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Won't Buy Apartment Site : Planning Chief Drops Bid for Zone Change

March 08, 1985|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Planning Commission President Dan Garcia on Thursday dropped his request for a zone change that would have allowed construction of a Canoga Park apartment project with nearly twice the units permitted under the community's land-use plan, for which he earlier had voted.

Garcia had been severely criticized by Councilman Ernani Bernardi for seeking approval to build 42 units on the land, which would be zoned under the community plan for no more than 22 units. Garcia attempted to purchase the property, which was in escrow, but said Thursday that he was canceling the deal because of the controversy over his request for a zone change.

Cancellation of Deal Costly

Garcia said that exercising an option that allowed him to terminate the deal cost him from $4,000 to $5,000.

Bernardi also contended that Garcia received special treatment from the City Council's Board of Referred Powers, which voted, 3 to 2, Tuesday to recommend that the full council approve Garcia's request. The board, composed of five council members, acts on potential conflict-of-interest cases. Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores also had voted against the application, saying she was concerned about the timing of Garcia's request.

At Thursday's Planning Commission meeting, Garcia announced that he not only had withdrawn his application for a zone change, but also had abandoned his financial interest in the property on De Soto Street between Sherman Way and Valerio Street. He said he had done so, not because he had done anything wrong, but because the controversy had interfered with his pursuit of important commission business.

Attention Called Unfair

Garcia lashed out out at what he complained was the unfair attention paid to his request, calling news stories about his project "cheap sensationalism."

"I never asked for any special consideration," Garcia said. The council has approved a number of zone changes similar to his request, he said.

"In fact, Councilman Bernardi has voted for several" of the zone changes, he said.

Garcia had earlier defended his request by saying that community plans are designed to serve only as guidelines for development. "I didn't give up my rights as a citizen when I became a commissioner," he said, referring to his rights to seek changes in community plans.

Vote Issue Called a Factor

Garcia said Thursday that, besides to cut short any negative publicity, he was worried that ownership of the land might have prevented him from voting on an important issue before the commission. He said there may have been a conflict of interest that would have caused him to disqualify himself from a vote on setting up a procedure to make city zoning conform to more restrictive local land-use plans.

During the commission meeting, Garcia received a hug of support from Suzy Neiman, the only Valley resident on the commission.

Calling the attack on Garcia "totally unwarranted," Neiman told the commission president, "I just want you to know that I love you. I'm sorry you had to go through this."

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