September 30, 1994 - From the September, 1994 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

Dan Garcia to Chair LA/CRA 

In a surprise move, Mayor Richard Riordan has appointed Chair of the Development Reform Committee, Dan Garcia, to also chair the Community Redevelopment Agency, replacing current CRA Chairman Stan Hirsch. Hirsch has been asked to assume the role of special mayoral advisor in expanding the City's retail, commercial and industrial markets. 

With the Los Angeles City Council examining a possible takeover of the CRA, some city officials are speculating that Riordan’s appointment of Garcia as CRA Chair, is part of a strategy to derail the takeover. Los Angeles City Councilmember Laura Chick commented, "During his tenure — whether preempted by a Council takeover or not — Garcia, in concert with the other CRA commissioners, should complete the CRA's transition from a downtown-oriented agency to a 'kinder, gentler', agency with a citywide vision and citywide credibility." 

Meanwhile, CRA Administrator Ed Avila whose contract expires this month, will assume a new position as senior advisor to the Board of Public Works. Given the uncertainty of the Board's future, Avila is once again being asked to manage a difficult public role. The city's current Chief Administrative Officer, Keith Comrie, will serve as interim CRA chief administrator. 

Borcher Liquor Store Bill Fails 

An Assembly bill by Paul Borcher (R-Diamond Bar) that has been at the center of a contentious debate over whether the city of Los Angeles can block or restrict rebuilding of liquor stores destroyed during the 1992 civil unrest, failed in the Assembly Local Government Committee. The bill would have prohibited the city from imposing such conditions as limiting hours of operation or requiring security guards — requirements that Korean American store owners described as too costly. 

SCANPH Housing Conference 

The Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH) will host its sixth annual housing conference, "Partnerships in Action", on September 23, 1994 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The conference will address issues such as how to survive in an increasingly scarce funding climate, managing and monitoring housing projects, public/private ventures as well as policy issues such as reinvestment requirements of private lenders, housing/transportation policies and models for resident ownership and control. For more information, call Anne Murphy at (213) xxx-xxxx. 

Valley Quake Housing Funds 

Overturning an August 17 Los Angeles City Council decision to cut earthquake funds from housing programs in the San Fernando Valley and other quake-damaged areas, the City Council voted 9-5 to designate $23 million of $47 million in redevelopment funds to provide affordable housing in areas where more than 25,000 housing units were lost in the Northridge earthquake.

The original council vote, taken when three Valley Councilman were absent, would have cut earthquake funds to $14.7 million and directed $14 million to areas hit by the 1992 riots and $18 million for a pool of housing funds available city-wide. 

While the full $23 million in redevelopment housing funding will now be going to earthquake recovery in Valley-area districts, the funds are restricted to providing affordable housing for low-income residents, which could receive some resistance from Valley residents. 

First Street North 

The Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst has released its long-awaited feasibility study on a proposed $157 million City Hall Annex, concluding that the 22-story project is not cost effective and would provide 200,000 square feet more office space than the city needs. Although First Street Partners, a private developer that proposed to build the high-rise for the city, has offered to reduce the size of the project, the CLA report states that the city could cut its costs in half by buying an existing downtown office building. 

Transit Station Area Planning 

L.A. transit planning will get a boost soon with the "Regional Station Area Prototype Study and Implementation" funded by the MTA to research and analyze land use and development issues related to seven proposed and adopted transit (rail and bus) station centers in Los Angeles. The $1.2 million project hopes to create opportunities and incentives for sustainable economic development around transit centers and to increase transit ridership. 

The proposed transit centers for this project, which were selected by MTA, include seven rail stations and one bus station. The rail stations are Union Station; First and Boyle Avenue; Figueroa Street and Avenue 51; Long Beach and Washington Boulevards; College and Alameda Streets; Pico and San Vicente Boulevards; and Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. The bus station is either Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard or Broadway and Manchester Boulevard. The proposal also includes approximately $553,000 in consulting services for the "Regional Station Area Prototype Study and Implementation".

Steel-Frame Shake-up 

The Los Angeles City Council's ad hoc committee on earthquake recovery, awaiting the results of follow-up testing by the University of Texas, has shelved consideration of a proposed ordinance that would require inspection of some 400 steel-frame buildings in the San Fernando Valley and on L.A.'s Westside. At least 110 steel-frame commercial buildings — most of them in the San Fernando Valley and on the Westside — were damaged during the quake, and another 900 buildings could suffer structural damage if there is another major quake in Los Angeles. 

In addition, engineers performing the ultrasonic tests must go behind the drywall or tile, remove fireproofing material, an expensive procedure to reach the steel beams. The proposed ordinance would change the part of the building code section governing requirements for beam-to-column connections in steel-frame buildings — a major source of problems for buildings damaged during the earthquake. Also, the City of L.A.'s building and safety code states that a building must be returned only to the condition it was in prior to an earthquake, thus, any additional structural retrofitting will not necessarily return a building to the proper safety level for the next earthquake. 

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U.S. Census Undercount Upheld 

A federal appellate court decision has ruled that the U.S. Census Bureau erred in not adjusting its population figures after undercounting minorities in 1990. Local and federal officials are lobbying President Clinton to accept the ruling instead of retrying the case at a lower level or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Among the issues affected by the census is representation in Congress. If the decision stands, it could mean California and Arizona would get another member of Congress. Also, the recount could force the redrawing of political boundaries next year for the House of Representatives and state Legislature as well as City Council and board of education districts. 

Re-engineering the L.A. River? 

A recently released study by Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works suggests the conversion of Taylor Yard, just north of Dodger Stadium, into a 116-acre detention basin to relieve flood pressure during the heavy winter rains. The $215 million plan is being proposed as an alternative to an Army Corps of Engineers plan to raise the height of the existing flood walls by 2 to 8 feet on both sides of the Rio Hondo, and the Los Angeles River from South Gate to Long Beach. The FOLAR plan also includes a park with playing fields, a woodland area for walking and picnics and a restored wetlands area.

Rent Control Study 

The Rent Stabilization Division of the Los Angeles Housing Department has released preliminary findings from its 1994 Rent Study. According to the study, as a consequence of rapid change in the City's demographic characteristics, the fit between the City's rental housing stock and tenants is diverging. White household sizes increased dramatically between 1980 and 1990, the supply of large rental units remained stable and severe overcrowding ( i.e. more than 1.5 persons per room, per the U.S. Census Bureau definition) more than doubled, from 70,000 rental units in 1980 to 154,000 units in 1990. 

At the same time overcrowding was increasing, vacancy rates for rental units also increased, from 3.9 percent to 6. 9 percent in 1990. The increased vacancy rates reflect rent levels increasing more rapidly than renter household incomes between 1980 and 1990, and have resulted in an increase in the housing cost burden (percent of income paid for housing) for renters. The effects of the recession on house­hold incomes appear to have exacerbated the problem — rent-to-in­come ratios for tenants in rent stabilized housing increased from 26. 7 percent in 1987 to 34.6 percent in 1993.

Sacramento Update 

The usual flurry of last-minute legislative activity marked the closing of the California Legislature at the end of August. SB 732 by Senator Ralph Dills (D-Gardena) has gone to the Governor's Desk. SB 732 is the clean-up legislation for last year's comprehensive CRA reform AB 1290. The bill allows an agency to use the current and very restrictive definition of blight under AB 1290, or the less restrictive definition of blight which existed at the time the redevelopment plan was adopted. 

AB 3152 by Tom Bates (D­Oakland), the Transit Village Development Planning Act of 1994 has gone to the Governor. The bill establishes density bonuses and development standards for transit-oriented development. 

AB 1320 by Jim Costa (D­Fresno) died in committee. The bill would have allowed owners of "vacancy-controlled" apartment houses to adjust rent on an apartment to market rates after the unit has been vacated.

On the Move... 

Barbara Yaroslavsky, wife of Los Angeles City Councilman and County Supervisor-elect Zev Yaroslavsky, has confirmed that she will run for the Los Angeles City Council seat held by her husband.

Charles Dickerson, President of the powerful LA Board of Public Works has resigned to become a special assistant to City Atty. James Hahn. Hahn also named Evan Braude, a former prosecutor, Long Beach councilman and MTA Board Member, as a top aide. 

Kevin Starr, author and urban historian professor at USC has been appointed to the post of state librarian by Gov. Wilson.

Judith Pierce, an attorney with 12-years senior level transit management experience, has been selected as the MTA's Chief Administrative Officer. She will assume her new position Sept. 19. 

Ritter Park Associates, a real estate development company which plans to break ground this fall on the largest active real estate project in Los Angeles County, has named Mark Fine managing director of the company's board.

Ritter Park Associates, which is co-owned by Merv Adelson and Irwin Molasky, has successfully obtained government approvals for its plan to develop a $1.4 billion residential community on 10,625 acres at the western edge of the Antelope Valley.

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