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.