Ventura Boulevard holds a special place in the hearts and minds of most San Fernando Valley residents. Date night at Monty’s Steakhouse. Taking the kids for a games at Corbin Bowl or Bowlero. Ordering a custom birthday cake at Bea’s Bakery. Picking up the keys to your first new car at Vista Ford. All of these things happen on Ventura Boulevard. It is the San Fernando Valley’s Main Street, and it’s iconic enough that it easily goes the by “the Boulevard” or just “Ventura.” But this area has the potential to be even better, and I welcome the opportunity to help it thrive, both with my “Reimagine Ventura Boulevard” initiative, and eventually with appropriate updates to the area’s Ventura-Cahuenga Corridor Specific Plan.
Both “Reimagine Ventura” and opening the Specific Plan were ideas spawned by neighborhood businesses and concerned residents. Our “Reimagine” efforts were sparked by the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council, and the Specific Plan update request came from the Tarzana Neighborhood Council. I was more than ready to embrace these ideas, especially considering the local support driving them, and through these grassroots discussions, we can make a positive mark on our community.
Over the last year I have made a concerted effort to focus attention on ensuring the continued success of the Boulevard. This area has a lot of family owned, longtime local shops and restaurants. Supporting local small businesses is essential with our changing economy and constant development pressures. Through “Reimagining Ventura,” I’ve been working closely with the Neighborhood Council and local stakeholders to create a vision for the western end of the Boulevard. The goal is to create a small town Main Street for Woodland Hills and to help support local business with additional parking, enhanced landscaping, and safer, better access for pedestrians.
After several community meetings with both residents and businesses, we decided to focus on diagonal parking, safety improvements, and landscaping. In the coming months we will decide how to implement these changes and support these small businesses.
To further this goal, I have also introduced a motion to begin discussions on how to best update the Ventura-Cahuenga Corridor Specific Plan, along with three of my colleagues who represent other portions of the Boulevard. The current Specific Plan is over 25 years old. Most of its components are still valid today and should not be altered, but others are unresponsive to the changes in the retail marketplace or the community’s desire to have a walkable and attractive place to shop and eat.
For example, the left turn signal at Yolanda and Ventura took 5 years to install because of our outdated plan. It is unacceptable that minor projects like this with full funding should ever take so long to complete. Additionally, in Tarzana the growing medical office market is severely limited by a rule in the Specific Plan that doctors and dentists can’t open on the ground floor along the Boulevard unless the area has a high vacancy rate. With Providence hospital located at Burbank and Reseda, it makes sense to focus medical offices in that area, but it’s overly burdensome to do so if doctors have to first prove that there are vacancies. It’s an unnecessary inconvenience for both patients and medical providers.
The Specific Plan guides development along Ventura and must maintain and even enhance the safeguards in place to control overdevelopment, but it should not be so restrictive as to curtail new small businesses from opening or allow lots to lay vacant for years and become blighted. Updating the Plan should be about making the Boulevard responsive to 21st century needs. For the update to be successful, the process must be open, transparent, and inclusive. Any changes must be reflective of the community’s desires and the needs of small business.
As the Councilmember whose district encompasses the longest stretch of the Boulevard, its successes and failures matter immensely to me. Too many people rely on Ventura for jobs and local services to let this area go stagnant or become unsafe for local families to enjoy. This area must be nurtured and we must make extra efforts to keep this vitality going.
With a little creativity and investment, we can transform and elevate the western portion of the Boulevard into a more pedestrian friendly, business friendly and driver friendly corridor and we can plan more smartly for the Ventura we want to see take shape for the next 25 years.