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Advisory Group's 'Point Man' Exits to Mixed Reviews : Hollywood Redevelopment Chairman to Step Down

July 31, 1986|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Marshall A. Caskey, whose temper sometimes obscured his effectiveness as Hollywood redevelopment's foremost advocate, has decided to step down as chairman of the Hollywood Redevelopment Project Area Committee.

Caskey has been chairman of the 25-member committee since it was formed three years ago as the chief community advisory group to the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

The 43-year-old lawyer said in an interview that he is relinquishing the chairmanship because he has accomplished his major goal of creating a redevelopment district in Hollywood.

He acknowledged, too, that burnout and fatigue were factors in his decision. "Part of good leadership is knowing when to get in and when to get out," Caskey said. "For me, it's time to get out. I'm tired of being the point man for redevelopment."

Caskey's term as chairman will end Monday when the committee is scheduled to elect new officers. He will not run for executive office, but will, however, remain on the committee as a member.

He Has Temper and Wit

Caskey's leadership was widely praised by his associates on the committee. If he has a weakness, several sources on the committee said, it is a volatile temper, combined with an acerbic wit, that could wither his opponents and frustrate his friends.

Caskey acknowledged that he does, indeed, have a temper. "I do get angry," he said. "And it is not a very politic way of conducting business. I guess it comes from being a lawyer, a profession in which everything is based on winning and loosing."

One of his main antagonists has been Doreet Rotman, who has contended that the committee was dominated by big business representatives.

Rotman, born in Transylvania and owner of a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, is a long-time critic of the $922-million, 1,100-acre Hollywood Redevelopment Project. She maintains that the plan lacks protections for small business owners and residents.

Not on Speaking Terms

She was expert at getting under Caskey's skin, precipitating clashes so intense that the two are not speaking. "You get tired of people nipping at your heels," Caskey said. "I kind of snarled at her the last time we met."

Rotman, nevertheless, had nothing but laudatory comments to make about Caskey, even though she said his temper tantrums at meetings caused her great distress.

"I used to take his attacks personally," she said, "until I realized that he was not malicious or intended to hurt anyone. At the same time, he would spend hours with me in his office trying to help me explain my position better.

"Obviously he accomplished what the majority of the committee wanted, and I was in opposition to the majority. But he was, at least in the beginning, very fair and helpful to me."

'Very Effective' Leader

Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the committee, described Caskey as "very effective" in leading the group.

But Welsh and Caskey did not start off as bosom buddies. In 1983, when the committee was established, Caskey at first ran unopposed for the chairmanship.

Welsh, at the urging of then-Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson of the 13th District, threw his hat in the ring, losing to Caskey by one vote.

"Marshall was not very happy with me at that time," Welsh said. "But we were able to work together and I never regretted losing to him. There was no way that I could have improved on his leadership of the committee."

Caskey's main detractor on the committee is Brian Moore, a Hollywood Hills residential activist who maintains that Caskey has furthered the ideals of big development in the community. "That is our basic disagreement because I favor more rehabilitation of older buildings," Moore said.

Critic of Election

Moore is leading an attempt to overturn portions of the most recent committee election. He and others, including Rotman, contend that the election, held in June to choose 12 new members, was conducted improperly, that the provision for runoffs was not announced, and that some of the people elected were not qualified for the positions they sought.

Caskey said that implicit in Moore's complaints about the election is that the election was "somehow rigged, that we weren't straight" in the election process.

He said that the only time the committee was open to such a charge was when Moore, at Caskey's urging, was appointed to the committee in 1984, even though there was some question of whether he was eligible to serve.

Financial Benefit Denied

Some of his critics have suggested privately that Caskey somehow has benefited financially from the creation of the redevelopment district.

"I have not benefited financially at all from redevelopment," Caskey said. "My law practice would be far better off had I not volunteered all that time to the committee. The only benefit I will get from redevelopment is indirect. If redevelopment improves Hollywood, as I believe it will, my law practive will improve, too."

Caskey is politically well-connected. An activist Democrat, he is a close associate of state Senate Majority Leader David Roberti and is on friendly terms with Hollywood Councilman Michael Woo.

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