WILMINGTON — In response to residents' calls for controls on high-density apartment development, Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores has agreed to pursue several proposals that could lead to a moratorium on such construction as soon as early March.
At a citizens' planning committee meeting last Tuesday, Flores told an audience of 80 that she would hold a meeting to garner community reaction to two proposals she has developed for limiting high-density apartment construction in Wilmington and Harbor City. The meeting is set for Jan. 14.
If a moratorium results, it would be in effect until revised zoning regulations are adopted for the two harbor-area communities. Zoning regulations in those communities have been under study by the citizens' planning committee for the last 18 months. The study is expected to lead to widespread down-zoning when a community plan is adopted, probably by the end of 1987.
Flores, who has the authority to propose a moratorium for consideration by the Los Angeles City Council, said she will take a formal position on the matter after the public meeting. If she endorses a moratorium and it is approved by the City Council, it could take effect as soon as 45 days afterward, Flores' aide Ann D'Amato said.
The most restrictive of Flores' proposals would impose a moratorium on the development of high-density apartment projects. However, developers would be able to build lower-density projects on properties where high-density construction is now permitted.
That option, Flores said, would essentially cut in half the density of much apartment construction.
Flores' second proposal would pinpoint "problem areas" in the two communities and impose some type of development control or moratorium only on those areas. Problem areas, she said, would be defined as neighborhoods where high-density development conflicts with the zoning revisions the planning group is preparing. She said lower-density building could be permitted in those areas.
As another option, Flores suggested doing nothing while awaiting the planning group's revisions to take effect in about two years.
Flores' action came in the wake of calls for a moratorium by a Wilmington residents' group. The group, Wilmington Home Owners, collected 1,000 signatures supporting controls on apartment development and met with Flores on Oct. 23 to request that she lead a moratorium effort.
At that time, Flores said she needed legal clarification on whether she could take such action. Flores said on Tuesday that she had met with representatives of the city attorney's office and the planning department earlier in the day and developed her proposals at that meeting.
In addition, the citizens' planning committee decided on Oct. 29 to request that controls on apartment development be imposed as soon as possible. The group had expressed hopes that an urgency ordinance implementing their planned zoning revisions might be passed by the City Council later this year when a first draft of the revisions is completed--before the lengthy process of governmental consideration.
However, the city attorney's office said the planning committee's proposal was not legal.
The push by both groups for the restrictions stems from the recent proliferation of high-density apartment construction in Wilmington and Harbor City. According to the homeowners group, about 50 new apartment developments--representing about 1,200 new units--have been constructed or planned during the last year in Wilmington, a community of 40,000.
Residents say the new developments will exacerbate many of the community's already pressing problems, including school overcrowding, traffic congestion, inadequate parking, litter accumulation and lack of police protection.
Each of Wilmington's seven public schools is overcrowded, school district officials say.
Indeed, school board member John Greenwood, who represents Wilmington, urged Flores, in a letter dated Nov. 8, to support a moratorium on building in Wilmington. Greenwood said the school district cannot accommodate its projected growth in enrollment, estimated at an increase of 70,000 students districtwide during the next five years.
"Since Wilmington is the most overcrowded area of those you and I represent," Greenwood wrote, "it is particularly important to limit growth in this area."
However, the idea of a moratorium has come under fire from some Wilmington developers, who say they do not believe that it is necessary.
"We've seen Wilmington start to deteriorate," said developer H.G. Toll, who said he has been building in Wilmington since 1964. "If you stifle growth, you're going to end up with a city that will deteriorate more."
Developer John Bebout, who said he has five Wilmington properties in escrow, said in an interview last week, "I see what we're building as constructive and increasing the tax base, as tearing down old run-down buildings with graffiti and putting up nice ones. . . . I'd just leave town if this comes through. We will drop the escrows we have."
In contrast, the president of Wilmington Home Owners said he believes that even the most restrictive of Flores' proposals may not go far enough. The group has not yet taken a position on the proposals.
Peter Mendoza, also a member of the citizens' planning committee, said the most restrictive proposal is in many areas "adequate and consistent with what the planning committee is doing, but in some other areas it is too permissive. . . . It doesn't come fast enough, either. It's going to take too long for this moratorium to have some impact."