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LOS ANGELES-The owners of the Westside’s 1,087-acre Playa Vista mixed-use project have named veteran builder and former mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff as the development’s new president, a move that could build more public support for a project that has garnered its share of criticism and lawsuits.

Soboroff, whose own company has developed several Southland commercial projects, is widely considered a consensus-builder who has the rare ability to find a compromise when the interests of the development community appear to conflict with the interests of the public. He will replace Peter Denniston, who was finally able to get the long-stalled project under way after years of planning but announced his intention to leave earlier this year so he can spend more time with his family and pursue other interests.

Soboroff was the sole Republican in a field of several candidates who ran for the LA mayoral post earlier this year. Though Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 2-to-1 in the city, he garnered nearly one-quarter of the popular vote and narrowly missed a chance to face current mayor James K. Hahn in a run-off election.

The veteran developer’s ability to attract the support of diverse groups should serve him well at Playa Vista, the largest in-fill project in the Southland’s history and one of the biggest in the US. Plans call for thousands of houses and apartments, plus several million sf of commercial space, in an area that some environmentalists and slow-growth groups say is among the most fragile on the West Coast.

The project has been discussed, in various forms, for more than three decades. Construction finally began in earnest about a year ago—after Playa Vista made several concessions, including the payment of millions of dollars to restore wetlands and preserve open space. But many Westsiders still oppose the project and are using both their political muscle and the courts to further whittle down its scope and get more concessions from the builder.

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