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'Build-Out' Boom Echoes in Hawthorne Homes and Politics

September 29, 1985|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE — David Acheret, Tracey Davis and Kim Hein moved into their spanking new apartment last week.

For these three young emigrants from Dayton, Ohio; Lincoln, Neb.; and Lebanon, Ore.; the 14300 block of South Cerise Avenue has the whiff of adventure, that daring first move from small-town America to the unfamiliar terrain of Los Angeles.

"We have made it to the big city!" Hein said as she lugged a laundry basket full of clothes into the new three-story building.

But to Ana Galvan and the Rev. Austin Williams, both longtime residents of the same block and who are awaiting word that they must move, the area is a sad example of a sleepy neighborhood overtaken by developers.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 6, 1985 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 2 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
A photo caption in the South Bay section Sept. 29 incorrectly described a building under construction and an adjacent home in the 4300 block of 137th Street, Hawthorne. The building has three stories and the adjacent home is one of four bungalow-style single-family dwellings on the lot.

Church Being Sold

"Most of the congregation lived where the new buildings are now," said Williams, whose True Vine Baptist Church building is in escrow.

"We are the poor people here," said Galvan, who drives an ice-cream truck. "We are worrying about when we are going to go."

Hawthorne is in the middle of a building boom.

The changes on South Cerise are being replicated throughout the city: Neighborhoods are vanishing, enriching developers and some residents, enraging many left behind who cannot or do not want to leave. Streetside parking is jammed in some areas. Some schools are packed.

City officials worry how to handle the growth. Some, including Mayor Guy Hocker, a developer as well as a politician, wonder when or whether construction should be halted or limited.

Political contributions by real estate interests and discussion at City Council meetings indicate that development in Hawthorne is fast becoming a major political issue.

The boom--attributed largely to Hawthorne's strategic location close to aerospace employment--is even being interpreted by some as a trend that counters the famed Southern California life style of living far from work and then complaining about clogged freeways.

$58.5 Million in Permits

Figures show a striking burst of residential development in the last eight months.

Construction in 1985 through August has already surpassed previous yearly totals. So far, more than $58.5 million in building permits have been issued--more than double the $24.8 million recorded through August in 1984.

Developers took building permits for 777 units in 1985 through August. The total for all of 1984 was 580. Most of the construction is residential.

Although some predict that rising land prices will slow the boom, the end is not in sight.

"Build-out"--a term for construction of the maximum number of units permitted under existing zoning--would have a dramatic effect on Hawthorne, where the zoning pattern was set in 1963.

Planning Director Jim Marquez's computations indicate that build-out would add 15,473 units to five areas that now have 10,858. The total number of households now in Hawthorne is estimated at 24,594.

Population Could Double

City officials have long known of the potential for intense development. In 1977, a city analysis of the Moneta Gardens area, one of the five areas examined by Marquez, calculated that developers using existing zoning could double the area's population.

"Even though this is an incredible and unlikely event for realistic occurrence--since the population density would be equivalent to about 45,600 per square mile, equal to the most intensive urban areas of the world--the potential for extremely dramatic urbanization is present," the report said.

What was unlikely in 1977 has become more likely in the mid-1980s.

With home ownership economically out of their reach, many people, particularly young adults, look for rental apartments. And at the same time, lower interest rates have spurred construction of rental housing that would not have been profitable before.

Developers of residential housing have been particularly attracted to Hawthorne because many lots that now have single-family homes or small apartment buildings on them are zoned for high-density residential development.

"There are a lot of large lots that have not been fully developed," Hocker said.

Beliefs Being Questioned

The mayor is reconsidering his lifelong belief in the benefits of free-market development. "We are close to having too many apartments. If it was built out to all the zoning . . . without taking into consideration upgrading traffic signals, water and sewer, it would probably be too much," he said.

"I am a Realtor and I am for free enterprise and development and building and all that (but) I would be less than candid if I didn't tell you that being an elected official hasn't modified that philosophy.

"The council in its ultimate wisdom is going to have to monitor so that the quality is not diminished and when they see that it is, take appropriate action, whether it is in the form of a moratorium or down-zoning."

Planning chief Marquez is working on an approach that would permit the same density but soften visual impact through design recommendations. He does not think much of the designs that some developers bring to his office.

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