November 30, 1990 - From the November, 1990 issue

Bob Gay: Lindsay Deputy in Limelight Discusses Downtown Planning Issues

The serious illness of Ninth District Councilman Gilbert Lindsay has created a vacuum in leadership on downtown planning issues. Although the Chief Legislative Analyst’s office last month assumed some of the duties for the Council office, the most powerful force in Ninth District affairs is undoubtedly Deputy Councilman Bob Gay. The Planning Report met with Gay recently to discuss the future of downtown in the wake of Lindsay’s illness.

How has the illness of Councilman Lindsay affected business in your office, particularly on planning and development issues?

We have a management committee with two staffers from the Chief Legislative Analyst and three staffers from our office. Since the CLA’s office began oversight of our office, one of the difficulties has been applying a bureaucratic office to a political office. The nuances of the development process —ranging from TRIP fees to housing mitigation fees and transfers of air rights—involve political considerations.

The CLA’s office has not been involved in these kinds of deals before and the offices they’ve overseen in the past haven’t seen these kinds of issues, nor have their districts been as integral to the development of Los Angeles.

How has this management arrangement affected your response to the downtown TRIP fee?

We’re very pleased that we’ve gotten part of the USC/Exposition Park area exempted from the fee because it sits in an enterprise zone. We’ve also gotten an exemption for hotels. We will be able to look at these issues in the nexus study and see whether a fee is justified.

The Mayor’s office convinced the Executive Committee of the Central City Association to support the TRIP fee, but some of their members have come to me and said that they still have some major problems with it.

With the various visions for downtown now circulating, from the Downtown Strategic Plan to the Greater Downtown for the 21st Century from Councilman Woo and the Planning Department, what is the vision of downtown from the Ninth District office?

There are three issues for this area: one is the question of what happens within the central business district, two is the question of downtown, and three is the greater downtown.

Gil Lindsay laid a foundation by building downtown Los Angeles. The challenge now is how to take that money to build the peripheral areas. Where do we develop housing for the working poor? I say we develop it in downtown Los Angeles.

We have an artist community downtown, but we need an artists’ district, with gallery space, shops and restaurants akin to SoHo, but we need to assure that the artists can remain in affordable housing.

We believe 100,000 people is not an unrealistic goal for downtown. If, on the housing mitigation fee, you write a check to the Housing Department, you lose 25% of your money. Have them do housing in South Central. There is no plan for South Central housing.

On transportation, the Metrorail gets people into downtown, but we need to deal with circulation within downtown. We’ve supported the People Mover before and we need to support it again. Peripheral parking is another way to do this.

We would like to see some Blue Line expansion to the USC area. We suspect that a charrette needs to be done on the whole USC/Exposition Park area, an intensive LA/DAPT (Los Angeles Design Action Planning Team) process.

Are you hopeful that Gary Squier and the new Housing Department can address our housing problems?

I believe the Council office is in the best position to articulate a plan. A department can add technical expertise to assist the Council office, but I don’t think its role is to make it happen because it won’t have to answer to the electorate.

Gary Squier has a long history of involvement with affordable housing, but I'm not sure how the Department is going to work because there is a bifurcation—with Gary Squier dealing with the Commission on policy matters and Harreld Adams dealing with operations and the staff. At some point you have to vest responsibility in one person.

We need to make certain that we give a voice to the affordable housing organizations that have an interest in neighborhoods. These organizations were not even included on the Linkage Task Force until we objected to the Council.

What changes do you foresee at the CRA over the next few years?

You’re going to see the CRA focus more on areas outside of downtown. The CRA will also focus more on what the Council offices want, rather than on what the CRA wants. There’s a separate vision in some parts of the CRA from the Council offices, and where there’s two visions, there’s division. We need a single vision.


Is there any movement on the downtown CRA cap?

The cap is at a standstill. There is no movement, no discussion. I believe that once the First Supervisorial District situation is resolved and Pete Schabarum is no longer in office, we’ll have an opportunity to move things along.

What’s happening in Central City East?

We have a Specific Plan process with a community advisory committee comprised of social service agencies, missions, major property owners, businesses and government.

The Planning Department divided Central City East into two subregions between Alameda and Main: area “A” goes from 3rd St. to 8th St., and area “B” goes from 8th to the Santa Monica Freeway. The Planning Department wants to shift virtually all industry to area “B” and to keep area “A” for social service uses. At a community meeting virtually everyone objected to this.

So we put together a committee to look at the impact of this proposal. How does that fit into the downtown strategic plan? How does that fit into Spring Street and Broadway? How does it fit into Pershing Square? All of these issues need to be examined together.

What are some of the issues remaining on the Central City West plan?

People talk about the Central City West plan as if it’s already been approved. It hasn’t been, and once it is approved the issue will be, does anyone buy it? I think it remains to be seen whether people will be willing to pay these kinds of fees or whether they will decide to move their business to cities like San Bernardino or Riverside, communities that will offer them incentives.

Are they really trying to create a level playing field or are they trying to assure that downtown Los Angeles is not competitive with other areas of Los Angeles, such as Century City?

Some of the issues on Central City West include the replacement of housing units. In which district should housing mitigation fee funds be spent? What is the other Council office doing? At a meeting I attended, virtually everything was focused on the other Council office. I find that very interesting, particularly at this time.

What is your reaction to the resignation of Ken Topping?

It seems that the City’s Directors and General Managers have a difficult time staying. Rumors abound, they come and go, and that creates a tremendous amount of instability.

I’m particularly concerned about how this will affect our district, which has a very strong need for affordable housing and housing for the working poor. Most of us in South Central and Southeast went through the AB 283 process, and most of that property got downzoned. We have some very real questions about building this housing given the low-density factor.

What qualifications should the selection committee look for in a new planning director?

The new Director of Planning must have some local, hands-on experience, particularly with zoning revision. They also need redevelopment experience. In places like Boston, planning and redevelopment are combined, and when you look at downtown and greater downtown, the two processes ought to be linked. Everything in the Planning Department affects the CRA and vice-versa. I’d also want them to look at how well the candidates work with communities.

The Planning Department might want to find someone with tremendous managerial experience, corning from another large city that indicates they know how to handle burgeoning growth. They’d need to give some indication of how they’d deal with 15 different districts. We also need someone who’s going to make a commitment to Los Angeles for several years.

Is it doable job?

Perhaps not in its present form. Either we’re going to be serious about maintaining somebody capable in the job, or we’re going to admit that what we really want is to hold an expendable person responsible for our errors.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.