June 30, 1996 - From the June, 1996 issue

Inside Planning: MTA Major Investment Study, Playa Vista Groundbreaking, and more!

MTA Major Investment Study—The MTA board at its May meeting adopted the MIS, which offers ten alternatives—including heavy and light-rail—for providing rail transit across the San Fernando Valley. The board voted to study the environmental impacts of both heavy and light rail, although along two different routes. A variety of Valley associations have opposed light rail as too disruptive. 

L.A. Community Development Bank C. Robert Kemp will take the reins in June as the Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Community Development Bank (CDB). Kemp is a 28-year veteran of community and economic development efforts both in Los Angeles and in Washington D.C. For the past 17 years, Kemp has been President and CEO of the Opportunity Funding Corp., a Los Angeles-based, privately-funded non­profit development organization. The CDB is an innovative public-private partnership between the federal government, City and County of Los Angeles and local community and commercial lenders, who have together generated $640 million to invest in a 19-square mile Los Angeles Empowerment Zone. 

Tax Credit Allocations—After taking heat from developers and investors concerned about the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee's (TCAC) 1996 allocation plan, some insiders are crediting the Committee with accomplishing its policy goal. The "credit utilization" goal was to increase the number of families served per dollar of tax credit. The new allocations yield 21 % more units (1,150 more families) per dollar of tax credit than last year. 

The Committee is still being criticized for encouraging developers to cut operating expenses or reduce project quality to meet the targeted goals. The lowest projected operating expenses were $1,700 per unit per year, not including taxes and reserves. 

New Fight At Lopez Canyon—Although the controversial closure of the landfill is only a month away, the site is still generating debate. The L.A. City Council must decide how to spend an estimated $500,000 per year from the sale of methane gas generated by the site and used by a private company to generate electricity. Proposals include spending the funds on community environmental programs. 

Playa Vista Groundbreaking—Construction began in May on the 51-acre freshwater marsh and riparian corridor, which is the initial step in the restoration and creation of 350 acres of habitat on Playa Vista, the much-publicized planned residential community and new home of DreamWorks, SKG. The corridor includes the Ballona Wetlands, and will be the largest wildlife sanctuary in any U.S. city when complete.

City Budget Impacts Planning—With a June 20 budget deadline hanging over the Mayor and City Council, a Council version of the budget is due to be submitted to the Mayor in early June. Under the Mayor's proposed budget, the L.A. City Planning Department would lose 19 positions. This budget will represent the sixth consecutive year of reductions.

By the way, the mission of the Planning Department is: To provide sound professional land use guidance and the highest level of technical service to achieve safe and healthy residential neighborhoods and a secure business climate which fosters sustained economic growth.

UN Conference: Habitat II—More than 25,000 political and social leaders and experts in housing, construction, finance, urban planning and community development are expected to converge on the two-week, United Nations-sponsored conference on Human Settlements, beginning June 3 in Istanbul, Turkey. Participants at Habitat II, which comes 20 years after the first Habitat conference in Vancouver, Canada, expect to generate a comprehensive plan of action for improving urban life in the 21st Century.

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Despite threats that Cardinal Roger Mahoney may relocate the new cathedral outside of downtown Los Angeles, the architect selection process has narrowed to three candidates to design the new $45 million cathedral. Finalists include Santa Monica architects Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne, and Jose Rafael Moneo of Madrid, Spain. A final decision is expected in early June. 

Mayor Riordan's right-hand man, Chief Operating Officer Mike Keeley, announced his resignation in late May, following two reviews stating that Keeley made "mistakes" in a recent incident of leaking confidential legal document.

John D. Hwang, mathematician, engineer, and 20-year federal servant, is scheduled to become the City of Los Angeles' first General Manager of the newly-formed Information Technology Agency, created last year from three other City departments. 

Labor officials last week elected Miguel Contreras as Executive Secretary of the L.A. County Federation of Labor. He is the first Latino to hold the post, and succeeds James Wood, who was also Chair of the LA/CRA. 

Michael DiGirolamo, former deputy Executive Director of Operations for the Dallas, Fort Worth International Airport, has been named Director of Airport Operations for the Los Angeles Department of Airports.

State Legislation

Restrictions on Development Fees (AB 3053-Brulte). The bill would prohibit a local agency from imposing a charge on a development or construction activity for general revenue purposes, and would restrict charges or exactions on development or construction activities. The bill, similar to one supported last year by the Building Industry Association, and opposed by cities, will be heard in the Assembly in early June. 

Redevelopment—Prohibition on use of eminent domain (AB 2569- Knowles). After strong opposition, the bill was pulled from the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee agenda in May. The measure would have provided that a redevelopment agency may not acquire property through eminent domain if the project involves the acquisition of a privately-owned business for the eventual use by another privately-owned business. Absent a special rule waiver for a late hearing, the bill appears to be dead. 

Site Identification in Housing Element (AB 3452-Brown). The bill would allow local jurisdictions to expand the types of sites that could be counted under existing requirements that cities and counties identify adequate sites to meeting housing needs. Status: Passed the Assembly Local Government Committee.

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