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Neighborhood Council Can’t Decide on Controversial Petco Expansion

The Studio City Neighborhood Council couldn’t pass votes to support or oppose the proposed expansion.

In one of their marathon meetings that took them past 11 p.m. Wednesday, the Studio City Neighborhood Council heard heated comments over the proposed expansion of grooming and vaccinations at the Petco at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon.

After hearing more than an hour of comments limited to two minutes each, the volunteer city advisory Neighborhood Council turned down a proposal from the Land Use Committee to support the expansion at 12800 Ventura Blvd., which would add 761 square-feet with indoor grooming, vaccination and training services. 

When that didn’t pass, Remy Kessler, who was acting president in John Walker’s absence, proposed substituting “oppose” instead of “support” for the proposal, “because we owe the citizens of Studio City a decision on this issue.” 

When there weren’t enough votes for that to pass, Kessler apologized to the two dozen locals who came out for the vote and said, “We have not taken a position. I am sorry.”

Citing the interest of time, Kessler did not allow for an amendment being hammered out by Lisa Sarkin, Lisa Cahan Davis and Gail Steinberg that would have addressed specifically the traffic issues.

The highly emotional issue involved creating a larger Petco in a complex that was meant for smaller shops. While the Petco planned to expand into a hair salon to allow for dog training and grooming, neighbors were concerned that additional car traffic and dog traffic would encroach into their residential neighborhood.

“We are boxed in by people who get all jittery with their coffee at Starbucks, and they bring their pets, and our neighborhood is really impaired,” said Catherine Schick, who has lived in Studio City for 47 years.

Longtime community activist Barry Johnson observed, "I can't think of an issue that has brought out so many people as far as a concern for the neighborhood. The council should take this matter very seriously."

Meredith Zamsky, who lives on Goodland Place, said she reached 90 of the 150 homes in the area, and only one supported the Petco expansion. “I have seen so many near accidents there,” she said.

Neighbor Michelle Allen said that she no longer takes her children bike riding in the area because “cars just shoot out from the parking lot and into the neighborhood, and it’s too dangerous.”

Wayne Cole said he gathered 102 signatures against the Petco expansion and joined in the criticism of the Neighborhood Council for proposing to support the Petco.

“We have to represent everyone in Studio City, not just residents, but businesses and employees, too,” said Lisa Sarkin, the Land Use chair who is on the council. “We have been looking for a reason to not support this, but we haven’t found anything. They have done everything correctly.” (See the video clip.)

The council is made up of representatives of businesses and residents, and new member Shoshona Raphael, whose family owns a local restaurant, said, “This is a very difficult situation, but it seems like the problem is with the traffic; and it may not matter what the business is, there will still be those traffic problems.” (See the video above.)

Council Secretary Rita Villa said, “I can’t in good faith listen to all these people and hear how their quality of life is being hurt. I’m a business representative on the Neighborhood Council, but I can’t support this.”

Scott Sommer, an attorney representing Petco, said the store in Studio City is among the smallest in the company and the only one that doesn’t have grooming and training on the grounds.

Delia Barragan, the store manager, said the store would have an additional staff of four or five groomers. “It shouldn’t add too much additional traffic,” she said. There is also underground parking and the lot would have limited times and a full-time parking monitor.

Scott Vauel from Petco said the permit and expansion would also allow aquariums for fish and reptiles, but no dog or cat kennels.

The Council voted twice but couldn’t get enough for a decisive vote either way.

Council member Ron Taylor said, “This is tough. We have had a substantial turnout of people about this and yet the expansion will provide additional services for the neigborhood.” 

Veterinarian Peter Lowenthal has lived in the area 21 years and said “the new services they would offer are already available at smaller businesses in the area and this is not a good time economically to take that business away from the smaller shops.”

After the vote, the Petco representatives told Studio City Patch that they weren’t sure what the next step would be for the expansion plans. They could go on without the Neighborhood Council support, but a decision has not yet been made.

Sheri Haas December 13, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Well, at least the council members aren't paid. What a bunch of people accomplishing nothing in their marathon meetings. Maybe coffee should be made a prescription drug with Starbucks being locked down facilities if people are too jittery and impairing the neighborhood. Such a waste of time. Get a life people. This meeting could be a sketch on SNL.
Jeff December 13, 2012 at 04:16 PM
This is beyond reason. No matter what business arrives in it's wake , the area is going to see an increase in traffic. That area of Studio City is congested with or without any business because of it's proximity to Coldwater Canyon.The bottom line is that whomever permitted the buildings to be built in the first place didn't allow enough outdoor space for parking and didn't care about congestion.Sure, there is underground parking but the mini-mall was over built for the space. The same people who build mini-mansions using every available square foot designed this building. it is insignificant from a design point of view but is usable. The reason businesses leave the City of Los Angeles is because of this kind of inconsistent behavior and a neccessity to over think and do studies. Open your eyes,this is not a difficult conclusion. Expansion equals jobs equals higher rent and taxes. PETCO becomes an investor in the community maybe you should state that you will grant the expansion if they will automatically donate a portion of their sales to the local public schools in the area. Let PETCO expand , it is already taking up a majority of the usuable space in the complex and provides an essential need to the surrounding area. The salon is moving to Coldwater and why have another empty business front in Studio City .
S H December 13, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Geez, just let Petco expand. It's not messy and smelly like a restaurant or grocery store. Petty.
Brad December 13, 2012 at 08:53 PM
“We have to represent everyone in Studio City, not just residents, but businesses and employees, too,” said Lisa Sarkin, the Land Use chair who is on the council. “We have been looking for a reason to not support this, but we haven’t found anything. They have done everything correctly.” Wow, she can talk out of both sides of her mouth. What is infuriating is this: “We have been looking for a reason to not support this, but we haven’t found anything. They have done everything correctly.” Well, excuse Petco for doing everything correctly. If her point of view is "We have been looking for a reason to not support this.........", then she and the entire Neighborhood Council should be scrapped. I knew I should have run for a spot on the Council.
Deb December 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I think its time that voters go back to poll and eliminate Neighborhood councils or Department of Neighborhood, they do not have the expertise to make any decision regarding planning, building and safety, or zoning code. This matter should be addressed by the entity that has the power to do so. Basically, NC are not even reflective of the 50% of the community because most residents do not participate. NC is just another layer of wasted time. How can you limit the flow of traffic, if folks want to go to petco and if petco wants to build or expand by following the law then they should do so. It is unfortunate but nothing ever stay the same. Bottom line, Petco will expand.
Skraeling December 13, 2012 at 09:48 PM
what the hell....they oppose this and not the huge apartments, the many burger joints and cafes with no parking? what a joke.
John Stein December 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM
it would be nice if Petco paid an increased tax to the city for using the space. it is unfortunate they pushed a family owned hair salon away from their space without a warning from the landlord.
John Stein December 13, 2012 at 11:48 PM
it might help if the city made both sides of the building PERMIT PARKING only to eliminate random people parking their cards in front of our homes. Having a permit only parking on our streets will reduce them from using our streets as parking lots. If Petco can budget in their taxes a portion of their sales to support our neighborhood, we can benefit from their high volume of sales. The landlord should also pay for a full time valet service in the parking lot to make sure it doesn't overflow into our streets.
John Stein December 13, 2012 at 11:49 PM
as long as Petco does everything it can to keep their customers on their lot, it would not affect our neighborhood. I say we should have Permit Parking all around that property!!!
John Stein December 13, 2012 at 11:59 PM
it might help the neighborhood if the parking lot had metered paid parking so people only stay for the duration of their visit and avoid using the parking lot as a place to drop off their cars because it's not a monitored lot.
Lisa Sarkin December 14, 2012 at 10:51 PM
This is not exactly what I said. At the beginning of the meeting I made this statement: "There is confusion in the community about the Neighborhood Council system. I want to explain that the Studio City Neighborhood Council represents all stakeholders of Studio City as an advisory body of volunteers elected by the stakeholders of Studio City. From business property owners to homeless people, the 15 members of the board, who are elected every two years, represent business property owners, business owners, residential homeowners, residential renters, youths, community organizations, employees and at-large stakeholders. Each board member was elected by the stakeholders who fall into the same category as the board member. The committees research and hear public comment on the issues the president has tasked the committees to review for the board. Stakeholder participation is a crucial element of the neighborhood council system. I urge each of you to sign up on the SCNC website [www.studiocitync.org] and receive information monthly. Getting participation is one of the most important duties of the Studio City Neighborhood Council." .
Mike Szymanski December 15, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I am recording most all of the meetings by tape recorder these days so as to get the quotes exact, and portions of this statement are in the video clips above, and in the other story about the bridge. You can hear the quoted sections above as stated, but I didn't get Lisa's complete statement that she started off the meeting with, and she is free to adjust her comments.
Skraeling December 20, 2012 at 05:36 AM
I agree. They are a joke. This was a 'bone" thrown out when the Valley Secession vote was about to happen. We should have been allowed to leave LA...but they need our money...

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