Lomita should consider creating a redevelopment agency if it wants to attract development and pump new life into existing commercial areas, a city-financed study has concluded.
The study by Mark Briggs and Associates, a Los Angeles-based firm, also urges city officials to consider rezoning areas where commercial businesses coexist with others types of development. By permitting only one type of development in a particular area, the city could create clusters of similarly zoned properties that would attract developers, the study states.
"One of the major problems with Lomita is as you go along the major boulevards, it just goes back and forth from housing to commercial to trailer parks," Briggs said in an interview. "There is no real development pattern."
City officials, some of whom have long complained that Lomita's zoning laws allow for a hodgepodge of development in some areas, commissioned the study to determine how to attract and control commercial growth. The study will be discussed by council members at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
Although city officials say Lomita has not experienced a decline in revenue it collects from businesses, primarily through its share of retail sales taxes, it has not seen any real growth in recent years, either.
Meanwhile, Lomita, like other cities, has watched its share of some federal money, such as revenue sharing, disappear in recent years, forcing it to look elsewhere to make up the losses.
However, several City Council members said last week that they are undecided whether a redevelopment agency is the answer. Such an agency would allow the city to declare properties blighted and use eminent domain to acquire them for private development.
Historically, a majority of the City Council has opposed creating a redevelopment agency, and present council members said they are keenly aware of the political upheaval that redevelopment projects have caused in other communities, such as Redondo Beach and Torrance.
"On these redevelopment deals, they usually recall the council," said Councilman Hal Hall. "It's kind of like a burning fuse and you don't know where the bomb is going to go off." Hall said he was leaning against forming a redevelopment agency but was still undecided.
Nevertheless, Mayor Bob Hargrave and other council members say that one obstacle Lomita faces in attracting developers is that there are no large tracts of land available. City officials are continually approached by developers who want to locate in Lomita if enough acreage for a large development can be secured, the council members said.
Hargrave and other city officials also said that because there are no large parcels available, many developments in Lomita are small and lack uniformity with surrounding businesses.
"There are areas out there that to some degree are being mis-developed," Councilman Peter Rossick said. "You've got a few good things that have gone in, but the rest of it is being built piecemeal."
Besides addressing the city's zoning laws and the creation of a redevelopment agency, the study recommends that Lomita embark on a marketing program to attract potential developers to the city, and establish a "business improvement district" to develop ongoing promotional activities for existing merchants.
The study also recommends that the city target four areas for commercial upgrading. The areas include the north side of Lomita Boulevard between Crenshaw Boulevard and a block west of Lucille Avenue; the four corners of Lomita Boulevard and Narbonne Avenue; the northeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Narbonne, and the northeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Eshelman Avenue.