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Slow-Growth Controversy

August 14, 1988

In response to your series on slow growth, Part I, July 31, Aug. 1-3:

I am a resident of the West Adams area in Los Angeles (referred to in the Aug. 1 article as one of the poorer neighborhoods) and we are fighting for the survival of what other parts of town take for granted: a street that actually runs its length without vacant lots (houses torn down by developers who run out of money or wait for a better price), large featureless apartment buildings that would pass for concrete bunkers with inadequate parking and garbage problems, 35-foot concrete walls behind the back garden, housing 1) a carpet warehouse, 2) an illegal toxic waste dump from a gas station, or 3) a shopping mall.

The Manhattan Place Property Owners Assn., a multiethnic group made up of both property owners and tenants, takes great exception to Dori Pye's (president of the Los Angeles West Chamber of Commerce and a Housing Authority commissioner) generalized contention that the interim controls are "evil " because they smack of elitism. The four blocks that fall under our jurisdiction are, in some cases, more than 50% apartment buildings, many of them HUD housing. We are now fending off developers who want to tear down the few historic, livable and affordable turn-of-the-century houses that are left, for more cost-efficient (read "cheap") dwellings that are constructed solely to cram as many people as possible into their confines. Novel concepts like consistent lot set-backs and architectural continuity do not leap into the building plans unless neighbors have some leverage.

We'll tell you what we think our definition of "evil" is: Approximately 10 houses were purchased incognito over a period of several years by the owners of a supermarket who let them deteriorate until they could justifiably tear them down. At one point they offered the homes (next to many other old wooden houses) to the Los Angeles Fire Department for practice burns until a neighborhood outcry quashed the plan. A large graffitied shopping mall now gashes into what was once a residential street. A gas station owner builds a repair shop, storing caustic, toxic liquids, ignoring repeated citations and warnings about the explosion hazard to his residential neighbors.

It was either be politicized or victimized. We are at war with developers and business owners who show no concern for their neighbors in their quest for profit. For us interim controls are the only protection we have, short of individual battles over proposals, often a case of trying to shut the barn door after the horses have escaped.

VALEN WATSON

Los Angeles

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