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Long-Sought Aid to Southeast Cities Included in Bill on Governor's Desk

September 17, 1987|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — As part of a compromise hammered out just before it adjourned for the year last Saturday, the Legislature passed a long-sought proposal to aid dozens of small cities, including 17 Southeast communities.

The legislation, tied to an overhaul of state court funding, was pushed by former Norwalk Assemblyman Joe Gonsalves, now a Sacramento lobbyist, to aid area cities he represents. The cities levy no property tax or have low property tax rates.

"We've been harping on it for about four years, and the Legislature finally wanted to deal with it," said Gonsalves, who prowled Capitol corridors last week seeking support from lawmakers. Among the cities expected to benefit would be Cerritos, Bellflower, Lakewood, Norwalk, Paramount and Whittier.

Other legislation approved last week pumps money into Southeast parks and swimming pools; sets aside $350,000 to study the deterioration of homes because of crumbling foundation slabs; authorizes leasing of surplus land at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk to care for the homeless, and earmarks $130,000 for a three-year anti-drug program in the Whittier City and East Whittier school districts. All the measures are on Gov. George Deukmejian's desk awaiting action.

Tom Beerman, a spokesman for the governor, said Deukmejian has indicated a willingness to sign the measure to aid the small cities.

The legislation was part of a landmark bill to shift the burden of trial court costs from counties to the state. Under the measure, by Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward), counties would have the option of adopting the transfer. If signed, it could free about $300 million statewide for other programs, including aid to cities with little or no property tax revenue.

Such cities maintain that they have been caught in a fiscal bind since passage in 1978 of tax-cutting Proposition 13, which made it difficult for them to impose new taxes. They say they have grown but have not had the new revenue necessary to pay for services.

However, critics contend that many of the cities have plenty of money and do not need the extra revenue.

One legislative staffer, who asked not to be identified, said the deal was worked out between Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights), Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and Administration officials.

The staffer said Gonsalves, with his low-key but persistent style, finally wore down his former colleagues. The staffer added: "It was time (for Gonsalves) to deliver for his cities."

The aid for the cities would be phased in, with cities getting 10% more each year for the next 10 years. When fully implemented, the measure would cost the state about $220 million a year.

Legislative staffers estimated that in the first year the cities to benefit would include Bell, $20,000; Bell Gardens, $3,100; Bellflower, $100,000; Cerritos, $200,000; Commerce, $150,000; Cudahy, $17,000; Hawaiian Gardens, $16,000; La Mirada, $130,000; Lakewood, $130,000; Montebello, $6,700; Norwalk, $160,000; Paramount, $87,000; Pico Rivera, $130,000; Santa Fe Springs, $90,000; Signal Hill, $61,000; South Gate, $55,000; and Whittier, $15,000.

Other bills aimed at Southeast cities include:

A measure by Speaker Brown that directs about $4 million in state tidelands oil revenues to projects throughout the state, including $150,000 for reconstruction of the Thompson Pool in Bellflower, $100,000 for Norwalk park improvements and $50,000 for a community pool in Cudhahy. There is also $500,000 for the long-sought Downey Municipal Pool, inserted into the bill by Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk).

A bill by Assemblyman Gary Condit (D-Ceres), which has a provision earmarking $350,000 for California State University, Long Beach, for a geologic study of the causes of deteriorating home foundations in Lakewood, La Palma and Cypress.

Residents of the Sunshine Homes tract in Lakewood were among the first to complain about the problem. They maintain that foundations on as many as 100 homes in the tract have begun disintegrating because of acid-like sulfates in the soil.

Experts disagree on why the sulfates are there, but say the only way to save the homes is to replace the foundation slabs with sulfate-resistant concrete at a cost of up to $70,000 per home. The study, to be completed by Dec. 31, 1988, would review water quality, the water table, soil composition and any geologic factors that may be triggering the problem. Among the lawmakers seeking the study were Sen. Cecil Green (D-Norwalk) and Assemblyman Paul Zeltner (D-Lakewood), whose districts include homes with corroded slabs.

Legislation by Sen. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) would allow nonprofit groups to lease surplus state land in five cities, including Norwalk, for $1 a month to provide facilities for homeless people. Green sought to include Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk in the proposal.

Garamendi said the income that could be generated by leasing the land at normal rates would be negligible. But, he said, "to the groups working to meet the needs of the ever-growing homeless population, it too often represents gigantic overhead costs that would be better spent on more meals or more beds."

In a bill authored by Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) and pushed by Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) to allocate $130,000 for the anti-drug program to be operated in public schools by the Whittier Host Lions Club.

Hill, a member of the Host Lions Club, said the funds would be used to train teachers and to purchase instructional materials. In a press release, Hill said the club and the City of Whittier have raised about $27,000 for the project.

Said Hill: "The support of this program means we are taking positive steps to ensure (that) our children avoid the tragic influence drug abuse exerts over too many lives."

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