November 30, 1994 - From the November, 1994 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region


While Fall is the traditional season for the adoption of redevelopment plans in California, LA/CRA is facing the daunting task of preparing as many as six earthquake recovery plans and two riot recovery plans for adoption by the City Council between November 15 and December 15. Residents of the San Fernando Valley, where the majority of the CRA plans are located, have requested strict limits on the CRA including restricting the use of eminent domain, a cap on administrative expenses, and a revolving loan guarantee programs to lend money to property and business owners who are unable to obtain sufficient financing elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council has been holding public hearing on the various consolidation plans and according to LA/CRA's Don Spivak, "The initial public hearings seem to indicate that there is a sentiment to either leave the CRA alone or pursue the City Council takeover initiative." The Los Angeles City Council will be taking up the CRA take­over initiative in the next few weeks. 


The Resources Agency is beginning its long awaited comprehensive revision of the Guidelines implementing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The last major revision of the Guidelines took place in 1986 and CEQA practitioners have been seeking a major update to take into account recent judicial interpretations of CEQA and recent statutory changes. The Agency did adopt a number of changes as part of a less comprehensive revision begun last year which covered areas such as EIR recirculation, alternatives analysis, when to use subsequent EIRs, and notice and contents of negative declarations. 

The Agency is required to revise the Guidelines to take into account the statutory changes made under last year's CEQA compromise legislation (AB 1888 and SB 919). The Agency is currently seeking input in any area which practitioners feel needs to be covered by revised Guidelines. 


The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission has approved agreements with the Army Corps of Engineering to spend $10 million to develop swimming and boating lakes near Hansen Dam in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, including 220 acres of athletic fields, wildlife areas and trails in the Sepulveda Basin. The agreement specifies that both the City and the Army Corps of Engineers will provide $5 million for the development of a 1.5-acre swim lake and an adjacent 9-acre boating and fishing lake. Construction is expected to begin in November and will likely be completed within two years. 


The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has granted the Ahmanson Ranch project a three-year extension to buy thousands of acres for public parkland tied to the development of a $1 billion mini-city in the Simi Hills. The extension gives the developer until December, 1998 to acquire Runkle Ranch and Corral Canyon, while the company fights legal challenges mounted by oppo­nents. 

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors first approved the project in December, 1992. Under the original agreement, Ahmanson had until December, 1995 to acquire four ranches totaling 9,949 acres and convey them to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. 


Under the direction of William Brennan of the State's Business, Transportation & Housing Agency, a diverse panel of both public and private sector housing professionals is examining efficiencies in the delivery of state housing programs. Although the original proposal created by the Legislature as part of the budget process requested the task force to look at consolidation possibilities of the three state housing agencies - Housing and Community Development, California Housing Finance Agency and the Tax Credit Allocation Committee, a compromise plan calls for examining efficiencies and not consolidation. The task force will present two reports, one on coordinating local, state, federal and private housing resources in February and another on the administration of housing programs in April. 


As part of the City Hall seismic retrofit program, all City Hall employees above the fourth floor will be relocated by February 1995 to new quarters. The Planning Department, Department of Transportation and Building & Safety will all be moved to 221 North Figueroa. The new location should not be confused with 221 South Figueroa; the North building complex is called Figueroa Plaza while the South complex is called The Park. While many of the details are still being worked out, as TPR went to press, the Planning Department is scheduled to occupy floors 16, 15, 9 and a portion of the ground floor in the North Tower; LA/DOT is scheduled to occupy floors 5, 4 and 3; and Building & Safety is scheduled to occupy the sixth floor in the North Tower. 

Parking is very limited at the new facility but arrangements are being made for a shuttle from City Hall to Figueroa for City Hall employees and possible expanded DASH services. The seismic retrofit program is expected to last four to five years. 


A plan to develop a homeless camp in an industrial area east of Downtown has drawn the ire of some homeless advocates. The controversy erupted over a plan to, "spend $4 million of a $20-million HUD grant on a downtown homeless center that critics contend would be an "internment" camp for the homeless. 


Although originally described as a "camp", Deputy Mayor Rae James has said the facility would only be used as a place where transients could rest briefly on a grass lawn, shower and receive job training and other services. While some homeless advocates contend the plan is an attempt to solve the aesthetic problem of the homeless in downtown, others believe the center could be an important new piece of infrastructure to serve Los Angeles' homeless population. 

The mayor's proposal as well as the proposed $20-million HUD grant has gone before Community and Economic Development Committee and Housing and Community Redevelopment Committee and will go before City Council on November 8. The plan also needs the approval of the County Board of Supervisors. 


The Los Angeles Housing Department has requested an additional $3.5 million from the federal government for Ghost Towns in the San Fernando Valley. The request includes $1 million for additional debris cleanup and $1.9 million for security in the area. If the current request is approval, total FEMA/OES funds allocated to Ghost Towns will be $6.4 million. 


The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, also known as the Williamson Act, was created for the "preservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land" in California. According to the 1992-1993 annual report, while the total number of acres under the Williamson Act has remained stable, several areas are experiencing increased urbanization. The highest percent of contracted areas which are undergoing nonrenewal under the Williamson Act include two rapidly urbanizing regions, the South Coast/ Desert and the Foothill/Central Sierra Regions. Also, Orange, Nevada, Placer and Riverside Counties have the largest percentages of their contracted land undergoing nonrenewal. 

While the study showed that most landowners did not renew their Williamson contract in anticipation of future development opportunities, most nonrenewal were not located in close proximity to urban boundaries where those opportunities would seem to exist. The results of the report suggest a trend which could exacerbate "leapfrog" urban development in agricultural areas across the state, further burdening local infrastructures. For a complete copy of the Williamson Act Status Report, contact Loree Stetson, Assistant Director, at 916-xxx-xxxx. 


The Los Angeles City Council at the urging of Mayor Richard Riordan voted 11-2 on October 5 to reject First Street North, a six-year­old proposal for a $300 million mixed­use project that would have included a new high-rise downtown district just east of City Hall. Michael Barker, the project's developer said that he planned to take legal action against the city. Riordan cited cost issues and the City's reduced needs for additional office space as part of his opposition to the project. Councilman Richard Alatorre whose district includes the project and who strongly backed it, call the council's action "outrageous". 


Under the original McKinney Act, local homeless groups were given first priority in planning and developing military base reuse plans for closed bases in many California cities. However, in the final hours of the 103rd Congress, a new law was enacted which gives local governments priority in shaping and implementing re­use plans for closed military bases in cooperation with all interests in a community. 

Overall, the 103rd Congress did not address many important issues facing California Cities with the exception of President Clinton's Crime Bill, which will provide important new funding for public safety in communities throughout California. 


Alvin James is the new Director of Planning for the City of Pasadena. Jane Galbraith is the new deputy press secretary for the Riordan Administration. Larry Kaplan has been appointed Los Angeles Regional Director for United States Senator Barbara Boxer. 

Mayor Riordan has announced two new nominations for the full-time Board of Public Works, they are Sharon R Morris, intergovernmental affairs officer for the AQMD and Ellen Stein, wife of Airport Commissioner and Riordan advisor, Ted Stein. 

Finally, The Trust for Public Land is currently hiring for three positions in their recently-opened Los Angeles Field Office. The Trust for Public Land is a national, private non-profit organization which works to protect a wide variety of lands for public open space purposes. The Trust For Public Land can be contacted at 310-xxx-xxxx.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.