Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilmember Mike Bonin, airport officials, and community representatives on June 14, celebrated City Council approval of the LAX Northside Plan Update, a comprehensive planning blueprint for 340 acres of vacant property located between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Los Angeles communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey.
The LAX Northside Plan Update was created over several years of collaboration between community stakeholders and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city department that owns and operates LAX and two other Southern California airports. The plan represents a unique opportunity to achieve significant economic investment in the area and provide needed community resources and benefits, as well as important airport support sites.
“The LAX Northside Plan shows what we can accomplish when we work together to build the future of our economy and preserve the unique character of L.A.’s neighborhoods,” said Garcetti. “This plan will transform a vacant lot into a creative and economic hub that will help revitalize the neighborhood with new jobs, retail and green space.”
“Westchester and Playa del Rey deserve a vibrant, thriving community and the Northside Plan will offer neighbors open space and recreation facilities to play in, restaurants and retail space to dine and shop in, and a campus-like office space to work in,” said Bonin, who represents LAX and nearby communities on the city council. “This plan puts neighborhoods first and is a shining example of our world-class airport acting like a first-class neighbor. I cannot think of a better gift as Westchester gets ready to celebrate the past 75 years and looks forward to the next 75.”
Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners Vice President Valeria Velasco, who represents Westchester and Playa del Rey on the Board said, “Approval of this plan demonstrates definitively that LAWA and its neighbors can work collaboratively to produce a result that benefits everyone. Economic development, community resources, and improved airport support areas will be excellent additions to our neighborhood, and we are all looking forward to seeing the work begin.”
“Los Angeles World Airports can now move forward with implementing the plan that will result in new projects and new neighborhood gathering places due to all the hard work by the community and LAWA staff over the past several years,” said LAWA Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint.
The LAX Northside Plan is a comprehensive update of an outdated, overly dense land-use plan initially conceived in the 1980s. The LAX Northside Plan Update has been crafted with the help of surrounding neighborhoods to produce a vibrant and sustainable center of employment, retail, restaurant, office, hotel, research and development, education, civic, airport support, recreation, and airport-buffer uses that support the needs of communities surrounding LAX.
LAWA acquired the land with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants in the 1970s and 1980s to provide a buffer between LAX and adjacent communities. The old plan would have permitted 4.5 million square feet of development with tall buildings, minimal open space, outdated design and environmental standards, and little accommodation for civic uses. The LAX Northside Plan Update approved today significantly reduces allowable density and associated traffic, while providing a planning framework that more effectively weaves the space into the fabric of the neighborhood. The approved Plan envisions 175,000 square feet of community and civic uses, and nearly 50 acres of new recreation and open space.
The Northside property is ideally located for a natural expansion of the “Silicon Beach” high-technology creative hub, and is also adjacent to several educational institutions interested in new facilities. Opportunities for local non-profit organizations to locate recreational sites on the property emerged from the planning process and will be a community benefit.
Development guidelines for the updated plan include: state-of-the-art sustainability measures, building design requiring lower heights, cluster near Westchester Parkway, meaningful buffers adjacent to residential properties, and access from Westchester Parkway rather than through neighborhoods to reduce cut-through traffic. The plan also calls for transforming the current roadway into a multi-use “paseo” along Westchester Parkway that would enhance pedestrian and bicycle access between the Downtown Westchester Business District and the beach.
The LAX Northside Plan Update is already catalyzing new investment in the area. LAWA and the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation are currently working together to construct a state-of-the-art, underground water reclamation facility on the western portion of the property. This facility will help the City and LAWA meet new state and federal water-quality standards for urban runoff and provide green space for recreation at ground level. This collaboration is the first of its kind for City agencies, and serves as a model for both sustainability projects and inter-departmental cooperation.
As part of the LAX Northside Plan Update planning process, LAWA staff headed by Deputy Executive Director for Environmental and Land Use Planning Lisa Trifiletti conducted more than 50 group and individual meetings — a collaboration between local and regional stakeholders and LAX that resulted in a plan reflecting community priorities and LAWA’s needs. This level of stakeholder engagement was a factor in the Northside Plan Update receiving the 2015 Award of Excellence in Neighborhood Planning from the American Planning Association-Los Angeles Section and the 2015 Outstanding Public Involvement/Education Program Award from the Association of Environmental Professionals.
“LAWA did an exceptional job reaching out to the community and making sure this plan reflected the dreams of neighbors in Westchester and Playa del Rey,” said Bonin. “I am tremendously grateful for the hard work that went into making this plan truly community-serving.”
LAWA will soon finalize a strategy to fully implement the plan, which is expected to represent a significant economic investment at full build-out, generate hundreds of construction and thousands of permanent jobs, enhance the existing Downtown Westchester Business District, and create a new hub for office tenants.
The LAX Northside Plan Update has been reviewed and approved by the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, the City Planning Commission, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, the City Council, and the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Commission. It will also be reviewed by the FAA, as needed in the future.
Further information on the LAX Northside Plan Update can be found at www.LAWA.org/GDZ/Index.aspx.