February 28, 1994 - From the February, 1994 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

Earthquake Financing 

In what is sure to be just the beginning of suggestions to pay for earthquake damaged Los Angeles, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown is proposing Assembly Bill 1983, a statewide temporary one-half cent sales tax to begin on March 1 of this year and end on March 31, 1995. The proposed sales tax is projected to raise $1.5 billion to be put into an earthquake relief fund. The total damages from the Northridge earthquake are estimated at $15 billion. 

The Clinton Administration is prepared to pay 90 percent of the government recovery costs, leaving California to cover the remaining 10 percent. In the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the federal government only assumed 75 percent of the costs, while California was responsible for the remaining 25 percent. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, the State of California spent $1.4 billion on earthquake relief. This was funded by a one-quarter cent sales tax and General Fund expenditures. 

Earthquake Roundup 

The L.A. City Council passed a flurry of emergency measures on January 21 and January 25 in response to the earthquake, including a motion by Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg forbidding landlords from evicting apartment residents displaced by the earthquake for the next 45 days:

  • A motion by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky prohibiting evictions for non-payment of rent, for uninhabitable units from the period between January 17th and February 28th;
  • A formal request for $83 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds that L.A. was already slated to receive in its 1994-95 allocation, but which can now be accessed immediately instead of on July 1 and can be used for purposes that otherwise might not be grant-eligible (some council members expressed concern that, despite assurances, the funds would not be replaced and available for their originally intended purposes); 
  • A request by Councilman Richard Alarcón to support legislation that would add areas impacted by the earthquake to the L.A. Revitalization Zone, which was set up by the state legislature after the 1992 riots and provided for wage credits, tax incentives and financing incentives;
  • A motion by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas giving the Housing Department added flexibility and authority, such as allowing it to bypass income-verification requirements for home-rehabilitation loans, hired reconstruction rehabilitation specialist and front rental-assistance funds (to be repaid by FEMA or SBA) of $500 for displaced owners and renter, with no income qualifying limits;
  • A motion by Councilwoman Laura Chick to suspend parking enforcement around the Warner Center area, where several major parking structures for thousands of cars were destroyed, and for the seven Disaster Assistance Centers citywide;
  • A motion by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky waiving the $66 fee for placing trash dumpsters on city streets. Finally, the city of Los Angeles has also passed a new ordinance implementing city-sponsored demolition and debris removal without assessments being charged against properly owners. The ordinance is particularly important as often after disasters, property owners have no economic incentive to demolish damaged buildings resulting in a prolonged condition of blight.

In addition. L.A. City Council President, John Ferrarro appointed a five-member Ad Hoc Committee on Earthquake Recovery, the members are: Hal Bernson, Zev Yaroslavsky, Laura Chick, Richard Alarcón and Nate Holden.

L.A. Public Works Suffers $30 Million in Quake Damage

Board of Public Works President Charles Dickerson estimates that his department’s city facilities have suffered $30 million in damage. Capital spending programs, however, are not expected to be affected by the earthquake. Personnel who normally work on capital projects have temporarily been shifted to deal with the emergency (including conducting inspections), but capital funds cannot be raided to rebuild damaged facilities. Dickerson is confident the federal government will come up with the money for those tasks. 

Long-Term Planning in Question 

The long-term implications for planning are staggering. Public workshops on the city's much anticipated General Plan Framework had been scheduled to begin in Panorama City on January 25. Now, several workshops have had to be rescheduled and the tenor of the of the debate over the plan will certainly be different. A review of the city's building codes will likely illustrate conflicting priorities in the face of the disaster. “There may be some agonizing over whether codes were strong enough," says Planning Commissioner Anthony Zamora. ''That may run counter to efforts toward streamlining.''

Program to Ease the Burden of Home-Equity Fraud 

The L.A. City Council approved a plan by Councilman Mark Ridley­Thomas to aid victims of home-equity fraud schemes by creating a revolving loan pilot program. An emergency loan pool of $250,000 of federal funds will be set up to provide low-income homeowners loans averaging $5,000 - enough to erase the debts in most cases. “The phenomena of these home-equity frauds is created in large part by the the dearth of lending in the inner city," Ridley-Thomas said. 

"Residents under stress desperately seek out any available credit. Sadly, many are conned into signing loans that charge exorbitant rates and unknowingly sign over the deed to their homes in the event of default. The goal of this program is to enable homeowners to catch up on their loan payments, pull themselves out of default and prevent the loss of their homes. "The city Housing Department, the Legal Aid Foundation/Greater Watts Justice Center and Communities for Accountable Reinvestment helped craft the program. 

MTA Releases Quake Cost Estimates 

According to a report released by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency, the total bill for both operational and capital costs to the county-wide transportation system is approximately $1.9 billion. MTA will be requesting $391 million in transit funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for transit operations. $200 million for repairs of local roads and an additional $1.3 billion from the Federal Highway Administration to cover Caltrans expenses related to the quake. Big ticket items include $60 million for a possible Exposition ROW Busway from Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles; a $75 million supplemental Appropriation for economic impact on baseline bus service and another $65 million for Westside, San Fernando Valley and North County Bus Service. 

State Panel to Outlines Opportunities For Base Conversion 

A statewide panel appointed by Gov. Wilson is expected to deliver a report within the next couple of weeks that outlines opportunities and obstacles facing the planning and development community for military base conversions. Wilson's California Military Base Reuse Task Force and other groups are studying the potential reuses for the 29 California bases thus far targeted for closing. In the short-term, the base conversions should produce demand for planning firms, environmental consultants and some legal consultants. Eventually there will be a need for developers, architectural firms, law firms and other types of private-sector consulting firms involved in developing any large, multi-use operation. 

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Unfortunately, due to the usually heavy environmental damage that has occurred at many of the bases, it could take a significant clean-up efforts on the part of the local agencies administrating the redevelopment efforts. Others issues such as who will actually control the reuse of the bases and how developments will be financed will also have to be examined.

Broadway Assessment District Gets Go Ahead 

The first business improvement district in the city of Los Angeles has been approved by the City Council for along Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. Businesses will be charged from about $200 to as much as $7,000 a year to help pay for increased cleanups, security measures and promotions. The Business Improvement District or BID, drew mixed reviews from area business operators, some who saw the additional payments as worthwhile, while others say that the payments could put them out of business. The district, between 2nd and 9th streets, will officially come into existence on July 1. A board of business people will help decide how the estimated $500,000 annual budget will be spent.

Superfund Law Proposed 

In an unusual political marriage, the Conservation League and Waste Management, Inc. are jointly proposing a comprehensive revision of the state's superfund statute. The California Superfund Reform Act of 1994 would repeal the existing state superfund statute - the Hazardous Substance Account Act - and would replace it with a new Chapter 6.8 of the Health and Safety Code. Although nominally aimed at the superfund law and its perceived flaws, the draft legislation goes well beyond that goal by establishing funding for both drinking water programs and wetlands restoration. Any superfund reform must deal with three major concerns - funding, remedy selection, and allocation of liability for contaminated sites. 

In other green gossip, the proposed budget for the California Environmental Protection Agency for 1994-95 is $614,520,000, a 17.8% reduction from the 1993-1994 amount of $747,534,000. The bulk of that difference is accounted for by a reduction of $67 million in federal funding and $14 million in matching state funding for waste water treatment plant construction loans. 

CRA Cap Challenged

Former City Councilman and longtime Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) foe, Ernani Bernardi has filed suit against the city to stop several agreements the CRA had reached to extend its pending Central Business District spending cap. Bernardi claims that the CRA and the City Council violated the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law while discussing aspects of the cap agreement in closed session. If Bernardi is successful, any agreement reached in secret session would be void, and then could not be rereached through a more open process.

L.A. City Council Accepts $83 Million in Emergency HUD Funds 

The Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to take accept an offer by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for up to $83 million in emergency funding. The offer originated with a phone call from First District Councilman Mike Hernandez to HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. The funding switch expedites the dispersal of the city's 1994-1995 Community Development Block Grant Application proceeds of $83.1 million for emergency purposes, said Hernandez. The money, which was originally designated for housing and other redevelopment including capital improvements, will now go exclusively to rebuilding and constructing new housing to help the city respond to post-earthquake needs.

Updates

The Los Angeles Conservancy is seeking nominations for its 13th annual Preservation Awards to be presented on May 11 at the Biltmore Hotel. The deadline to enter is February 15. For more information, or to obtain an entry form, call the conservancy at 213-623-xxxx… The Los Angeles City Housing Department is currently recruiting candidates to fill the position of Finance Development Officer. Contact the Personnel Unit at 213-847-xxxx.

On the Move… 

John Sweazey has been reappointed as a member of the California Housing Partnership Corporation. He is the president of TRI Capital Corporation, a San Francisco mortgage banking firm. Daniel R. Addison has been named assistant director, Division of Recycling for the Department of Conservation. From 1989 to 1993, he served as special counselor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. Jane Pisano, dean of the University of Southern California's School of Public Administration since 1991, has been named vice president for external relations. 

Michael Jimenez, formerly of the Los Angeles CRA has accepted the position of Director of Public Policy for P .S. Enterprises in Santa Monica. After 13 years in county housing positions, Donald J. Smith has taken over the position as executive director of the Los Angeles Housing Authority. Smith served as HACLA's director of management from 1971 to 1980, and fills the vacancy created last summer when former executive director Joseph Shuldiner joined the Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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