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Spending Up 43% : Big Cerritos Budget Aids Mall Project

June 26, 1986|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — With the approval of a record $87.4-million spending plan for the next year--43% bigger than this year's budget--the City Council has sent residents two distinct signals.

First, the council appears firmly committed to pushing ahead with the Towne Center development, a $225-million mix of high-rise offices, a major shopping mall and a hotel on 125 acres across from City Hall.

In the new budget, the council has pledged $13.3 million for street and freeway improvements around the Towne Center site and a $5-million, interest-free construction loan for the hotel developer, Transpacific Development Co. of Torrance.

The second message emerging from the new budget is apparently aimed at critics of the council who have complained about maintenance of city streets, sidewalks and public lands. Before adopting the budget on June 19, council members added about $54,000 for expanded street sweeping and sidewalk repairs, the first of several moves, they said, to tidy up the city.

Money for Towne Center

While general fund expenditures are about the same, roughly $35 million, spending for redevelopment projects in fiscal 1986-87 will be double this year's, with the bulk of the money going for Towne Center, expansion of the Auto Square, water reclamation and freeway sound walls.

The city is moving nearly $22 million from general fund reserves to cover redevelopment spending increases, said John Saunders, the city's director of internal affairs. That leaves city reserves at about $5 million, he said.

As part of the new budget, the council also agreed to spend $600,000 to install curbs and sidewalks along Studebaker Road between 195th Street and Del Amo Avenue, and another $100,000 to draw plans for the expansion of Liberty Park in the same area. Officials said appropriations for the two projects were at least a year away.

Pressure from west side residents as well as complaints about a do-nothing council during the recent spring elections prompted the spending changes, officials said.

While minor in the context of the hefty budget package, council members acknowledged it is an indication that more attention will be focused on improving city maintenance and services.

"The signal has been sent from the people to the council . . . that maintenance is a priority concern," said Councilwoman Ann B. Joynt who was elected in April after trumpeting the maintenance issue during her campaign. "Finally, I think the council is listening."

Mayor Don Knabe agreed that there is "probably a heightened awareness" about the city's condition.

However based on the budget, the emphasis in the coming year is still on growth in a city that has developed from a string of dairies three decades ago into a robust municipality with few financial worries.

In fiscal year 1985-86, the city operated on a $61-million budget, including $26 million for redevelopment projects and $35 million for general fund expenditures, like salaries, police and fire protection and maintenance. Redevelopment spending in next year's budget, however, has zoomed to $51.8 million.

Besides Towne Center projects, the council, acting as the city's redevelopment agency, budgeted about $10.7 million to expand the Cerritos Auto Square for four new dealerships. It also appropriated $4.4 million for construction of a water reclamation system to carry treated waste water from the county treatment plant near Iron-wood Golf Course to various city parks and greenbelts.

Other Projects

In addition, the council budgeted $2.9 million to complete nearly 4.5 miles of buffer walls along the 91 and 605 freeways and another $2 million to purchase land in the city to build a sports complex with lighted softball, football and soccer fields.

In recent years, the city has banked large chunks of sales tax revenues with an eye toward the Towne Center project and expansion of the Auto Square, which generates nearly $2 million a year in income for Cerritos. By adding four dealers, officials contend that the Auto Square will be California's largest, with annual sales tax revenues topping $2.5 million a year.

In the new budget, a third of the redevelopment money will be spent on the Towne Center. Work is scheduled to begin in the coming fiscal year on the extension of Shoemaker Avenue from Artesia Boulevard south over the 91 Freeway to 183rd Street as well as on-ramps and off-ramps from Shoemaker to the freeway. Cost of the project is roughly $8.3 million.

The city also will spend $5 million to build several streets on the Towne Center site, currently a large vacant lot bounded by Bloomfield Avenue, 183rd and the freeway.

Because of its choice location next to the freeway and across from City Hall the site is called the Golden Triangle.

Under terms of the development agreement, the Towne Center developers must repay the city for the street construction within 20 years, according to Art Gallucci, assistant city manager and the city's lead negotiator on the development.

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