled by CAA.

The complex is slated to include a Pacific Theatres multiplex as well as a Ralphs supermarket and other shops.

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