PICO RIVERA — The City Council has approved a tentative plan that would double the size of the city's redevelopment area, drawing in mostly vacant land but also aging industrial, commercial and residential properties.
The City Council approved the preliminary boundaries of the expanded redevelopment area on a 4-0 vote earlier this week. Councilman Alberto Natividad did not attend the meeting.
The action sets into motion further study of the proposed expansion. The City Council authorized Councilman John Chavez to begin negotiations with Los Angeles County, which owns portions of the land in the proposed area.
Before the expansion is final, the Planning Commission and City Council must notify all property owners and users in the affected areas and hold public hearings. The expansion could be complete in six months to a year, City Manager Dennis Courtemarche said.
The current redevelopment area encompasses 675 acres. It is centered on Whittier Boulevard, the heart of the city's commercial district, from the Rio Hondo to the San Gabriel River.
Key in the expansion is a large swath of undeveloped county-owned land which is bordered on the north by Loch Lomond Drive and extends south to Telegraph Road. The land is bordered by the Rio Hondo on the west and Paramount Boulevard on the east.
Some light industry is included in the area, but residential sections west of Paramount Boulevard and neighborhoods north of Slauson Avenue have been excluded.
The undeveloped land covers ground-water basins, and the county has balked at past efforts to build there because development could prevent rainwater from replenishing ground-water supplies, officials said.
The land has become increasingly important to the city, which is running out of vacant land, Courtemarche said.
'Tremendous Demand' for Land
"We have been approached by every type of developer--residential, commercial and industrial," he said. "With the tremendous demand for land, that may be something the county may want to consider for future development. The county will ultimately determine what we can and can't do."
The Pico Rivera Municipal Golf Course also is included, as is an industrial and residential area just north of Whittier Boulevard and west of the San Gabriel River. Pico Rivera Hospital and Meller Junior High School also are included in the proposed expansion.
Courtemarche said there are no specific plans or projects for the expanded redevelopment area, including the city-owned golf course.
The city manager said further study will be needed to determine exactly how many residents and businesses would be affected by the proposed expansion.
There was no public opposition to the proposed expansion at Monday night's meeting, but Rendel Levonian, Pico Rivera Community Hospital administrator, contacted city officials because he was concerned how the 95-bed general hospital would be affected.
"We're the only hospital in the city and I would expect the city fathers to tell us something about (the proposed expansion). It seems to be the proper thing to do," Levonian said in an interview earlier this week.
Levonian said that until he has more information, he is neither for nor against the expansion.
The proposed expansion is the latest action by the City Council in its campaign to rebuild Pico Rivera's aging facade of industry, small retail stores, takeout restaurants, homes and vacant lots.
Whittier Boulevard had its heyday as the area's commercial center in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, when it was surrounded by ranching communities. But many of its buildings were already in need of repair by the time Pico Rivera was incorporated in 1958, city officials have said.
The city's Redevelopment Agency was formed in 1974. The city has several jewels to display for its efforts, including Pico Rivera Plaza, which opened on Whittier Boulevard in 1980, and 370 new homes built along Gallatin Road in the northern part of the city.
3 More Shopping Centers
Construction of three more shopping centers along Whittier Boulevard is to begin early next year. Those developments are expected to generate $1 million in annual sales tax revenue and create hundreds of jobs in retail sales and services for the city, Courtemarche has said.
The redevelopment projects also generate millions of dollars in additional property tax revenue for the city, which uses the money for public improvements and additional redevelopment projects.
But small business owners and residents have felt the effect of redevelopment and city officials acknowledge the proposal could generate opposition in the community.
More than 160 families have been relocated and 55 of 74 businesses along Whittier Boulevard have been closed or relocated, city officials have said. The city had to file 22 condemnation lawsuits.