January 30, 1994 - From the January, 1994 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

Riordan Appoints Development Reform Committee 

Mayor Riordan and Councilman Hal Bernson have appointed a 20-member panel charged with coming up with a plan by the end of March to comprehensively reform the city's land use development review and approval process. Chairing the Development Reform Committee will be Dan Garcia, former chair of the Planning Commission and senior vice president for real estate at Warner Brothers. Garcia also currently sits on the Airport Commission. The new panel will expand upon work done by the Development Process Task Force, an interdepartmental committee of city agencies that has studied the permitting process for more than a year.

The members of the committee are: Scott Z. Adler, president of the Building and Safety Commission; Larry Calemine, chairman of the Urban Realty Company; Gail Gordon, attorney with Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro; Terry Hayes, planning consultant; Robin Hughes, housing director at the L.A. Community Design Center, Carlton Jenkins, president of Founders National Bank of L.A.; Mee Lee, manager of real estate planning at Warner Brothers and a member of the AQMD; William Luddy, executive director of the Carpenter/Contractor Cooperation Committee; Rosa Marin, former executive director of the Latin Business Assn.; O'Malley Miller, attorney at Munger, Tolles and Olsen; Ben Reznik, attorney and past chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.; Nelson Rising, senior partner, Maguire Thomas Partners; Tony Salazar, McCormack Baron and Assoc. urban development firm; Thomas Stemnock, president of Engineering Technology Inc.; Juanita Tate, executive director of Concerned Citizens of South Central L.A.; Robert Wilkinson, lobbyist and former L.A. city councilman; Gin Wong. architect; Anthony Zamora, attorney and planning commissioner, Burt Pines, lawyer at Alschuler, Grossman and Pines and former city attorney.

Westside Urban Forum 

The six Los Angeles area mayors will be discussing the future of the Los Angeles basin at the Westside Urban Forum on Thursday, January 27, 1994 at 7:45 a.m. at The Olympic Collection, 11301 Olympic Boulevard. The panel discussion will be moderated by TPR's publisher, David Abel and will focus on urban planning, economic development, real estate and other important urban issues facing the Los Angeles area. The officers and directors of the Westside Urban Forum are representatives from the real estate industry, govern mental entities, community and environmental organizations. For more information call 213-xxx-xxxx.

Cisneros Outlines HUD Revamp, Clinton Proposes $1.7 Billion in Cuts 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros recently announced a long-awaited plan to reorganize his department. The plan eliminates the functions of HUD’s 10 regional offices and directs its remaining 81 field offices to funnel requests for housing and other federally funded projects directly to Washington. Most of the 500 workers at each regional HUD offices will transfer to one of the remaining 81 field offices which now report directly to Washington. Officials estimated that it will take between six and eight months to determine staff requirements for the new field structure, a transition that Cisneros predicted will generate a "fair amount of trauma" and may generate congressional opposition. 

Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration wants to slice more than $1.7 billion from the fiscal 1994 housing and development budget, particularly zeroing in on the agency’s rental assistance program. One of the biggest cuts would come in the department’s mammoth rental assistance program, which helps poor and moderate-income people pay rent in privately owned housing in their communities. The administration says it can save $558 million by prohibiting the owners of some of these homes and apartments from raising rents for one year. White House officials also believe they can economize by combining housing vouchers and certificates, two methods now being use to dispense aid that eligible families use to rent homes and apartments in privately owned housing. However, Rep. Henry 8. Gonzalez (D-Tex.), chairman of the Housing Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, has voiced skepticism about the administration proposal. He said that the merger of voucher and certification programs could end up costing more than renters should have to pay. 

U.S. and State Agree on Gnatcatcher Rule 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has adopted the final version of a Special Rule which adopts California's Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program for protection of the California gnat catcher. California already had an existing program, the NCCP, which was working with landowners in the coastal sage scrub area in an effort to preserve the habitat. However, the effort had been thwarted because developers had no incentive to participate. The listing of the bird changed this because developers could not proceed without fear of being charged with "taking" the bird's habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thus, the listing effectively blocked construction on roughly 400,000 acres of coastal scrub habitat of the bird located in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties. The final rule provides that "incidental take" of the gnatcatcher will not violate the ESA so long as it results from activities conducted in accordance with an NCCP plan which is consistent with NCCP Conservation and Process Guidelines adopted by the state's Department of Fish and Game in November. NCCP plans are now being prepared by subregional planning groups with the five counties who are working with developers. The first of these NCCPs is not expected to be completed for another year. 

Tree Planting on LA Agenda 

Councilwoman Laura Chick convened a special workshop on "the greening of Los Angeles" in mid-December in order to find ways to coordinate the many tree-planting and other environmental efforts that go on citywide. The city currently replaces about 2,000 trees a year, but doesn't have a plan to actually add trees because of budget restraints. Community groups have taken up the slack in that regard, but haven't met with each other. Representatives from groups such as the TreePeople, Coalition for the Transformation of South Central L.A. and Northeast Trees met December 13 to begin coordinating their efforts. City departments have been meeting internally on the matter. The Environmental Quality and Waste Management Committee has conducted a survey to receive feedback from the non-profit community on the city's current tree-planting procedures.

"The simple act of planting a tree is one of the most important things an individual can do to improve our local environment," says Chick, chair of the council's Environmental Quality and Waste Management Committee. "It not only helps clean the air, but it can also result in a decrease in the cost of our power bills as we cool our city. Added benefits are that, as we plant trees and greenery, we can soften our urban landscape, create attractive public spaces, and reconnect citizens with one another through coordinated neighborhood greening efforts." 

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Housing Update 

The L.A. City Council has strengthened provisions of Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP), a law which forces slumlords to repair their buildings. One provision allows the city to "fast track" the process if there are life-threatening problems, putting a building under REAP in two weeks instead of four months. Another would prevent landlords from raising rents for one year if they don't comply with the repairs mandated. Previously, they could raise rents when a unit became vacant. In addition, the Housing Department is studying other ways of strengthening the law, including having the city make the needed repairs with the diverted rental funds, establishing a "housing court," and allowing tenants to initiate complaints instead of having to wait for a citation from the Building and Safety department. Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky proposed the stronger regulations after the Burlington Avenue fire in Westlake last May in which ten people died. The building had been cited numerous times for fire code violations but had never been brought up to code. 

On the move… 

Former L.A. City Councilwoman Joy Picus and state Senator David Roberti have both decided they will not run for the 3rd L.A. County Supervisorial seat being vacated by Ed Edelman. (Roberti will continue with his plans to run for state treasurer.) So far, the only announced candidates are L.A. City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Wallace, a former Edelman staffer.

Melanie Fallon, deputy director for the Los Angeles City Planning Department has accepted the job of Director of Community Development for the city of Huntington Beach. 

In the third resignation from Mayor Richard Riordan's staff in four months. Janis Berman left her post as director of governmental relations. Berman is married to Congressman Howard Berman. Insiders say she was pushed out in a power struggle with Riordan's chief of staff, William McCarley. Deputy mayors Jadine Nielsen and Alfred Villalobos, have also resigned. 

The exodus of former Mayor Tom Bradley staffers to Washington D.C. continues. Former Bradley environmental adviser Cecilia Estolano heads to the nation’s capital early this year to become policy adviser to another Bradley alum, Mary Nichols, who is assistant administrator for air and radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Marsha Moutrie has been appointed Santa Monica city attorney. She replaces the controversial Robert Myers after a year-long search. Moutrie has worked for the Santa Monica Rent Board, the Santa Monica city attorney's office and most recently at the firm of Richards Watson and Gershon. She is expected by many to be less politically and ideologically driven than Myers was. 

Governor Pete Wilson has appointed Beverly Hills attorney Richard Booker to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, which raises funds and disperses private equity capital primarily for low-income housing projects sponsored by non-profits. 

The governor has also appointed Benjamin Haddad as deputy cabinet secretary in charge of coordinating and implementing the state's environmental policies. Haddad had been deputy secretary and general counsel at the state Resources Agency. Former State Planning Director and head of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Richard P. Sybert has been appointed to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy by Governor Wilson, while Ed Begley, Jr. has been appointed to the same agency by Mayor Riordan. 

No Housing for the LANCER Site 

Plans for the non-profit Nehimiah Housing Development Corporation to build 200 units of ownership housing on the former LANCER trash incinerator site in South L.A. have hit a snag. The site is too environmentally degraded for housing. In addition, since it lies along the Alameda Corridor, there may be new industrial uses for the site (a soda pop bottler may be interested in it). The housing group, which grew out of the United Neighborhood Organization and the Southern California Organizing Committee, is looking for alternative sites in the city of Los Angeles.

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