March 30, 1995 - From the March, 1995 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

L.A. City Hall: The Big Move

As part of the City Hall seismic retrofit program, all City Hall employees above the fourth floor are being relocated. The Planning Department, Department of Transportation and Building & Safety will all be moved to 221 North Figueroa. The Planning Department offices located on the 5th, 6th, and 7th floors of City Hall will be moving over the weekend of March 17, 1995. Most of the department offices will be closed from March 17 through March 20, 1995. Effective March 3 through March 24, 1995, the Automated Records and Files Unit, Rm. 500, and the Central Maps and Publications Unit, Rm. 651 will be closed. 

The Planning Department will be located on the 16th floor of "Figueroa Plaza", 221 North Figueroa. City employees will have call forwarding for the first few weeks until they are issued new telephone numbers.

Japanese Disinvestment in 1995 

According to a recent report by Kenneth Leventhal & Company, Japanese investors will likely accelerate U.S. property sales in 1995 after finally receiving authorization from Japanese banks and the government to write-off nonperforming loans. "The selling flood gates are open now that banking giant Sumitomo is writing off close to $8 billion in mostly nonperforming real estate loans and posting a nearly $3 billion loss in fiscal 1995, the first reported loss by a Japanese bank in 50 years, " said Jack Rodman, director of the Pacific Rim practice at the accounting firm of Kenneth Leventhal & Company. Rodman believes that the Japanese will first sell office buildings, hotels and land following the end of Japan's fiscal year on March 31, 1995. 

The Kobe earthquake is also likely to refocus Japanese construction firms back home. "These contractors had gone overseas in the mid-1980s seeking opportunities outside Japan. Now, however, they are needed at home to undertake a rebuilding effort expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next 10 years," said Rodman. "Even American construction and engineering giants will get some of the work to replace the bridges, highways, dams and sewer systems destroyed by the Kobe earthquake." 

Steel Frame Inspections 

The Los Angeles City Council has approved an ordinance requiring inspection of all welded steel frame buildings in West Los Angeles between Beverly Glen and Santa Monica Blvd., and all steel-frame buildings in the San Fernando Valley. The Building & Safety department will be notifying property owners in the next few weeks, after which time owners will have 180 days to submit a structural engineering report to the City, 90 days to pull a permit, and two years to complete repairs if necessary. 

The City Council took the action after studies revealed that several steel-frame buildings experienced failure during the Northridge earthquake. Inspections are likely to cost thousands of dollars due to the intrusive nature of examining welded steel frame joints. 

HUD Budget/Reorganization 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent its FY 1996 budget proposal to Congress on February 6, requesting $25.7 billion in budget authority, up $100 million from FY 1995. HUD Sec. Cisneros claims the budget will save $51 billion over five years, but Republican leaders have stated they believe spending will increase under Cisneros' plan. The budget elaborates upon the sweeping HUD ''Reinvention Blueprint published in December. While Republicans will likely support some aspects of HUD's budget and reorganization plans, they are also likely to cut funding more deeply than HUD proposes. 

Highlights of HUD's proposals include: Restructuring the Federal Housing Administration to a quasi­public entity that retains the full faith and credit of the federal government in guaranteeing multifamily mortgages, while expanding the use of private sector risk sharing; reducing rents in project-based Section 8 properties to market levels and then completely re­moving project-based assistance; and providing low income tenants with Section 8 tenant-based vouchers. Both public and private sector housing industry advocates have called on HUD to withdraw its recent proposal to divest itself of its housing inventory as well as the "misguided" notion that current Section 8 residents will be able to find suitable replacement housing. If implemented, the reorganization plan would be the fourth restructuring in the last 15 years.

LA/CRA Audit: No Mission, No Money

While the LA/CRA is the center of a power struggle between Mayor Riordan and the City Council, a recently released management audit of the Agency conducted by Capital Partnerships Inc. and commissioned by the City's Chief Legislative Analyst stakes in very clear language that the political and financial uncertainties surrounding the Agency have taken a serious toll on the implementation of redevelopment activities. 

According to the report, "The Agency lacks a clear mission. The City Council is expanding redevelopment through adoption of new civil disturbance and earthquake recovery areas, while the Mayor is focusing on economic development programs, and the Agency is currently emphasizing affordable housing programs. Accordingly, it is not surprising to find CRA staff confused about programs, goals and priorities." 

Also, regarding the Agency's financial condition, the report states, "About 80 percent of the Agency's tax increment revenues for the next five years is committed to debt service… CRA only has $7-$19 million available for new programming during the next four years. However, the $7-$19 million surplus does not reflect the $29.5 million transfer of funds to the City. If the Agency experiences any further decreases in tax increment revenue, then the Agency will need to reduce work program expenditures and/or personnel costs." 

Economic Development Initiative: Community Development Bank 

After Los Angeles lost its bid for one of the six urban empowerment zone designations, the Clinton Administration offered Los Angeles a $400 million economic development initiative. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bas approved in concept the idea of a Community Development Bank but the City of Los Angeles must submit details on the proposed bank by March 9. At a recent public hearing on the issue in South Central Los Angeles, Mayor Riordan expressed his support of the bank concept but did not offer any details as to how the bank would be structured and who would determine the underwriting criteria. 

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Under the proposal, the bank would leverage federal funds with private bank finances to create a loan pool of more than $1 billion for economic development in a 20-square-mile area of the City stretching from Pacoima to South Central Los Angeles. 

In a related matter, the Southern California Business Development Corporation (SCBDC), Los Angeles' first and only multi-bank community development corporation has passed the one million dollar milestone. SCBDC was initiated by the City of Los Angeles as an alternative source of funds for "non-bank­able" businesses looking to expand in the area. 

An organizing committee made up of local bankers and chaired by First Interstate Bank of California's Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Willison, formed SCBDC and assembled $10 million in financing from the city's financial community. "We now invested our first million dollars in the South Central Community and created 118 jobs," said SCBDC President Richard McNish. Multi-bank community development corporations received increased national attention during the 1992 presidential campaign when President Clinton trumpeted "CDCs" as an innovative source of much-needed funding for inner-city businesses.

SCAG Regional Comprehensive Plan 

The SCAG Regional Comprehensive Plan (RCP), a regional planning framework for growth management and regional planning issues in Southern California through 2015 is nearing completion. By the end of 1994, SCAG had approved over 75% of the document. The RCP has adopted a new approach to regional planning by emphasizing a bottom-up process organized through thirteen subregions in order to coordinate and develop input to reflect the reality that the implementation of the regional plan is a local responsibility.

The remaining chapters slated for adoption in 1995 include Air Quality, Finance, and Open Space and Conservation, which will be contentious issues for SCAG's Regional Council. According to David Stein, principal planner for the RCP, “The RCP will determine whether or not local governments in the region will be able to marshal the necessary resources to plan for future growth and meet federal and state mandates." 

L.A. General Plan Framework Conference 

The Southern California Planning Congress, the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Environmental Professionals and the City of Los Angeles are hosting a one-day conference on the Los Angeles General Plan Framework on March 15 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The panel discussions will examine the Targeted Growth Areas concept, accommodating ethnic diversity, Los Angeles in the international economy, Land Use/Transportation policy and related topics. Panelists include J. Eugene Grigsby, Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA; Stefanos Polyzoides, AIA, Principal Moule-Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists, William Christopher, AIA, Principal, Urban Concepts; and Jack Kyser, Chief Economist, Economic Development Corporation of Los Angeles County to name a few.

Janss Corporation To Receive USC Urbanism Award

The University of Southern California, School of Architecture, has selected Janss Corporation for its 1995 Parkinson Spirit of Urbanism Award in recognition of 100 years of innovative real estate development projects that have helped define Los Angeles.

Dr. William C. Janss, Jr., chief executive officer of Santa Monica-based Janss Corporation, will accept the award at a special program on March 9, 6:00 pm at the AMC Theatres on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. “For four generations, Janss Corporation has contributed to the ‘spirit of urbanism’ in Los Angeles,” said Victor Regnier, Dean of the USC School of Architecture. “Early projects introduced and implemented new concepts of community design. Recent work has bodly explored mixed-use development in critical urban area of several Los Angeles communities. For 100 years the Janss record of service, innovation and bold experimentation has made this city more livable. The Parkinson Spirit of Urbanism celebrates this legacy.”

On the Move… 

Bonny Matheson-Capobianco,president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) has been nominated by Mayor Riordan to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. 

Toby Liebennan, project manager for Kosmont & Associates has accepted a new position as Director of Housing for the Venice Community Housing Corporation(VCHC). David Kramer, current Director of Housing for VCHC and former editor of The Planning Report, is leaving Los Angeles to return to his native New York. 

Don McIntyre, President of the Central City Association (CCA), is leaving the downtown business organization to serve as General Manager of the Orange County Sanitation Districts. Carol Schatz, VP for Government Affairs at CCA and MTA Board Member is taking his place. Lou Moench has been appointed to the Santa Monica Planning Commission, replacing Pam O'Connor who was elected to the City Council.

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