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Supports Eminent Domain, Downzoning : Woo Stands Firm on Hollywood Plan

April 20, 1986|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Councilman Michael Woo says that he is not likely to accept any major revisions in the proposed Hollywood Redevelopment Plan scheduled for City Council action on Friday.

Woo referred specifically to the DeLongpre Park area, where property owners have mounted a campaign against a proposed reduction in zoning from high-density (16 units per lot) to low-density housing (four units per lot).

The proposed reduction accounted for most of the opposition expressed Wednesday at a daylong public hearing before a joint meeting of the council and the board of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Several speakers contended that the downzoning, in combination with the agency's power of eminent domain, threatened to rout residents from their single-family homes built in the 1920s and 1930s.

The area is bounded by Wilcox, Fountain and LaBrea avenues and Sunset Boulevard. Marion B. Hartley's complaints were typical. "We do not want to lose our homes," she said, "particularly through eminent domain. I do not think anyone has the right to make us sell our homes."

'Legitimate Concerns'

"Obviously," Woo said, "there are some legitimate concernsamong the residents for the protection of their property. But their fears about eminent domain being used to change that particular area have been grossly exaggerated.

"The downzoning has been proposed to protect a viable single-family area from continued encroachment of large apartment buildings and to preserve a good residential community" by eliminating the pressure to sell to those who want to convert the single-family homes into large apartment houses.

He said he will discuss the area with members of the redevelopment agency board to determine whether there is any sentiment for allowing the existing zoning to stand. "I am not ruling out such a possibility," Woo said. "But I would have to be persuaded that downzoning the area is not in the best interests of the community."

Woo said that he will not back off the agency's request for the power of eminent domain, which allows the forced acquisition of property at fair market value. Many speakers at Wednesday's hearing compared the power of eminent domain to that held by communist and Nazi governments.

"Eminent domain is a seldom-used but necessary tool of redevelopment," Woo said. "It will be used only in rare instances, such as where maybe only one property owner among 50 refuses to agree to a proposal.

"Some people are afraid that the redevelopment of Hollywood is going to be like urban renewal was in the 1950s and '60s, where there was an excess of lot clearance to make way for new buildings. Eminent domain is going to be used judiciously here."

Marshall Caskey, chairman of the Project Area Committee, a citizens advisory group to the Community Redevelopment Agency, said that the power of eminent domain has been a divisive issue in Hollywood, but that a majority of the 25 members of the committee favor granting that power to the agency.

"It is an extreme concept," Caskey said, "allowing an agency to take land from an owner and turn it over to another owner. But we came to the conclusion that nothing could be accomplished in areas that need rebuilding without eminent domain.

"If the agency tried to use its power unfairly, there would be a political firestorm against it because the democratic process will not have been suspended. This is not like the Kremlin or some alien beings from Mars administering redevelopment in Hollywood."

The proposed Hollywood Redevelopment Area is bounded roughly by La Brea Avenue on the west, Serrano Avenue on the east, Franklin Avenue on the north and Fountain Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard on the south.

According to the 1980 Census, 21% of the 37,000 residents live in poverty (compared to 13% citywide) and the average family income of $15,000 is substantially below the citywide average of $26,000. There also is a steady deterioration of buildings in the area.

Financing for the 30-year life of the redevelopment project would come primarily from tax increment bonds, which would be funded by increases in property values dating from the establishment of the redevelopment plan. Estimated cost of the plan is $922 million.

At Friday's meeting, the council will hear from various taxing agencies affected by a loss of tax revenues from the plan.

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