SOUTH GATE — A proposal to build a regional high school in this city to relieve crowding in Southeast schools has gotten off to a rocky start.
Long before the designation of a final site for the high school--which would be the first to be built by the district since 1971--business owners and residents alike are jockeying to ensure that their properties are not condemned for the project.
That was the situation Monday as members of the South Gate Business and Property Owners Assn. showed up in force at a City Council meeting to make their points before the process moves any further.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has been considering several sites in the city for the project that involves a high school for students from South Gate, Huntington Park, Bell and Cudahy, and the relocation of Tweedy Elementary School in South Gate.
One of the areas is roughly 60 acres bordered by Atlantic, Southern and Salt Lake avenues, Burtis Street and Aldrich Road. It is in this area that most of the members of the association live or work.
First Step Taken
The City Council--which has not committed itself to a site--took a first step in its efforts to work with the district in selecting a site when it approved a resolution, with Councilman Odell L. Snavely dissenting, calling for a study of several places where the high school could be built.
The proposal is the result of several discussions with the district about a joint venture to build the schools. The proposal would allow the city to have some role in selecting a site for the schools, which would be built side by side; in turn the city would create a redevelopment area around the two schools and share the revenue with the school district.
Roger Hutchinson, a consultant hired by the property owners association, said the group's prime concern is the loss of about 800 jobs in the industrial pocket east of Atlantic Avenue. The area is made up of 35 small light- and heavy-industrial manufacturers.
He also said many companies could not afford the cost of relocation and may be forced to close or move outside of South Gate.
"Instead of taking 60 acres that have producing companies and throw 800 people out of work, the district should find a site where they're not displacing industries and homes," Hutchinson said in an interview. "Individual owners are fearful of the adverse effect. They will not be able to continue."
Litany of Complaints
Such a litany of complaints will likely be repeated throughout South Gate, where there is little undeveloped land. Andrew Pasmant, director of community development, said there is less than 1% vacant land left in the city. If a school is built in South Gate, Pasmant said, it is certain that there will be some displacement of merchants, residents or businesses.
Ron Mobley, who owns the Accurate Weld Testing Lab on Tweedy Boulevard, said he built his business from scratch and is not willing to move elsewhere.
"This property represents my retirement income," he said, noting that overhead costs for his 12-year-old business may jump by more than 100% if he has to move. Mobley, who sits on the association's industrial committee, said he would move out of the city if his property is condemned for development of the schools.
And the council recognizes that final site selection will not be easy.
"If (the district) is going to build another school and they put it on residential property, that's going to take guts. If they put it on industrial property, that's going to take guts. If they put it on commercial property, that's going to take guts," Councilman Henry C. Gonzalez said. "I won't play politics with this thing. I'm supportive of looking at that area as well as other areas."
Gathering the Facts
Mayor John F. Sheehy said the city has committed itself to nothing but gathering the facts about a joint redevelopment project with the district. Sheehy repeatedly stressed that the decision will not be made until after public hearings are held.
The construction of a school in the industrial area represented by the association is "one of the options open at this moment," Sheehy said. The city "has not committed itself in any way, shape or form to do anything but examine the possibility of putting the school there."
Dominic Shambra, a coordinator in the district's priority housing office, said the district is looking at several sites as well. But he said the district has not targeted an area and will not do so until after the study with the city is completed.
"Hopefully soon, something will begin to emerge," Shambra said, noting that the district will hold meetings to keep the community informed about developments.
Business owners pointed out that at one time, Ameron Co. at Firestone Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, was willing to sell its 40 acres to the district for the high school.