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Planning Commission gives OK to NBCUniversal expansion

September 27, 2012 |  9:43 pm

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission recommended Thursday that NBCUniversal be allowed to move to the next stage of approval for a long-planned expansion at its San Fernando Valley site, after the company agreed to fund a bikeway and make other modifications to an already revised plan.

The bike path along the L.A. River was a key demand of environmentalists and bicycle enthusiasts, who were among the most vocal opponents of NBCUniversal’s original expansion plan.

On Thursday, the movie and television production company agreed to commit more than $3.3 million for planning, construction and improvement of future bikeways between the movie studio and the waterway and bike-related facilities on nearby streets.

“I’m excited that NBC has stepped up to the plate with real dollars,” Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said after the Planning Commission’s vote.

Omar Brownson, executive director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp., called the financial commitment “a good pedal forward.”

It was a standing-room-only crowd at Van Nuys City Hall, where such concerns as increased congestion and noise were raised. But dozens of residents, including film industry workers and labor union members, voiced support for the plan citing its potential to create jobs, boost investment and generate tax revenue for Los Angeles.

Studio City resident and actor Sean O'Grady said he favored “bringing a lot of work back to Hollywood,” because “so much of it has gone overseas.”

In July, NBCUniversal heeded staunch neighborhood opposition and dropped an estimated $3-billion plan for building almost 3,000 residential units with associated retail at the east end of the studio in favor of additional studio offices and production facilities, and two 500-room hotels in the CityWalk/Theme Park area of its property.

The revised plan would represent a $1.6-billion investment in Los Angeles, including $100 million in transit and roadway improvements and the anticipated creation of 30,000 jobs from construction and operations, according to information published about the project.

Corinne Verdery, NBCUniversal's chief of real estate development and planning, told the Planning Commission that although it was a difficult decision to eliminate the residential component, company officials believed “this is the right thing to do.”

The plan still must win final approval from the L.A. City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Seventy percent of the project is on county land.

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-- Ann M. Simmons in Van Nuys

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