February 28, 1994 - From the February, 1994 issue

Westside Urban Forum – Westside Mayors Address Quake, Traffic and Rebuilding Issues

By Jay Stark, Associate Editor 

At the January 27th meeting of the Westside Urban Forum, five Los Angeles-area mayors - Judy Abdo of Santa Monica, Mike Balkman of Culver City, Maxwell Salter of Beverly Hills, Caroline Van Horn of Malibu and Richard Riordan of Los Angeles - met as a panel, moderated by TPR publisher David Abel, with members of the development industry, real estate and government to discuss each city's plans for rebuilding post-quake Los Angeles. 

Originally billed as a forum to discussion various planning issues facing the area, the clean-up efforts and rebuilding strategies were the subjects on everyone’s mind. While the media attention has been focused primarily on Los Angeles City and the San Fernando Valley, mayors from the various adjoining small cities stressed the importance of getting the word out to state and federal officials that their smaller municipalities also suffered considerable damage. 

Santa Monica Mayor, Judy Abdo said, "The focus of the media has been Los Angeles, we are trying very hard to separate ourselves from Los Angeles. Santa Monica and the other small cities need a great deal of aid. Santa Monica alone has over 3,000 to 4,000 people out of their homes as a result of the quake." Culver City Mayor Mike Balkman reiterated Abdo’s comments suggesting that while Culver City also sustained some quake damage, this was just the latest in a string of problems facing small cities such as increasing budget shortfalls and the absence of funding for state and federal mandates. 

The effect of the temporary closure of the Santa Monica Freeway on Westside traffic was of particular concern to the Westside mayors, sparking debate on immediate transportation solutions and long-term plans. Mayor Richard Riordan reported that in his conversations with the Department of Transportation he asked for transit planners to consider incorporating long-term planning into short-term solutions. For instance, DOT is considering turning Pico and Olympic Blvds. in to one-way streets. Also, the once ''infeasible" HOV Innes on the Santa Monica Freeway, may become a permanent part of the freeway, according to Riordan. 

Culver City Mayor Mike Balkman expressed the need for immediate traffic congestion solutions in Culver City, due to the additional traffic inundating the city from the Santa Monica Freeway. Maxwell Salter, Mayor of Beverly Hills, noted that 345,000 cars pass through Beverly Hills each day, and the closure of the 10 freeway has increased that number to approximately 450,000 cars. creating substantial traffic congestion. Mayor Riordan stressed the earthquake may cause permanent changes in commuters habits, noting that in San Francisco after the earthquake, BART ridership increased by 35% and stayed there. Another promising long-term transit solution discussed was the Exposition line under consideration by MTA which would require uncharacteristic cooperation between Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica. This rail corridor was discussed as an opportunistic link between the Westside and the region, especially in light of l-l0's quake damage. But Mayor Riordan hesitated to commit to a light rail solution along the Exposition corridor given current MTA budgetary shortfalls and confusing planning priorities. Mayor Abdo signaled a reluctance to let MTA table a decision on the Exposition right of way opportunity. 

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While all the mayors have already implemented waiving of fees for the rebuilding of damaged structures, Mayor Riordan mentioned the work being done by the city's Development Reform Committee headed by Dan Garcia, former chair of the Planning Commission and senior vice president for real estate at Warner Bros. to move away from a city "run by the Condition Use Permit" to more by-right development as the city attempts to update its community plan and general plan. Malibu's Mayor Van Horn, seared by last year's fares, shared her city's similar regulatory relief strategies. 

In an unannounced visit, State Controller Gray Davis showed up to present state relief funds of $20 million to Mayor Judy Abdo and $30 million to Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles. Davis expressed his commitment of expediting state relief funds to local municipalities and urged elected officials to contact him directly if they had any trouble filing for or receiving state reimbursements. 

Finally, as the forum ended, a 4.3 aftershock stuttered through the room, reminding everyone of the fragility of the Los Angeles urban landscape and work ahead for the rebuilding of Los Angeles.

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