WHITTIER — The City Council has waived earthquake-related building fees and moved to rescind a landscaping ordinance in the Uptown Village business district in hopes of encouraging merchants and residents to stay in the area.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend fees for building permits, plan checks and demolition related to earthquake damage. The building and planning department will hire two more employees to handle the workload, estimated to increase 160% in the area of building permits alone.
About $100,000 will be lost in fees, city officials said, while costs will go up about $120,000.
The decision to rescind the recently enacted landscaping ordinance came over the objections of Mayor Pro Tem Sabina Schwab, who wanted the council to hear testimony at the Nov. 22 Town Hall meeting before taking action.
The ordinance requires setback landscaping on all new commercial development, which Mayor Gene Chandler said would be difficult on the small Uptown lots. Councilman Victor Lopez said the ordinance would cause one store to lose 40,000 square feet of space.
"I do not think that one bit of the ambiance of the Village would be lost. . .in rebuilding new buildings to the same sidewalk," Chandler said.
Lopez said area merchants could not afford to wait until the Town Hall meeting before starting to rebuild, and he moved that the landscaping ordinance be suspended in the Uptown area. Schwab cast the sole dissenting vote.
However, because the ordinance was not on the official agenda for consideration, the action cannot take effect until the item can be voted on again at next week's meeting.
In other earthquake-related action, the council:
Approved spending $15,000 for a temporary free shuttle service in the Uptown area to transport shoppers to businesses that have moved into temporary in portable structures. The grant will be given to the Whittier Uptown Assn., which will contract with Community Transit Services for the shuttle service. The shuttle will begin within a week and will continue for 60 days.
Extended an emergency ordinance allowing area merchants to relocate to portable, prefabricated structures until September, 1988, and passed an emergency ordinance allowing residents to live in trailers or other temporary housing on their property for 45 days while homes are being repaired.
Approved contributing $100,000 from city reserves to the Whittier Disaster Relief Fund, bringing the fund total to $293,000.
It will be at least two weeks before the city will be able to start its own loan and grant programs, which the council also approved at Tuesday's meeting.
Money for the program will be transferred from four Community Development Block Grant programs, $100,000 from the Putnam Street redevelopment project and $261,000 from three Home Rehabilitation programs.
The Putnam Street project has been delayed by property owners who do not want to sell to the city, and it is unlikely that work would begin before the federal deadline for this year's CDBG reimbursement, according to Assistant City Manager Robert Griego.
Earthquake damage to homes has reduced the number of residences eligible for two home rehabilitation programs, and the third will continue operating with reduced funding, the report said. The council also voted to change the start of CDBG fiscal year from July 1 to Jan. 1, allowing the money borrowed from these four programs to be replaced in about two months.