The Los Angeles Planning Commission has endorsed Hollywood's proposed redevelopment plan and, in a precedent-setting move, has added a provision that would commit the plan to provide funds for social services.
The commission's decision Thursday to exact a social service financing fee from private developers broke new ground in the city redevelopment process. Previous plans had exacted fees from developers, but only for arts projects.
Under the new provision, the fee--1% of new building costs--would be used for both art and social service projects. "I think there's a consensus in the Hollywood community that this (social service fee) needs to be part of the plan from the very beginning," said Planning Commisioner William G. Luddy.
The commission approved the social service fee just before it voted unanimously to send the proposed redevelopment plan to the City Council's Planning and Environment Committee. The plan still requires approval by the full council before it can be implemented.
The plan has been radically altered in recent weeks as 13th District Councilman Michael Woo, who represents Hollywood, ordered changes that gave higher priorities to solving social ills, protecting historic buildings and aiding residents and businesses displaced by renewal projects.
In the past two weeks, Hollywood residents and merchants also pressed for a specific financial commitment to social programs. They deluged the Planning Commission with requests for a fee that could help social service agencies contend with the area's problems involving runaways, the homeless, the elderly and children.
One merchant, coffee shop owner Doreet Rotman, persuaded 560 people to sign a petition requesting a fee solely for social services. Planning Commissioner Suzette Neiman agreed with Rotman's request. But in the end, the commission voted to combine arts and social service needs in one fee.
The new provision would require that the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which oversees Hollywood renewal, collect 1% of all new building costs from every private project built in the redevelopment district. That money would be spent each year--in varying degrees--on arts and social service projects.
Donald Cosgrove, acting director of the redevelopment agency, was cautious about the size of the fund. "People should recognize that we're not talking about a lot of dollars," he said.
Cosgrove said most social service agencies would have to obtain their financing from the tax increment financing that the agency hopes to win for the proposed Hollywood plan. Such financing comes from a special pool of funds collected by the taxing agencies within a local redevelopment district.
The redevelopment agency expects Hollywood's revitalization to cost from $572 million to $920 million over a 30-year period. Planners hope to transform Hollywood's blighted core into a thriving 1,100-acre community of offices, theaters, homes and apartments and parks.
Despite the likelihood that social services money may not amount to much, the Planning Commission's action signals the importance that Hollywood community leaders attach to human concerns.
Hollywood activists have long demanded a specific financial commitment to social services.
Rotman, who had called for such a commitment for the past two years, had a mixed reaction to the new fee. "It's better than nothing," she said. "But it's still not enough."
In another change announced last week, the proposed Hollywood plan will include an incentive for developers to preserve historic buildings. Developers who agree not to demolish historic structures would be granted extra density allowances which they could use on other projects.
The proposed plan would also include a "disincentive" that would punish developers who demolished historic buildings. In such cases, developers would automatically be disqualified from receiving any density bonuses or other aid from the redevelopment agency.