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Split Council Halts on March to Reform Redevelopment Agency

November 13, 1986|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — After an emotional debate--punctuated by a finger-pointing confrontation between councilmen Wallace Edgerton and Thomas Clark--a divided City Council on Tuesday backed away from involving itself directly in the redevelopment process.

The council, breaking hastily to attend a Veterans Day ceremony, let die a motion by Councilman Warren Harwood to study ways to make the Redevelopment Agency board more accountable to the council.

But Harwood insisted later that the issue is not dead.

"I'm satisfied the votes were there for a study. . . . we just didn't have a chance to get back to the discussion. But what I think we're going to do now is zero in on exactly what we want, then bring it back. There's no rush," he said.

Harwood also said that the council's questioning of a Redevelopment Agency recommendation on another agenda item, an amendment to the downtown redevelopment plan, showed that it is no longer a "rubber stamp" for redevelopment.

'This Is Extraordinary'

"This is extraordinary, what's happening today. We've had an expression that we're going to be meaningfully involved in redevelopment," Harwood said. The council, after asking why more residential construction was not included in the downtown plan, set a study session on the proposed amendment.

Still, Tuesday's debate, which ended with old adversaries Edgerton and Clark standing face-to-face and exchanging angry whispers behind the council dais, showed that a wide split remains on how involved the council should become in redevelopment.

Five of the nine council members have argued for more involvement in response to a recent agency board refusal to delay selection of a builder, as the council requested Oct. 28 on a 5-4 vote.

But Clark, along with councilmen Ray Grabinski and Clarence Smith, urged the council Tuesday to stay out of redevelopment, which they said has been enormously successful and without a hint of scandal since the agency was formed in 1975.

Highly Charged Debate

And despite the highly charged debate, it seemed Tuesday as if the momentum for a dramatic change in how the Redevelopment Agency does business had diminished.

Harwood, Edgerton and Tuttle said last week that they wanted the council to assume the duties of the redevelopment board, as have many city councils in the state.

Harwood still says the current redevelopment process, in which the agency board operates independently from the council, is "unbalanced to the point of excluding not only the council . . . but the community."

And Edgerton and Tuttle say they remain disturbed by the agency board's rebuff two weeks ago. "That redevelopment process has to be changed. It is not an open process. . . ," Edgerton insisted during the debate.

But in interviews, Tuttle and Edgerton said they are looking for changes that will give the council more say within the existing structure.

New City Manager Awaited

Edgerton said he thinks problems he has with Redevelopment Agency staff members--specifically with Executive Director Roger Anderman--may be resolved by the council's selection of a new city manager. Current manager John Dever, with whom Edgerton has had many disagreements, is retiring Jan 31. Under Long Beach's "strong manager" form of government, the city manager hires the agency's professional staff, while the council appoints the board members. Edgerton said he believes that Anderman was "insubordinate" in asking the board to ignore the council's request for delay last month.

"I will not be making any recommendations today," Edgerton said before the meeting, "because it's up to the new city manager how he makes those changes. . . . Some changes have to be made in attitude" toward the council.

Tuttle, who placed the Redevelopment Agency issue on this week's council agenda, has said he will also focus on selecting a city manager who will welcome council involvement in redevelopment.

Tuttle also said, "Some of my major concerns are going to be addressed shortly" by Kell. Tuttle would not elaborate, but Kell said he has discussed with Tuttle replacement of three of five Redevelopment Agency board members by March.

Chairman to Be Removed

Agency board Chairman Robert Calhoun, whose term expired in 1985 but who has not been replaced, will be removed shortly, Kell said. And board members Ernest Gualderon and Luther Williams, whose second terms expire in March, will also be replaced, Kell said.

"That will just change the whole composition of the board," said Kell, who insisted that replacements would have been made regardless of the current dispute.

Kell said he has talked with Calhoun and Anderman and now thinks that a change in the redevelopment process is not needed.

"I think the system has basically served the city well," Kell said. "This is the first time it's flared up in the 11 years I've been on the council. So that's not too bad."

Council participation in the builder-selection process became an issue two weeks ago, when the council, at the request of Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, asked the agency board not to pick a builder for the Landmark-Heartwell site for two weeks.

Braude said he wanted to look into a complaint from a disgruntled developer that the selection process had been altered partway through. A second developer had also told him that he would not submit a proposal for the Landmark site because city management favored the developer that eventually got the job, Braude said.

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. Edgerton and Tuttle 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.

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