The following article written by Nick Green was published today in the Daily Breeze:
Six years and one crippling recession after Rolling Hills Estates abandoned a vision to remake its flagging commercial core with hundreds of homes, a resurgent economy has revived interest in development proposals for the area.
A mere 59 condominiums in two projects were built in the Deep Valley Drive area before the recession extinguished the demand for new homes.
But two previously approved developments at 627 and 927 Deep Valley Drive, totaling 133 units between them, are likely to begin in quick succession this summer. Homes could begin to hit the housing market starting in 2015.
And the largest single project of them all, a mixed-use project on about 8 acres essentially surrounding the existing Brick Walk retail development that includes 148 condos and town houses, will come before the City Council on Tuesday night.
Review of the project is in the early stages - the developer made an initial presentation to the City Council in February - and no decision on whether to approve it is expected this week. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 4045 Palos Verdes Drive North.
But the flurry of activity has reignited long-held fears by some residents over a lack of parking and traffic congestion.
"There's no traffic on Deep Valley Drive, period. But that's not the traffic they're worried about," Mayor Frank Zerunyan said. "It's the ingress and egress of vehicles coming on and off The Hill. "
The development surrounding the Brick Walk is attractive, in part, because the developer proposes to stabilize a 1997 landslide that remains covered in black plastic to this day, an ugly civic embarrassment overlooking the "relatively deserted and rundown" street, Zerunyan said.
"It's my greatest disappointment to see the slide area the way it is," he said. "It's really an eyesore. We obviously need to take a look at what kind of project can go in there and if it can benefit the community.
"We're moving cautiously," he added. "We've been burned by that hillside before. We just want to make sure the hillside is safe. "
There's no doubt there's plenty of pent-up demand for smaller homes on The Hill, said local real estate company owner Scott Anastasi.
His firm will handle the sales of the two projects expected to get underway this summer - his father's locally well-known development company is building them - and also sold the 41 units for seniors in Rolling Hills Villas on the same street.
"I saw thousands and thousands of people who came through our sales office who wanted to buy and live in Palos Verdes," he said. "The problem is there's no product available. They loved (Rolling Hills Villas), but it was age-restricted. "
More homes are seen as one way to shore up the area's economic viability.
Deep Valley Drive is largely home to a collection of struggling restaurants and service businesses - hair and nail salons and the like - that do little to encourage the pedestrian-oriented ambiance the city has long wanted to cultivate.
The outdoor mall has reverted to leasing space to medical professionals and other nonretail uses. On the same evening, the City Council will again discuss a plan to loosen planning regulations for those kinds of mall uses in exchange for up to $50,000 a year.
Councilwoman Suzie Seamans believes experience has shown that concerns about traffic are overblown. The bigger threat, she said, is to a struggling business community that contributes crucial sales taxes that the city has traditionally relied on for around a third of its operating revenue.
"The two condominium projects we've allowed to be built so far - there's no increase in traffic," she said. "The number of condominiums we're allowing to be built are just not a big enough number to make a real difference (to traffic). "
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