May 30, 1995 - From the May, 1995 issue

Inside Planning: Around the City and the Region

LA/CRA BUDGET - 41 LAYOFFS 

The CRA board has released a proposed budget for Fiscal year 1995-96 that will barely fund vital programs ranging from promoting economic development to building affordable housing and helping communities recover from the Northridge Earthquake and the 1992 civil disturbance. 

"It's a paradox," said CRA Chairman Dan Garcia. "Our resources are shrinking at a time when the agency is increasingly called upon by the City Council to help spur economic growth in blighted communities throughout the city." Garcia pointed out that debt service on bonds sold to pay for CRA assisted housing, commercial projects and public improvements will consume 55 percent of the resources in the $390 million budget.

The biggest crimp in CRA's budget is the spending cap for the Central Business District, the agency's largest redevelopment project, which costs the agency approximately $125 million per year. Against a backdrop of limited resources, the CRA is proposing to pare its work force by 41 positions from 318 to 277 mostly through attrition including early retirement incentives. The CRA commissioners have transmitted the draft budget to the Mayor and City Council for their review and approval. Following that action, it will be sent back to the CRA Board for agency adoption later this spring.

CEQA UPDATE 

In Baird vs. County of Contra Costa, the court has upheld the County’s adoption of a negative declaration for expansion of a residential addition treatment center. A group of neighbors sued, claiming an EIR was needed to study possible effects from nearby hazardous waste contamination. They argued the existing contamination could adversely affect future residents of the facility, and this impact required preparation of an EIR. 

In reaching its decision, the court emphasized that CEQA is not a panacea for every environmental concern. In response to the neighbors' argument that locating the facility near a hazardous waste site "simply does not make sense," the court noted that any remedy would have to be found in statutes regulating development near hazardous waste sites, not CEQA. Baird may result in significant changes in the way environmental reviews are performed. Many practitioners have assumed an assessment of impacts of the environment on a project is always required by CEQA, but such an analysis might not be necessary depending on the particular characteristics of the project.

SACRAMENTO UPDATE 

In an otherwise lackluster legislative session, rent control legislation seems to be the center of attention with SB 1257 by Senator Jim Costa (D­Fresno). SB 1257 would void vacancy controls in local ordinances, and void rent controls on single-family units, duplexes and condominiums. With the departure of Senator David Roberti, former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vacancy decontrol legislation has its best chance ever of passing the Legislature. SB 1257 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee but a hearing date has not been scheduled. Also, a state ballot measure has qualified for the March, 1996 election to void mobile home rent control. 

Following last year's heated debates on Housing Element Law, two bills are working their way through committee. Another Costa-lead initiative, SB 1073, sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, claims to streamline the certification process and establish quantifiable performance standards for both market rate and lower income housing, but critics claim the reforms are illusionary and would increase the role of the Department of Housing and Community Development. 

SB 936 by Senator Tom Campell (R-Stanford) allows cities to subsidize or rehabilitate housing units to meet their regional need. The bill also creates an independent review of regional needs allocations. SB 936 is supported by the League of California Cities. Both SB 1073 and SB 936 will be heard May 1 in the Senate Housing and Land Use Committee. 

BID GUIDELINES 

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Touted as an innovative form of public/private partnership, Business Improvement Districts (BID), while common in other California cities, experienced a surge of interest in Los Angeles with the success of Old Town Pasadena and Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. However, BIDs have had a slow start in the city of Los Angeles. Los Angeles' first BID, Miracle on Broadway, after just one year in operation is experiencing some opposition from tenants and property owners as it goes before the City for its annual renewal. And the Westwood BID ran into unexpected opposition from office tenants along Wilshire Blvd. which forced a delay in adopting the BID. The Westwood BID is scheduled to go before City Council for approval in May.

In order to quell some of the controversy surrounding Los Angeles BIDs, the City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee over the last year has been developing BID guidelines for the incorporation and operation of BIDs. Some recommendations include restricting funding to non-General Fund sources; establishing a limited number of assessment formulas; additional public hearing at the Committee level; standardize contracts and agreements; and a BID coordinating unit either in the Mayor's Office of Economic Development or the Community Development Department. The BID guidelines are expected to go before City Council by early summer.

CALIFORNIA ECONOMY: REBOUNDING (SLIGHTLY) 

According to the First Interstate Bank Economic Forecast for 1995-96, the California economy is likely to rebound in the next two years. The state's jobless rate continues to make dramatic strides in the right direction with February's unemployment rate at 7.3 percent, its lowest level in four years and down almost three percentage points since January 1994. 

The emerging strength of the state's economy, along with growing consumer confidence, will deliver a jump­ start to California's housing and construction industries, according to the report. First Interstate’s "soft landing" scenario for the U.S. economy will allow long-term interest rates to recede even further. Existing single-family home sales, which advanced 10.5 percent in 1994, are forecast to show additional growth of 5.4 percent and 7.8 percent in 1995 and 1996, respectively. 

ON THE MOVE... 

Jay Stark, editor of The Planning Report, has accepted a new position with The Lee Group. Based in Los Angeles, The Lee Group specializes in the development of residential in-fill projects in the greater Los Angeles region. Chris Steins, a recent graduate of the USC Graduate School for Urban and Regional Planning, will be joining The Planning Report as Associate Editor.

Tom Carroll, former founding executive director of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade and current manager of the Westwood Village Management Corp., overseeing the revitalization of Westwood, has accepted a new position as president of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which oversees a 65-square-block renovation of Sacramento's river front area and old downtown Sacramento. 

Mayor Riordan has appointed Fred G. Zepeda to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Zepeda is vice president of the property management division of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. 

Dwayne G. Lee, Deputy Executive Director for Development at the Port of Los Angeles, has announced his resignation to pursue a position in private industry. In his six-year tenure at the Port of Los Angeles, Lee was responsible for the Engineering, Construction Management, Construction & Maintenance and Environmental Management Divisions which comprise 60 percent of the Port's 750-member staff.

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