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American Institute of Architects - San Fernando Valley Chapter - Urban Design Assistance Team - Panorama City, California


Urban Design Assistance Team - Panorama City Commercial District Scheme 'A'

Scheme A consists of a collaborative design effort by UDAT members Larry Robbins, Tom Rath, Jerry Pollak, and Paul Lindblad in March 2003. Paul Lindblad sketched Scheme 'A' as pictured here.

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'Smart Growth' foci of the Panorama City Center UDAT (Urban Design Assistance Team)

Community engagement in the planning process
The Panorama City UDAT study area is defined by the areas included in the Los Angeles City Planning Panorama Community Design Overlay from Parthenia Street on the northern edge for an overall distance of 1.33 miles along Van Nuys Boulevard to the Metrolink at Keswick Street on the southern edge. Van Nuys Boulevard is the major north-south collector. Roscoe Boulevard is the major east-west traffic arterial.

North Commercial District - a Cultural Past

Parks and public space
The northern gateway to the Panorama Commercial District, the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Parthenia Street (where the north-south bound Boulevard wyes off to the east-west bound Street) presents unnecessary challenges to vehicular traffic. Opportunities for relieving this traffic knot rest with applying advanced traffic design such as in-use European traffic circles. Adding plantings, streetscape and north portal gateway signage will create an authentic gateway sense of entry into the Panorama Commercial District.

Compact design
Plaza del Valle is a major new project (whose theme evokes the feeling of a small Mexican village street winding between facing small stall-shops) which has repeated the failed pattern of other businesses and developments by closing off visual and physical accessibility from Van Nuys Boulevard. The levels of amenities required by the Los Angeles City Planning Conditions of Approval (Case No. ZA 99-3163(PAD)) has not to date been complied with by the Owner of Plaza del Valle. Entrances are not prominent nor noticeably evident from Chase Street or Van Nuys Boulevard. A visually significant gathering area can be achieved by introducing a Public Farmers Market at the north-east corner of Chase Street and Van Nuys Boulevard. The opportunity has considerable legal requirements and the outcome is consistent with UDAT's goal of erasing blight. Plaza del Valle will meet the expectations which attended it's City Planning approval by enforcement of the Conditions of Approval in combination with additional design suggestions including plantings, streetscape and signage.

Central Commercial District - a Civic-oriented Present

Panorama Mall/Wal Mart on the west and Panorama Plaza on the east sides of Van Nuys Boulevard, respectively probably initiated sealing off visual and physical access by shops to Van Nuys Boulevard some years ago. Kiosks, newsstands, outdoor seating, plantings, signage and other streetscape amenities placed on the sidewalks from Chase Street to Roscoe Boulevard under existing building cantilevering overhangs constitute design and commercial opportunities (complementing the village-bizaar atmosphere of Plaza del Valle) in line with the Van Nuys Boulevard Corridor Reorganization and Upgrade.

Mixed use - Mixed income housing
The vacant Montgomery Ward building (which has the potential as a future retail anchor) positionally lines up with and reinforces the introduction of new retail shopping arcade (with housing on three levels above and parking below ground level - composing Mixed use building complex) occupying a maximum foot-print of one-third of the Panorama Mall/Wal Mart parking lot - crossing the lot, the arcade continues, bisecting the Panorama Mall/Wal Mart nexus east-bound as a mid-block pedestrian walk across Van Nuys Boulevard, finally connecting to the north-south arcade of the eastern buildings of Panorama Plaza as a tree-lined pedestrian arcade. The junction of the arcade linking the US Post Office on Chase Street (on the north) to the Los Angeles City Public Library on Roscoe Boulevard (on the south) and the east-west arcade with a new retail anchor west of Panorama Mall/Wal Mart occurs at the Filipino-flavored Island Pacific Supermarket and related small shops. An integrated network of tree-lined pedestrian arcades will enable people to browse, amble, and shop with little or no interruption by the present overwhelming presence and personal risk of vehicular traffic.

Urban reinvestment
With the emergence of the Panorama Commercial District comes the demographic need for transient lodging and meeting room and convention space afforded by a 400-room hotel/convention space situated adjacent to the new retail anchor west along Roscoe Boulevard and a vehicular drop-off circle frequented by the City DASH small transit jitney/shuttle system. The hotel/convention center serves as an east-west beacon and portal to Panorama City's Central Business District.

Transit oriented
The attractiveness of a second level pedestrian ring-access (with small retail shops, entry to Panorama Mall/Wal Mart, entry to an existing (long-vacant) six-story office building and retail, and entry to a museum - all four corners equipped escalators to the ground level populated by vehicular and bus traffic) connecting the four corners of an already major bus change intersection of 6 different routes at Roscoe and Van Nuys Boulevards - removes the pedestrian from the ground level dominance, noise and distraction of vehicular traffic.

Casting an urban redevelopment net over a 50 acre assemblage adjacent to major bus and MetroLink routes (from Willis Street on the west to Van Nuys Boulevard on the west from Roscoe Boulevard on the north to Lanark Street on the south) of existing vast underutilized industrial and smaller, isolated office buildings (notably long-vacant 13-story Panorama Towers has been yellow-tagged and put under abatement for condemnation and demolition by the City of Los Angeles and another half-vacant six-story medical office building) tracts of car auction parking lots - can yield a major, wide-open two million square-foot development investment opportunity for a Water-Gardens featured Office/service/retail park surrounding a civic center focussed on the historically relevant former Great Western Bank - in-need-of-restoration, a new landmark restaurant-topped 250-foot tower with a 360 degree panoramic view of the rocky, jagged, mountainous profiles on the horizon, a regional performing arts complex, possible siting of Los Angeles County buildings consolidating services provided to the eastern San Fenland Valley and the inclusion of 1200 units of senior housing.

South Commercial District - an Educationally-oriented Future with Job Opportunities

Los Angeles Unified School District has undertaken construction of a 2000 pupil high school (monikered as #3) scheduled for a 2005 completion (which may have to be extended) immediately south of the future 50 acre urban redevelopment zone which is configured to be compatibly sited and mindful in land use, design and function to the neighboring presence of high-school aged students. Amongst the surround of inherent computer, technical, medical educational opportunities of the Panorama Commercial District - is the re-interpretation of the automotive-related uses as a real-world trade school, a new museum for antique and specialty cars fitted between recently built restaurants adjoining The Plant entertainment/retail development and a new vehicular drop-off with frequent DASH linkage to nearby MetroLink to serve students and workers employed by The Plant. For decades General Motors was the economic mainstay and draw of Panorama City, still even to this day retaining a sprawling Powertrain manufacturing facility - having closed most of its facilities during the economic slide of the early 1990s. The educational/trade/retail employment opportunities with a hint of the past automotive economic anchor complete with historic nostalgia will supplant the cloud of blight in Panorama City exemplified by vacant and condemned buildings, sparsely used land, and local tragedies of Blythe Street gang life - transforming the entire community into a catalyst and paradigm for sustainable, mixed use, pedestrian-geared urban development.

The Plant was built in the later 1990s (replacing most of the GM tract) and followed the regrettable trend of closing off visual and physical access on Van Nuys Boulevard. Out-sized, car ornament-resembling signage, taller high than even billboards are to be redesigned to create visually coherent, attractive entrances. The inclusion of a tree-lined pedestrian arcade pathways tieing the entire quadrangle of buildings - including the theatre complex (whose fourth side is completed with a new building of retail shops) leading from (now dirt path) connections to public sidewalks - taken together would lessen the impact of the vast uninviting sea of parking area and draw this large shopping center into mix of the Van Nuys Boulevard Corridor.

Approaching the Panorama City Commercial District from the south- heading north along Van Nuys Boulevard, the southern gateway portal is the MetroLink southern Pacific Rail overpass - which presents an excellent opportunity to position signage and the Panorama City logo. The City-wide sign program mentioned in the CDO will see an energized, significant start by following the Panorama City initial implementation. Design continuity is desired and attainable of all cardinal points of the portals to the Panorama City Commercial District. The visage of the Amtrak/MetroLink train station not only adds a transportation element to the host of transportation venues as manifested in the signage and logo of the southern portal but can be uniformly incorporated in the east, west and north portals - with the emphasis portraying Panorama City as an intriguing mix of different transport modalities. Adding a pedestrian 'fly-over' bridge spanning the rail tracks will unify and link the MetroLink with The Plant and High School.

-Paul Lindblad and Tom Rath

Last Updated 04-27-2009
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