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His Views on High-Density Development Changed : Paramount Council Dismisses Planner

November 26, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

PARAMOUNT — The City Council has fired one of its five planning commissioners because he questioned the building trend for apartments and condominiums, which is supported by the majority of the council.

"It came as a great shock to me that one of our commissioners has taken a different philosophy (from the majority of the council)," Councilman Charles R. Weldon said.

Weldon called for Lloyd Tanner's ouster after the $200-a-month commissioner expressed opposition to high-density development in a local newspaper article.

"It has been fun," said Tanner, 32, as the council took the vote last Thursday. He left the council chamber without speaking before the council. However, he said in an interview that he has voted for high density in the past but lately had started to question it.

A Vote for Caution

"I'm only asking for a little caution. Where does it (construction) stop?" Tanner asked.

Councilwoman Esther Caldwell, who appointed Tanner to the commission in 1986, cast the only vote against his dismissal. Tanner is Caldwell's son-in-law.

During the dismissal discussion, Councilwoman Caldwell warned that an election is coming up in April and that voters could take revenge against the council for dismissing Tanner. Caldwell and Councilman Gerald A. Mulrooney, who voted against Tanner, will be up for reelection.

Richard B. Caldwell, the councilwoman's husband and superintendent of the Paramount Unified School District, said in a interview that the school board has opposed more apartments because they would affect "an already overcrowded district." The board had not opposed single-family dwellings, but "flooding the city with more bodies isn't all positive," Caldwell said.

Negative Image Changed

Whether to build high density residences goes beyond Tanner, Weldon and other city officials contend.

Weldon said the council has sought to change the negative image of the city since a 1982 Rand Corp. report labeled Paramount one of the nation's suburban disaster areas.

The Rand report said that Paramount--along with eight other southeast Los Angeles County communities--was in trouble because of crime, low-income residents, lack of growth and a stagnant economy.

The city has succeeded in pulling itself up by its bootstraps, officials say. They point to the downtown area that has been redeveloped through an infusion of more than $150 million in private and redevelopment agency funds. The redevelopment agency spent more than $11 million of its money to help develop downtown, city officials say, with little or no opposition.

The city lost about 4,000 residents, most of them middle-income, in the early 1970s when land was bought by the state for construction of the Century Freeway, according to Richard Powers, community development director.

Several Housing Projects

In an effort to bring middle-income families back to the city to live and shop, a vigorous housing development project was undertaken, Powers said.

Recently, 128 single-family homes with two, three and four bedrooms were completed at Somerset Boulevard and Downey Avenue, and 35 more were completed in the northwest section of the city at Century Boulevard and Ruther Street. More than 65 of those units have been occupied by families with incomes of nearly $40,000, Powers said.

There are 153 apartment units under construction near Vermont Avenue and Alondra Boulevard. In the next two to three years 496 apartment units are scheduled to be built in the city, according to Pat West, deputy city manager.

Powers defended the development by saying that after careful study, officials are seeking a land-use balance between industry, retail business and housing. He said there are those "who fear the city will become a slum with high-rise apartments."

"I don't believe this. The apartments we are building are upscale. People find it hard to believe that Paramount can attract the middle class. But this is a Cinderella story. We are attracting the middle class," he said.

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