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2 Seek to Be 1st Full-Time Long Beach Mayor : Jan Hall Looks to the Past for Her Vision of the Future

June 02, 1988|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

She stood outside a Caltrans trailer with her three young children, handing out leaflets to stop construction of a freeway that threatened to slash across central Long Beach.

Nearly 20 years later, as City Councilwoman Jan C. Hall stumps to become the city's full-time mayor, she still recalls her days as a homemaker leading the charge that successfully blocked a massive superhighway.

Then as now, her public and private lives are often intertwined. One moment she may be describing the fine points of zoning, then skip to an anecdote about a daughter's wedding without missing a beat. The license plates on her telephone-equipped burgundy-colored Cadillac read, "6 JAYS," representing the first letter of each member of the family.

She often conducts political business out her kitchen. Gov. George Deukmejian, a fellow Long Beach Republican, has strode across the tiled floor. Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach), once debated his political future while seated at her breakfast table.

Her campaign carries a nostalgic tint. She has no grand vision of the future, but instead talks of returning Long Beach to its 1950s past, when she was growing up in a comfortable, uncrowded suburban atmosphere.

In public, her rhetoric is wrapped in a sugar coating reminiscent of her past as a PTA president and Girl Scout leader. It belies the harsher, no-nonsense tone she takes in private between puffs on a cigarette.

Hall has spent 10 years on the City Council. She is also board president of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and chairwoman of the state Commission on the Status of Women.

While adding to her resume, the prestigious assignments have opened her to allegations that she is increasingly inaccessible.

"If she did not feel the person was important, she did not return the call," said Nina Spradling, who worked as Hall's aide until being fired last year.

Spradling says she knows that calls were not returned by Hall because people would call back, sometimes repeatedly or for days on end.

Hall denied that she is inaccessible and said she makes an effort to return every phone call and respond to every letter.

Hall is disliked by merchants who say she ignores their needs while catering to homeowners. She is the kind of politician that people either love or hate, an observation she readily acknowledged.

"If you never take any chances," she said, "you don't become controversial like I am. You also never get anything done."

Accomplishments Listed

She said she has accomplished many things. She has downzoned residential areas of her Belmont Shore and Belmont Heights district, slashed residential densities and forged agreements between homeowners and city government to divide the cost of making civic improvements.

Despite those accomplishments, Hall, 45, is a decided underdog for mayor. A Los Angeles Times Poll taken May 8 found her trailing runoff competitor Ernie E. Kell by a margin of 63% to 29%, among voters most likely to cast ballots.

Her campaign has been dogged by questionable management, failed strategies and most recently, a lack of money.

Hall refused to acknowledge that her campaign is in trouble. She said her own polls show her within a few percentage points of incumbent Mayor Kell.

If she loses, she still has two years remaining on her present District 3 council term.

Hall remains deeply ambitious, a trait clearly evident in her family. Hall's husband, Jack, jokes about plans "to cultivate the Rose Garden" at the White House. And her mother, Marie Choura, says Hall will at least become governor. Choura said she remembers being called in by young Jan's first-grade teacher: "She said, 'You have a leader on your hands here.' "

Hall said her mother is the person she most admires because "she taught me (as) a woman there isn't anything I can't do."

An A student at Lakewood High School, Hall chose a scholarship to UC Berkeley over an offer from Stanford University. She said she wanted to study engineering but was told that the major was open only to boys.

Gave Up on Engineering

"I followed the rules, whatever the rules were," Hall said. She became an English major instead.

She quit college a year later to come home and marry the boy who proposed to her on the steps of the Lakewood Village Church, insurance broker Jack Hall.

She attended Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, though she never received a bachelor's degree. At 21, her first daughter was born, and within a few years there were two other daughters and a son. In the middle 1960s, the Halls moved into their present house in College Park Estates and met neighbors Chuck and Carol Greenberg.

Charles E. Greenberg, a prominent lawyer, said that one day his wife and Hall got to talking about a story they had read in the newspaper about the California Department of Transportation's plans to build an east-west superhighway dividing Long Beach along about 7th Street.

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