February 28, 1995 - From the February, 1995 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

HOUSING STARTS UP IN 1994 

Housing starts jumped 12.9 percent last year to their highest level in six years despite continually rising mortgage rates that failed to cut appreciably into construction activity. Although the 1994 level was held back slightly by a 1 percent decline in December, every region in the nation shared in the annual gain, according to a Commerce Department report. 

The Department said construction of new single-family homes and apartments totaled 1.45 million last year, the most since ground was broken on 1.49 million units in 1988. 

Construction of single-family homes, which are most sensitive to interest rate changes, rose 6.2 percent in 1994, to 1.2 million units, including a 2.8 percent advance in December, when starts totaled a 1.23 million annual rate. 

Multi-family starts soared 58.9 percent, to 257,400, although they fell 13.9 percent to a 303,000 rate in December. Many analysts said apartment construction was boosted by tax credits for low-income housing. 

STATE SENATE SPLITS LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE 

In a major and important change in the jurisdiction over local government issues, the State Senate has split the Local Government Committee into both a Local Government Committee and a Housing and Land Use Committee. All land-use legislation will now be the responsibility of the Housing and Land Use Committee, while the Local Government Committee will continue to have jurisdictions over all other local government issues. The Housing and Land Use Committee will be chaired by Republican Sen. Tom Campbell from San Jose, and the Senate Local Government Committee will be chaired by Sen. William Craven, a Republican from Oceanside. 

Peter Detwiler, long time senior consultant for the Senate Local Government Committee is now consultant to the Housing and Land Use Committee.

CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (CPTED) 

At the initiation of Council member Laura Chick, a city task force has been developing design guidelines for a possible model "Design Out Crime" ordinance. The task force is composed of representatives from the Planning Department, the Community Development, Department and Los Angeles Housing Department. While the architectural and design community generally does not support adopting mandatory design guidelines as part of the approval process, a voluntary review would be considered useful. 

The task force will be previewing their recommendations in the Planning and Land-Use Management Committee in February. According to Ken Bernstein, Planning Deputy for Councilmember Chick, "We are not looking to create another regulatory hoop, but rather create useful guidelines for the development of buildings that deter crime."  

ASSEMBLY OVERCOMES ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGE 

After several weeks of tussling and politicking, the state Assembly has finally agreed to a shared-power agreement resulting in the division of Assembly committee assignments. The Republican Caucus will select Chair­persons for the following committees: Agriculture; Appropriations; Banking &Finance; Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments; Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials; Health; Human Services; Insurance; Local Government; Public Employees, Retirement & Social Security; Public Safety; Televising the Assembly; and Utilities & Commerce. 

The Democratic Caucus will recommend Chairpersons for the following committees: Budget; Consumer Protection, Governmental Efficiency &Economic Development; Education; Governmental Organization; Higher Education; Housing & Community Development; Judiciary; Labor & Employment; Natural Resources; Revenue & Taxation; Rules; Transportation; and Water, Parks & Wildlife. 

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FANNIE MAE: $3.3 BILLION HOUSING INVESTMENT STRATEGY 

The City of Los Angeles and Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association), the nation's largest source of home mortgage funds, has unveiled a comprehensive housing investment strategy to provide $3.3 billion in affordable financing for more than 30,000 of the city's families over the next five years. 

The investment strategy, called House Los Angeles, will offer Los Angeles families a broad range of mortgage lending products and services to increase their access to home ownership opportunities. The plan will emphasize serving low-, moderate-, and middle-income city neighborhoods by promoting single-and multifamily housing investment and will help families achieve home ownership with low down payments and new bilingual consumer education campaign. 

Fannie Mae also will open a "Partnership Office" in Los Angeles to work directly with community groups, local government, mortgage lenders, and non­profit housing developers. 

STATE LAO REPORT CRITICAL OF CRA REFORMS 

According to a recently released report by the State's Legislative Analyst's Office, the Legislature’s chief fiscal advisor, despite the 1993 AB 1290 - Community Redevelopment reform legislation, local Community Redevelopment agencies are skirting the new law. In 1993, the report states, redevelopment agencies brought 100 square miles of land wider their jurisdiction, three times as much as the year before, and that agencies have accelerated their placement of property under redevelopment including vast tracts of undeveloped agricultural law - in anticipation of the new law. Also, contrary to predictions by redevelopment officials, there is no evidence that redevelopment project areas established in 1994 are smaller in size or more focused on eliminating urban blight than project areas adopted in earlier years.

The report recommends that the Legislature strengthen the state Community Redevelopment Law oversight system by enacting legislation requiring local agencies to submit proposed redevelopment plans to the state Attorney General for a finding of consistency with state law. The report also recommends that the Legislature modify or repeal the Disaster Project Law to avert intentional misuse.

ON THE MOVE… 

David Michaelson, Asst. Deputy Mayor for Transportation for Mayor Riordan has joined MTA’s County Counsel department. James Okazaki, Chief of Transit for LA Dept. of Transportation will be filling Michaelson’s position on an interim basis.

Tom L. Soto, President and Founder of PS Enterprises has been nominated by President Clinton to the Advisory Cooperation Commission. Mr. Soto presently sits on the board of the Mono Lake Committee and organized Earth Day 1990 in Los Angeles.

Nancy Burke, Planning Deputy for City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, is leaving her position to work part-time in the code studies section of the Planning Department and attend law school. 

Richard W. Thompson, co-founder of Archiplan Urban Design Collaborative and most recently, principal, Chong + Thompson and Associates, is the new Director of Urban Design for A.C. Martin & Associates.

Mary Chambers is the new Executive Director of New LAMP (Los Angeles Marketing Partnership). Robert Ryan has been elected Chairman of the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission. Don Toy has been elected Vice Chair of the planning body. Helen Smookler has been appointed to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

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