October 30, 1993 - From the October, 1993 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

L.A.'s First Business Assessment District

The Los Angeles City Council is set to vote this month on the creation of L.A’s first Business Assessment Districts in downtown Los Angeles along Broadway Avenue and a smaller district in downtown San Pedro. Known variously as business improvement districts (BIDs), downtown improvement districts (DIDs), special improvement districts (SIDs) and special assessment districts (SADs), these private governments are an attempt by area property owners to stem urban decline, particularly to maintain the value of their properties and their business. 

Essentially, each district authorizes the city to levy additional taxes on its members, who are required to pay them, just as they must pay their property taxes. The BID then uses the revenues to provide the services it needs. According to Estela Lopez, executive director for Miracle on Broadway, the proposed Broadway BAD would stretch along Broadway from 2nd to 9th streets affecting approximately 1,000 business owners and generating an annual revenue of $500,000. The revenues would be administer by the business representatives in the district, who would be able to direct the funds according to area priorities. The BID phenomenon started in the 1980s as cash strapped cities looked for new ways to provide municipal services. There are already an estimated 300 special districts in California. 

Santa Monica Commercial Development Rezoning 

After a four year moratorium on commercial development in Santa Monica, the city recently released guidelines for commercial development zones which reduce commercial zoning FARs by 30%. The ordinance allows for the previous commercial zoning standards if the project is mixed-use, but requires that 30% of the units be deed restricted affordable units. The new commercial zoning ordinance also allows for the first-time entertainment related industries along the Olympic corridor. While the new rezoning lifts the four year moratorium, some members of the development community are opposed to the reduction in commercial FARs and believe the residential component is unfeasible. 

Riordan Names New MWD Directors 

Shake ups continue at the MWD. In early September MWD Board Chairman Mike Gage resigned at Mayor Riordan's request. Later in September, Mayor Riordan named his eight nominees for the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District. 

They are Air W. Brandt, a current MWD member and a lawyer at Tuttle and Taylor; Carolyn Green, director of government and public affairs at Ultramar Inc., an independent oil refiner and marketer; David Handelman, senior vice president of external and legal affairs at Fox Inc.; Kenneth Lombard, president of Johnson Development Corporation, experienced in venture capital formation and minority business development; William Luddy, executive director of the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee and a current MWD member; Katherine Moret, a governmental and public relations lobbyist, and Alatorre confidant who is also vice chair of the board of directors for Project Restore; Christopher Pak, a principal with the architectural firm EaWes; and George Wein, a Santa Monica attorney.

LA/CRA Refinancing 

The Los Angeles CRA Board on October 8 voted to go out with a competitive bid for its $70 million debt refinancing. This on the heels of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's decision to competitively bid its debt refinancing. There could be a trend here. 

On the Move…

John Kaliski, the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency's principal architect for the past five years, left the CRA at the end of August to open his own firm in Santa Monica and teach at SCIArch, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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Hilary Norton, formerly of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' office, has joined Councilman Richard Alarcon's staff as a legislative assistant. 

Land-use & Transportation Manager Paul Berlant is leaving Santa Monica to be the new City Manager of the city of Sebastopol in Sonoma County. Berlant has been the land-use and transportation manager for the last five and a half years and his departure creates an important vacancy in Santa Monica's Planning department. The new manager will be appointed by the City Manager and there is sure to be an interesting debate on who will be Berlant's replacement. 

L.A. Budget Axe

The Budget and Finance Committee passed Mayor Richard Riordan's mid-year budget proposals which include cuts of $50 million. The cuts hit the Library and Parks and Recreation departments the hardest, with the Library system losing $2.9 million in funding and Parks and Recreation losing more than $1.6 million in cuts. Building and Safety was cut $137,000 with three layoffs; the Bureau or Engineering in the Public Works department was hit with a $789,000 cut and 14 layoffs in the street maintenance program. The Planning Department was cut $136,000, and the Transportation Department lost $751,000. 

At the request of Mayor Richard Riordan, state Assemblyman Paul Horcher (R-West Covina) has agreed to pull his bill. AB 1974, which would limit municipalities; ability to regulate liquor store rebuilding permits. The Mayor has promised to come up with a local solution to the controversial issue by the beginning of next year - at which time Horcher is promising to re-introduce the bill if no plan is on the table. 

At the urging of Councilman Mike Hernandez, the L.A. City Council voted to use $175,000 of housing department funds to buy a "virtual reality" computer which can illustrate the impacts of proposed planning projects on the surrounding area. A pilot effort will focus on the intersection of Pico and Alvarado in the Pico­Union district. "By using computer imagery, not only can we see what a building might look like if it was built, but we can also get an idea of what the surrounding impacts might be - all at the touch of a button," Hernandez said. The councilman argues that the computer will make it easier for community members to involve themselves in the planning process. The Urban Innovative Group at the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning will lend technical support. 

Alarcon Asks for CRA Study 

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon has asked the Los Angeles CRA to explore the possibility of conducting a feasibility study in his district which encompasses the north­east San Fernando Valley. The revitalization effort could include a CRA project area (although it's too early to tell). Alarcon has asked that the study focus on Pacoima and the Van Nuys Corridor, as well as the area surrounding Metrolink stations. 

Sacramento Update 

As TPR went to press a number of important bills were still on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signa­ure. AB 1888 by Assemblyman Byron Sher would authorize a master EIR, defined focused EIRs, require the Office of Planning and Research to establish thresholds for determining environmental effects, and develop and prepare guidelines at least once every two years. SB 919 by Assemblyman Ralph Sher clarifies the so-called "fair argument" standard to ensure that project opponents have substantial evidence that a project may harm the environment before an EIR will be required. While the intent of the bill is to weed out frivolous legal challenges to projects, the ambiguous language of the bill may make it difficult to implement. Finally, AB 1290 by Assemblyman Phil Isenberg, the community redevelopment overhaul is expected to be signed by the Governor. The Governor has until October 10th to sign the current round of bills into law.

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