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La Canada Leaves Redevelopment Issue Unresolved

November 24, 1988|DREW SILVERN | Times Staff Writer

The La Canada Flintridge City Council turned down a motion to disband the city's fledgling redevelopment agency Monday night, but did so without agreeing that there should be redevelopment in the affluent foothill community.

The vote came after a 3-hour public hearing during which the council was berated by critics of redevelopment, applauded by its supporters and inundated by questions from both sides.

After the barrage of public criticism, which ended shortly after 11 p.m., the only council member willing to take a stand on redevelopment was Ed Phelps, who had not wavered from his desire to disband the agency. Phelps said he opposes the plan because the city does not need the money and because accepting redevelopment funds will obligate the city under state law to build low- and moderate-income housing.

Failed to Sway

He failed to sway Councilmen Edmund Krause and O. Warren Hillgren and Mayor Joan Feehan, all of whom voted against Phelps' motion.

But only Hillgren voiced support for the redevelopment plan.

"We'd be derelict in our duty if we didn't consider redevelopment," he said. "If we abandon it now, that would be a big step backwards."

Both Feehan and Krause would say only that they have questions about whether the city should continue with redevelopment plans, but feel La Canada Flintridge has already invested too much time and money to abandon the plan before answering those questions.

Councilman Chris Valente abstained from the vote. Valente said he did not yet know enough about the plan to make a decision. The issue has been before the council since before Valente was elected in April.

By implementing a redevelopment plan, La Canada Flintridge could receive as much as $70 million dollars over a 40-year period--money that would otherwise go to the county in the form of property taxes. Though some of that money would go to the school system and some to pay for county fire services, the city estimates that it would get $28 million to use for improvements to the Foothill Boulevard commercial district.

Critics of the plan, some of whom waved various reports and studies as they spoke, told the crowded meeting that those figures, based on estimates of future increases in the value of business properties, were grossly inflated. They said that according to their calculations, the city would receive a total of less than $25 million instead of $70 million.

City to Recalculate

City Manager Don Otterman said after the meeting that the city would recalculate the figures but reiterated that, whatever the correct figure, the city desperately needs the redevelopment money.

"This plan is different from any other in Southern California," Otterman said. "We're not trying to clear land and encourage development; we're just trying to take advantage of the tax money that normally flows to the county. In the next 4 or 5 years, this city will have major financial problems if new sources of funding are not found."

Monday's vote came 2 weeks after the council received a report by the Citizen's Advisory Committee on Redevelopment urging the city to move ahead with redevelopment.

The report, which was requested in the spring after it became apparent that accepting redevelopment funds could obligate the city to set aside 20% of the money to build low-income housing, emphasized that the city could use the "set-aside" money to subsidize rents and home maintenance costs for current La Canada Flintridge residents.

Based on a complicated formula used by the state, a La Canada family of four with an annual income of $44,000 or less would qualify for the subsidies, city officials said.

But despite the report's findings, later supported in a memorandum from the deputy city attorney, many of those who spoke at Monday's meeting said they still worry that redevelopment will result in the city's having to build low-income housing units.

That concern was heightened by the city's notification last week that the Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG), a planning agency authorized by the state to project housing needs, had determined that the city would need 84 units of low- and moderate-income housing in the next 5 years.

"What I'm worried about here is that if we go through with this, there's going to be a pot of money," said Lloyd Welch, vice chairman of the Concerned Citizens of La Canada Flintridge, a homeowners group. "Then they're going to point to us and say, 'Aha. If you have all that money,' not only are they going to insist on the 84 low-income units, maybe they'll say 'build 184 units.' "

Others, including a dissident member of the Citizens Redevelopment Advisory Committee, told the council that redevelopment funds should be left to poorer communities and did not belong in La Canada.

'Twisting and Turning'

"We are twisting and turning, trying to make blight to utilize redevelopment money for our own needs," said David Stein, a member of the advisory committee.

"There's always a price you pay. We're making a 40-year contract with the county and the state. We're going to have to play these games by their rules, and we're going to loose control."

The lack of a decision left Otterman, a supporter of redevelopment, unsure of what to do.

"I really don't know what will happen next," Otterman said Tuesday, because the council "didn't really set up a next meeting. They'll probably wait until after the first of the year."

Otterman said he thought the council might schedule a public forum and invite representatives from other cities involved with redevelopment.

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