December 30, 1994 - From the December, 1994 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region


Although Santa Monica conservatism might not fall in line with the mainstream Republican tide that swept the nation on November 8, two new City Council members and one incumbent Council member backed by the City's Police Union won their elections. Bob Holbrook, a conservative incumbent won his election as did challengers Ruth Ebner, a Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney, and Pam O'Connor, a Santa Monica Planning Commissioner and historic preservation consultant, and the only member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) to win election. 

Incumbent City Council member Tony Vasquez, a SMRR candidate, lost his reelection bid. While SMRR still holds a 4 to 3 majority on the City Council, it will most likely have to look for other issues besides rent control in order to continue their traditional coalition. With the State Legislature likely to pass some form of vacancy decontrol this year and the loss of renters following the January Earthquake, SMRR can no longer count on their traditional base to elect a majority to the City Council. According to Planning Commissioner John Zinner, "It's not likely that there will be any significant attitude changes towards development in Santa Monica as a result of this election." 


Los Angeles County Supervisors have adopted an amendment to the Marina Del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) that could significantly transform Marina Del Rey into a high-rise waterfront community, what some opponents have called "Century City by the Sea". The changes in the LCP were prompted by concerns that the harbor is showing signs of wear and needs to be revitalized. 

The proposal, which goes to the California Coastal Commission for final approval, includes a new marina that would become part of the planned Playa Vista project. The Playa Vista portion of the plan includes 2,576 residential units, 15 percent of which will be offered at affordable levels for low ­ and moderate-income families, 450 hotel rooms and 700 boat slips, plus office and retail space, a community center and a marine science museum. 


Although the LA/CRA is technically without an Administrator, the agency is racing against a Dec. 15 deadline to approve as many as eight new redevelopment areas. As TPR went to press, the agency had already approved two earthquake recovery areas and was preparing four more earthquake recovery areas and two riot recovery areas. 

Despite strong opposition from some community members, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, in one of his last actions as a City Councilman, directed a very limited redevelopment plan through the approval process for Sherman Oaks and Studio City. In Councilman Richard Alarcón's district, a redevelopment project area was approved with wide­spread community support covering 3,000 acres in the northeast San FernandoValley. 

The Broadway/Manchester and Crenshaw riot recovery areas are still pending as well as limited earthquake revitalization plans in the following Council Districts: Jackie Goldberg, Hal Bernson, Joel Wachs and Laura Cluck. With CRA redevelopment plans in just about every Council District, perhaps this is another reason for the City Coun­cil to assume oversight responsibilities for the agency.


Maguire Thomas Partners has started the process to pursue a Memo of Understanding for Playa Vista Phase II for a combined federal EIS and state EIR with the various federal, state, county and city entities that have jurisdiction over development proposals for the Playa Vista area. According to Playa Vista Project Manager Doug Gardner, "I believe it is one of the first instances in which various agencies from all levels of government have proposed coordinated guidelines for development. We are not working in a linear process, but a coherent process to address the multi-jurisdictional issues that are unique to Playa Vista." 


In a flurry of political and legal maneuvering, the board of directors of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has rejected a compromise agreement with Japan-based Soka University that would have ended a legal battle over hundreds of acres in the Santa Monica Mountains. Environmentalists and elected officials opposed the compromise package claiming that the deal would jeopardize the long-term planning process for the area. Without an EIR on the project, opponents believed that the compromise would amount to tacit support for Soka's development plans without a review of the environmental impacts. 

On Wednesday November 23, Barnet Cooperman, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge for Eminent Domain, delivered another blow to Soka ruling that Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has the right to begin eminent domain proceedings on 245 acres without the approval of the State Public Works Board. Additional eminent domain hearing are scheduled for December. 


The California Coastal Commission, the state agency which oversees development along California's 1,100 mile coastline, is in the midst of a series of membership changes that is likely to significantly alter the composition of the powerful agency. Commission Chairman Thomas W. Gwyn, an appointee of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) was the first 

to resign because of his new responsibilities as communications director for the Port of Oakland. 

San Francisco attorney Carl Williams was elected chairman over the objections of four appointees of the Senate Rules Committee, claiming someone who has not served on the 12-member panel should not be elevated to the top post. 

However, Assembly Brown's appointees could be very short-lived if the powerful Speaker loses his post. In any event, the commission will see several new members. In addition to the new Commission Chairman Carl Williams, al least three other commissioners - Huntington Beach Mayor Linda Moulton­Patterson, Port Hueneme City Councilman Dorill B. Wright and San Diego County Supervisor Leon Williams will be stepping down after retiring or losing elections. Traditionally, the Coastal Commission has represented a North/South split in their attitude towards development, and a Republican dominated commission will likely reassess the commission's commitment to coastal protection.



After several months of community meeting, the design/build team finalists for the First Interstate Bank $15 million Design/Build Competition will be announced on December 13. The competition is for the design and construction of a neighborhood mixed-use complex (affordable housing, commercial and community service components) at Vermont & 8th on the site of the former Pepperdine University Building. According to jury member Bob Harris, "Because the competition is a design/build, and not just a design competition, the winning team will be moving forward to build their project with funding from First Interstate Bank. It's been a complex, yet innovative process involving the community in all three projects, but I'm hopeful the winning team will have the necessary community support" The three design/developer team finalists are Solomon/Caleb; Sherman/Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation; and, LR MPR/ Catalyst.


According to a recent report by Keyser Marston Associates, Inc., California redevelopment project areas, particularly in Southern California, continue to experience devaluations in assessed value. The report predicts continuing foreclosures and bank sales that have not yet worked their way through the system and corporate downsizing leaving major office, R&D, and industrial properties vacant Southern California multi-family values have also been hit hard. For example, some San Fernando Valley projects have seen reductions of 30 to 50 percent in value. 

Assessed value variations for 1993/ 94 to 1994/95 show decreases across several Southern California project areas including Los Angeles/Bunker Hill down 8.26 percent; Los Angeles/CBD down 5.16 percent; Long Beach/Downtown down 4.73 percent; Burbank/ West Olive down 4.70 percent; and Culver City/Slauson & Sepulveda down 5.49 percent.


In BIA v. Oceanside, 27 Cal. App. 4th 744 (1994), the court has invalidated Prop. A passed by the City of Oceanside that placed a numerical cap on the number of dwelling units that could be built each year. In doing so, the court has enforced a General Plan provision which prohibited numerical limits to new growth. 

The court addressed the illegality of Prop. A under laws which describe the city's obligation to provide its fair share of regional housing. The court relied on the evidence that Prop. A had adversely affected the availability of low-income housing in Oceanside, and ruled that Prop. A. violated these statutory requirements. BIA is one of the first cases to address the complicated relationship between the state policies promoting low-income housing and local growth measures, and makes clear that there is some point at which local growth control measures must yield to overriding state concerns. 


The Department of Building and Safety is proposing the retrofitting of over 100,000 wood frame structures in Los Angeles to increase the buildings' chances of surviving earthquakes. The proposal is scheduled to be submitted to the City Council early next year and building officials have not decided whether the retrofit program should be mandatory. If mandatory compliance is required, a financial assistance program would be offered to building owners. The retrofit work would typically range from $1,000 to $18,000 per structure. 

On the Move... 

Dan Rosenfeld has left the Department of General Services for the State of California where he directed the State's government consolidation program for the Los Angeles Historic Core and will be assuming the position of Assistant General Manager for Real Estate for the Los Angeles General Services Department.

Retiring County Supervisor Ed Edelman has announced that he will be splitting his time between the JAMS/Endispute private arbitration service and the RAND Corp. 

Dan Garcia's nomination to the LA/CRA Commission has been approved by Los Angeles City Council. Christine Essel, Vice President for planning and development for Paramount Pictures, has been nominated for reappointment to the LA/CRA Commission. Alfred E. Osborne, Director of the Entrepreneurial Studies Center and an associate professor of business economics at the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, has been nominated for appointment to the LA/CRA Commission. 

Mr. Osborne replaces Cythnia McClain-Hill, whose term expired and whom Mayor Riordan has nominated to serve on the city's Private Industry Council. 

Sedway & Associates and Kotin Regan & Mouchly have formed a new company, Sedway Kotin Mouchly Group for consultation in real estate and urban economics.

Karen Ginsberg, Senior Planner at LA/CRA is the new Planning Manager for Planning and Program Analysis in the City of Santa Monica. Another LA/CRA staffer, Allyne Winderman, Senior Planner for the downtown Central Business District has been hired by the City of West Hollywood as Economic Development and Housing Manager. 

Robert Benard, the City of Malibu's first Planning Director has left the city to become Zoning Officer and Administrator for the City of Long Beach. Senior Planner Joyce Parker is the new Planning Director for Malibu. 

Alison Keller has been hired to direct Mayor Riordan's Business Attraction and Retention Team (BART).


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