LONG BEACH — Rebuffed last week by its own Redevelopment Agency appointees, a City Council majority now says it wants to change the method by which the city chooses builders for redevelopment sites.
Five of the nine council members, angered by the Redevelopment Agency board's refusal to delay selection of a builder for a prime downtown block, said this week that the agency's selection process needs to be more open and accountable to the public.
In fact, three said they want the City Council to take over all duties of the redevelopment board, which they said acted arrogantly in denying a council request for a two-week delay in selecting a builder for the Landmark-Heartwell site at Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue.
"I would say that if the Redevelopment Agency is not going to listen to the City Council, we definitely need to make some changes. . . . They seem to forget that we are ultimately responsible for their actions," Mayor Ernie Kell said.
Kell said possible changes include council assumption of agency board duties, removal of current board members and altering the makeup of the agency committee that chooses developers.
Kell said he was not sure which option he favors. But councilmen Warren Harwood, Wallace Edgerton and Edd Tuttle said they want the part-time City Council to serve as the redevelopment board--as do many city councils in the state--even though the new duties would add unwanted hours to their work weeks.
As an intermediate step, Tuttle said, he would seek the removal of agency board Chairman Robert Calhoun, whose term expired in 1985 but has not been replaced. Calhoun could not be reached for comment.
Calhoun said he expects Kell to replace him soon. "It's no big deal. I've been here long enough. I'm proud of what we've done," Calhoun said.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude said he wants only to change the makeup of the agency's developer-selection committee so that a majority of voting members would be agency board members appointed by the council, not members of the city staff or hired consultants. Now just two of seven selection-committee members are from the board. The change would make the process "more democratic," Braude said.
Kell and others said the council's request for a board delay on a 5-4 vote Oct. 30 was unprecedented but reasonable, and was not a challenge to the integrity of the agency.
It was an effort, they said, to allow Braude to look into recent complaints from a disgruntled developer that the selection process had been altered partway through. A second developer had also told him in July that he would not submit a proposal for the Landmark site because city management favored the developer that eventually got the job, Braude said.
'I Had Some Questions'
"I'm not saying there was any corruption in this process. What I've heard lately would tend to exclude that," Braude said. "I was not familiar with what the redevelopment process was entirely. . . . I had some questions."
Edgerton and Tuttle also said they had questions about why the partnership of Treptow Development Co. and Cushman Development Co. of Los Angeles was chosen to build a $74-million, 25-story office tower on the northwest corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue. They said they were impressed by the $132-million, 35-story proposal of Kilroy Industries of El Segundo, which had strongly lobbied the council and had complained to Braude and other council members.
(Braude said four of five developers competing for the Landmark site discussed their plans with him. But other council members said only Kilroy approached them.)
"We've got to live with these decisions for 50 years, so the council should certainly be involved in guiding these decisions along," Tuttle said.
Redevelopment Agency officials and a council minority, however, said that council intrusion into the redevelopment process would insert politics into the system and possibly slow new construction.
Council members Thomas Clark, Jan Hall and Ray Grabinski said the Redevelopment Agency has been enormously successful and without a hint of scandal since it was formed in 1975. Councilman Clarence Smith, who took office just two months ago, said he would listen to arguments from both sides with an open mind.
Clark said the council originally created a separate redevelopment board so developers could be assured that politics and campaign contributions would not affect builder selections. Nonetheless, many developers have shown their proposals to council members over the years, Clark and Hall said.
Before the council vote last week, City Manager John Dever warned that a request for a delay in builder selection would "send a message to the developers that the process is not a process which has integrity--one they can count on. . . . You can kiss 10 years of hard work down the drain."
Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Roger Anderman took that same message to the agency board the next morning.