Warner Center, Los Angeles
Warner Center is a commercial and retail district located in the southwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley within the City of Los Angeles and specifically within the communities of Woodland Hills, and Canoga Park. With many high-rises, it is known as the “Downtown of the Valley.”
Warner Center, which began as a master-planned area, is designated as a Regional Center within the City’s Canoga Park-West Hills-Winnetka-Woodland Hills Community Plan. Historically, Warner Center is generally bounded by Vanowen Street to the north, the Ventura Freeway to the south, De Soto Avenue to the east, and Topanga Canyon Boulevard on the west. The Warner Center 2035 Plan (adopted in December 2013) added the area between Vanowen and the LA River to the plan area, which comprises approximately 1,100 acres or 1.7 square miles.
The area was originally planned to relieve traffic to and from downtown Los Angeles, as well as generate jobs in the San Fernando Valley. It was first envisioned in the late 1960s.
Warner Center is named for Harry Warner, the eldest of the Warner Brothers, who had owned the land since the 1940s which he used as a horse ranch. The Harry Warner family donated 20 acres of land in 1967 that became the Warner Center Park (also known as the Warner Ranch Park), located east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard between Califa Street and Marylee Street.
In 1968, Robert Allison, then the manager for the San Fernando Valley office of Coldwell Banker, arranged the sale of 630 acres of the land to Aetna Life and Casualty for $30 million. Aetna acquired the land for long-term investment and development purposes, and later brought in Kaiser as a joint venture partner. Mr. Allison spearheaded the early land planning, subdivision and development efforts on behalf of Kaiser Aetna.
Initially, tracts of the Warner Ranch land had been developed in pieces, such as the Topanga Plaza which opened in 1964 as the first enclosed shopping mall in California, or sold to users such as aerospace companies Rocketdyne and Litton Industries which built their facilities there.
With the sale of the land to Aetna, the pace of development in Warner Center accelerated. Kaiser Aetna acted as a master developer, offering land for sale or lease, buildings for sale or lease, and leased buildings built to owner’s specifications. Development sites from very small parcels up to 100 or more acres were offered.
In the ensuing 20 years, much of the build-out of Warner Center occurred, including approximately 4,300 multi-family dwelling units, and millions of square feet of commercial and office space. Notable developments include:
- The 34 acre Promenade Mall which opened in 1973.
- Kaiser Permanente Hospital which opened in 1986.
- The 1.1 million square foot Warner Center Business Park built in the mid to late 1970s, consisting of low and mid-rise office and industrial buildings.
- The 1.8 million square foot Warner Center Plaza built out from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, with its signature high-rise office buildings that give Warner Center its distinct skyline.
- The Trillium office project, consisting of twin 17-story office towers totaling 600,000 square feet, built in the late 1980s.
Real estate developer Robert Voit, in partnerships with Robert Allison and New England Life Insurance Company, developed the Warner Center Business Park and Warner Center Plaza. The partnerships were wound down in the early 1990s and since that time the ownership of the properties has become fragmented.
During the 1990s following the completion of the Warner Center Plaza project, relatively little new development occurred. The economic slowdown of the early 1990s, combined with the damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, served to put the brakes on new development for the rest of the decade.
The next major project was LNR Warner Center, which was built at the site of the former Prudential Life Insurance Company buildings between 2001-2005, totaling over 1.4 million square feet of primarily office space.
Also, in the early 2000s, a flurry of new multifamily housing projects were built. This burst of residential building created concerns in the community about issues such as traffic. In reaction to these concerns, City Councilmember Dennis Zine initiated a restudy of the Warner Center Specific Plan in 2005.
The Warner Center 2035 Plan
The Warner Center 2035 Plan (WC 2035 Plan) is a development blueprint for Warner Center that emphasizes mixed-use and transit-oriented development, walkability, and sustainability.
The plan was developed using a novel process. A Citizen’s Advisory Committee was established in 2005, consisting of members of the neighborhood council and business and property owners, which worked with city planning staff and its consultants to develop the plan from the bottom up. Over a period of 8 years, there were hundreds of meetings and community outreach events to ensure that all voices were heard. Differing viewpoints were integrated and compromises were made in producing the plan. In December 2013 the plan was adopted by the Los Angeles City Council amid no dissent.
The WC 2035 Plan considers development fundamental to supporting regional transportation investments such as the Orange Line and, as a result, creating a vibrant Transit Oriented District (TOD) based upon sustainability, community connectedness, accessible public transit, and promotion of innovative businesses, job diversity, and a safe and friendly pedestrian environment.
In simple terms, the WC 2035 Plan provides a comprehensive and clear process that will permit development to occur in order to facilitate the creation of a Regional Center where people can live, work, and play. At its core, the WC 2035 Plan will create the necessary framework for balanced and appropriate development.
The key elements of the Plan include:
- A growth strategy that encourages and incentivizes infill development and redevelopment of existing properties.
- Increased development potential in terms of maximum permitted floor area ratios (generally up to 4.5:1) and building heights (generally unlimited).
- Promoting structural development to reinforce a pattern of Districts with centers of greater residential density and commercial/industrial activity connected by public transit.
- Provision of green building standards including diminished energy utilization, collection and infiltration of storm water, and reduction in the use of unhealthy chemicals; and
- Promoting ground floor retail, flexible community space, and other pedestrian-oriented uses to face the street, with a focus on cultivating active, complete streets.
- Creating of a place where people can live, work and play and where day-to-day needs can be met locally by walking, bicycling or other “small slow vehicles”, and local transit;
- Establishing connectivity networks, including new streets, pedestrian adapted pathways, activity nodes and active streets, within and between the established Districts.
- Creating a network of publicly accessible open spaces to encourage public gathering and pedestrian activity.
- Establishment of an urban forest which will flourish in large parkways, medians, and publicly accessible open spaces in order to contribute to aesthetics, the absorption of greenhouse gases (aka GHGs), and provide shade.
- Continuation of the industrial tradition in the area by establishing green and clean professional, scientific, and technical businesses, including engineering, environmental consulting, or research and development companies.
By 2035, the plan anticipates an additional:
- 14 million square feet of nonresidential building area
- 20,000 residential dwelling units
- 49,000 jobs
Warner Center contains a diverse mix of companies and industries, with a concentration in healthcare, financial services and professional services. Aerospace and manufacturing uses have declined significantly during its history, primarily attributable to regional business climate factors that favor moving production out of California. Approximately 40,000 employees work within the Warner Center area as of 2013.
In October 2005, the Orange Line was established creating an east-west link across the San Fernando Valley linking Warner Center with North Hollywood and the Metro Red Line. In June 2012, the Orange Line was expanded to include a north-south line connecting Warner Center with Chatsworth and the MetroLink system. The Orange Line, and the possible development of a future internal circulator within Warner Center, similar to the DASH system in Downtown Los Angeles, are key to Warner Center's future as a transit-oriented development.
In 2011, the Los Angeles Daily News quoted City Planner Ken Bernstein as describing a new vision for Warner Center as more "cosmopolitan, 21st century." The paper added: "The plan would allow 40-story skyscrapers. Small retail shops — where locals could walk to buy basics — would be encouraged, in an area now dominated by national chains and big malls. The long superblocks and six-lane thoroughfares would be 'cut up' by adding paseos and crosswalks to create a more intimate feel for pedestrians."
Westfield's Big 3
In 2012 the City Council approved the Village at Westfield Topanga - a new Costco, retail and entertainment development that will combine with existing Westfield Warner Center malls to make one of Southern California's largest shopping complexes: "Westfield's Big 3". The Village at Westfield Topanga is a mixed-use project designed to be a community destination and gathering place in the heart of the West Valley. The project will include over one million square feet of uses on 30.67 acres of land within Warner Center.
Security guards employed by Universal Protection Service continuously monitor and patrol all buildings, parking structures, and loading docks. Los Angeles Police Department operates the nearby Topanga Community Police Station.
Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center is a general medical and surgical hospital in Warner Center. Kaiser Permanente Medical Center consists of a 175-bed hospital and serves 2 million residents of the San Fernando Valley. Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Hospital, a non-profit general medical and surgical facility, is operated by Kaiser Foundation Hospital.
The hospital had 12,600 admissions in the latest year for which data are available. It performed 4,055 annual inpatient and 5,197 outpatient surgeries. Its emergency room had 38,131 visits. Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Hospital is the highest ranked hospital in the San Fernando Valley, and ranked 13th highest hospital among Los Angeles-area hospitals because of its strength in specialties such as cancer, diabetes, endocrinology, gynecology, orthopedics and urology."
- Branson-Potts, Hailey (August 19, 2014) "L.A. revives a denser vision for Woodland Hills' Warner Center" Los Angeles Times
-  "Mapping L.A.," Los Angeles Times
- Wilcox, Gregory J. (October 22, 2013) "New development plan for Warner Center focuses on getting people out of cars" Los Angeles Daily News
- Smith, Dakota. "Warner Center blueprint calls for 'cosmopolitan' design". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- Smith, Dakota. "Costco-anchored Village at Westfield Topanga gets City Council OK". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- http://lapdonline.org/topanga_community_police_station lapdonline.org
- Abram, Susan. "Woodland Hill's Kaiser is best-rated in Valley". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
- Warner Center Association
- Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council
- Valley Cultural Center
- Westfield The Village At Topanga