SACRAMENTO — Under pressure from community groups, Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk) has shelved legislation that critics contend was designed to limit the scope of a court ruling in a controversial Downey redevelopment case and weaken safeguards in state redevelopment law.
Grisham, who is campaigning for a state Senate seat, said his aim was merely to fine-tune current law. However, his bill has upset officials of a Downey citizens group and triggered opposition by homeowner groups from Baldwin Park to Hollywood.
As a result of the dispute, Grisham last week withdrew his bill from a hearing before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.
Under current redevelopment law, cities must seek out people who live in a proposed redevelopment area to form an independent committee to review proposals aimed at luring new business to blighted areas and increasing property tax revenues.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in 1985 that in forming a 305-acre redevelopment project along Firestone Boulevard, the city of Downey had "abused its discretion" by not following state law in the way it notified residents about the formation of the committee.
Grisham, at the urging of the city of Downey and the Downey Chamber of Commerce, sought passage of a bill to relax the law and allow cities to play a greater role in the formation of the project committees, changing what is supposed to be an arm's-length relationship between the cities and the committees.
Lorin Lovejoy, secretary for the Baldwin Park Homeowners Group, hailed Grisham's move, saying the legislation would have allowed "the criminal to choose his own judge and jury."
The homeowners group filed a lawsuit against Baldwin Park last year, charging that the City Council's appointment of a committee for a controversial redevelopment project was illegal because residents were not allowed to become involved in the selection process. A trial date has been set for June 15.
"The fact is that if this bill sponsored by Grisham (had) been approved, it would have emasculated our suit," Lovejoy said.
The Sierra Vista Redevelopment Project was approved by the council last July. It was also approved by voters in a November referendum forced by the homeowners group. The project calls for the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to receive up to $180 million in taxes to help finance commercial and industrial development along the San Bernardino Freeway.
In explaining his withdrawal of the bill, Grisham said he was especially upset about opposition voiced by Christopher Sutton, a lawyer for Downey Citizens Against Redevelopment Excesses (Downey CAREs), a 50-member citizens group that won the 1985 court case against the city of Downey. The city has appealed the decision.
In addition, Hollywood residents have filed a lawsuit charging that Los Angeles and its Community Redevelopment Agency illegally structured the Project Area Committee to favor big-business interests.
Although most of the 1,100-acre Hollywood project area is residential, the city created nine committee seats for business and warehouse owners and eight seats for homeowners and apartment t1701732718categories were established for warehousing interests and for community organizations to enable "businesses, in particular members of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce . . . to acquire a disproportionately large . . . number of seats" on the committee.