July 30, 1992 - From the July, 1992 issue

South Park Stakeholders Group Offers a New Vision

By Richard T. Hedlund. He is Senior Vice President of Transamerica Occiden­tal Life Insurance Company, and is the Chairman and President of the South Park Stakeholders Group.

In 1985, the Urban Land Institute deemed housing in South Park as crucial to downtown L.A.’s future, triggering renewed interest in this unique community. Today, that in­terest is being revived by a new association of South Park “stakeholders” who are fostering a new vision for the area.

The Stakeholders’ Vision 

South Park’s nearly mile-square area is bounded by Eighth Street on the north, the Santa Monica Freeway on the south, the Harbor Freeway on the west and Main Street on the east. The Central City Community Plan and the CBD Redevelopment Plan designate South Park as a mixed-use, mixed-income residential community. 

However, the vision of the South Park Stakeholders Group includes more than just housing for various income groups and family sizes; it is a vision of a unique and fashionable community with retail stores and commercial offices, parks and pedes­trian open spaces. 

We also see an entertainment cen­ter and Convention Center hotel complex second to none, attracting tourists and city residents alike to the 24-hour Downtown that has been planned for our city since the Silver Plan of the 1970’s.

The South Park Stakeholders Group began discussions during 1991, and currently includes a growing membership of South Park property owners and businesses such as Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company, LAACO, Ltd., Gavin Associates, the State Bar of Califor­nia, California Medical Center-Los Angeles, UCLA Real Estate, and the Pediatric and Family Medical Group. 

The Stakeholders Group has been formed to create a new and achiev­able shared development vision and plan for South Park, and then ag­gressively advocate for that scenario in a unified and proactive manner. Historically, South Park has suffered from a number of problems including:

  1. unclear public sector planning objectives; 

  2. the lack of new devel­opment and revitalization; and 

  3. property owner expectations regard­ing land value and development trends which were out of sync with actual market conditions.

Karen Hathaway, president of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and Vice Chair/Treasurer of the Stakeholders Group, describes the Stakeholders’ role as critical: “with so many plan­ning activities underway within downtown (e.g. CRA’s Downtown Strategic Plan), if we don’t speak up for ourselves, someone else will do our planning for us.”

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In addition to influencing city planning for the area, the Stakehold­ers are seeking public infrastructure and service improvements. We will be promoting South Park as a highly desirable site for residential and business development — encouraging the expansion of current commercial and residential investment while also attracting new investors. 

A South Park Study 

To support the Stakeholders’ ef­forts, the consulting firm of Kosmont & Associates was retained to develop background data and assist with the Group’s understanding of other downtown planning activities. In addition to mapping out the current land uses and trends, Kosmont’s re­search suggests that South Park’s fu­ture is closely linked to the expanding Convention Center. Adjacent hotels, theaters, retail stores, restaurants and other entertainment areas will not only serve conventioneers and tourists but downtown residents and workers as well. In addition, South Park increas­ingly is tied to the growth of the CBD southward along the Figueroa Street Corridor. 

The consultants’ study targeted a variety of land use planning and public policy issues, proposing a number of ideas to encourage the more eco­nomical and efficient production of housing for all income levels. 

For example, less costly wood frame housing construction techniques may take the place of the ex­pensive reinforced concrete con­struction the city now requires. While significantly less expensive, wood frame buildings can be designed to relatively high urban densities which, when combined with innovative subsidy techniques such as the sale of intown peripheral parking covenants, can produce reasonable financial re­turns for the project’s investors. 

Creating Community 

The major conclusion of the Stakeholders’ research so far is the need to create a true community. This vision of community would include expanded retail opportunities, restau­rants, supermarkets, movie theaters, health care and child care centers, schools, churches and other key fea­tures of a neighborhood. 

The Seventh Street retail district, while actually not in South Park, was also recognized as a key factor to South Park’s successful rebirth, too. The continuing development of high rise offices, hotels and other visitor-related services are envisioned for South Park’s western edge, along the Figueroa Corridor to the newly ex­panded Convention Center. To pro­tect this new downtown community, the report recommended limits on existing nonconforming uses, and their gradual phase-out.

South Park residents and property and business owners are clearly dis­appointed with South Park’s lack of progress over the past few years. Safety concerns, the lack of real community space, litter, and graffiti are all taking their toll on the enthu­siasm for Los Angeles in general, including South Park. These issues are high on the agenda of the South Park Stakeholders Group as we set out to create a new downtown com­munity.

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