More than 100 Lomita residents crowded into City Council chambers this week to protest a consultant's recommendation that the city consider forming a redevelopment agency.
Only a handful of residents spoke in favor of the proposal, which was one of a number of recommendations in a city-financed report on how Lomita can attract and control commercial growth.
Monday night's meeting was called by city officials to discuss the report. Although 50 residents were invited to attend after their names were culled from voter registration lists, more than 100 turned out.
A majority of those who showed up to speak against the formation of a redevelopment agency were officials from St. Mark's Presbyterian Church and the South Bay Co-Operative Pre School, which holds its classes at the church. The church is on Pennsylvania Avenue in one of four areas that the Los Angeles-based consulting firm of Mark Briggs & Associates said should be considered for commercial upgrading.
"St. Mark's objects to the idea of a redevelopment agency and will use all available resources to defeat such a plan," said Patricia Painter, the church's attorney.
Council members attempted to soothe fears about redevelopment, a process that allows cities to declare properties blighted and use eminent domain to acquire them for private development. Historically, a majority of the City Council members have opposed redevelopment.
"We don't want to touch a church with a 10-foot pole," said Mayor Robert Hargrave.
City officials say Lomita has not experienced a decline in the revenue it collects from businesses, primarily through its share of retail sales taxes, but it has not seen any real growth in recent years, either.
No Large Tracts
The officials say Lomita faces obstacles in attracting large developers because there are no large tracts available. The problem is compounded because zoning laws allow commercial and residential construction to exist side by side.
Besides considering a redevelopment agency, the study urges city officials to consider rezoning areas where commercial businesses co-exist with other types of development.
It also recommends that the city embark on a marketing program to attract potential developers and establish a "business improvement district" to develop promotional activities for merchants.
Lomita's six planning commissioners attended the meeting but none commented on the report. Council members scheduled a meeting with the commissioners Sept. 28 to discuss the report.