A bitter shouting match that touched off fistfighting at a North Hollywood citizens redevelopment meeting was provoked by "outside agitators" ousted from a Hollywood redevelopment group, North Hollywood community leaders charged Wednesday.
Several Hollywood residents, who were removed from a similar redevelopment advisory committee last spring for what Councilman Michael Woo said was "wacky behavior," had accused North Hollywood committee members of conducting an unfair election.
The Hollywood contingent's attempt to videotape the contentious North Hollywood Redevelopment Project Area Committee election meeting Tuesday night set off fist-swinging clashes between the two groups, participants said. There were no serious injuries.
Brad Berlin, a law clerk representing the Hollywood dissidents, said his group was simply trying to advise its neighbors in North Hollywood, who, he said, "have no idea" what the powerful Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency "is really doing to their community."
The group charged that the agency has failed to inform the community of its plans to carry out redevelopment in North Hollywood, an accusation that committee Chairwoman Ada Klevans called "absolutely ridiculous."
The ousted Hollywood committee members and a handful of North Hollywood residents charged that the 16-member citizen advisory committee is a "rubber stamp" for agency projects, and that last month's committee elections were illegally conducted, Berlin said.
The accusations infuriated some longtime members of the North Hollywood group, who said they have been meeting relatively peacefully for years to help revitalize their community.
"These agitators have no place else to go, so they have moved to North Hollywood," Klevans said. "Frankly, we resent this intrusion."
Arguments broke out over eligibility requirements for candidates for vacant positions on the citizens advisory committee. When a Hollywood resident tried to videotape an exchange by positioning his camera near the face of former North Hollywood committee member Guy McCreary, McCreary said he "pushed aside the camera."
As the incident escalated into a shoving melee, the camera was knocked to the ground. Greg Roberts, an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the committee, complained to police that he had been punched in the stomach.
Ousted members of the Hollywood committee have been on the losing end of a bitter court battle with Los Angeles and Councilman Michael Woo for months. Woo disbanded the committee, naming new members, because he said it had become a forum for "wacky behavior" bent on undermining his Hollywood renewal effort.
"It is really a rotten shame that these outsiders have come in to disrupt the North Hollywood committee," said Renee Weitzer, a deputy to Councilman John Ferraro, who represents North Hollywood.
The 740-acre North Hollywood redevelopment area is Los Angeles' only redevelopment zone in the San Fernando Valley and the third largest in the city, ranking behind the downtown central business district and Hollywood.
Several rundown commercial buildings along Lankershim Boulevard have been razed over the years with little community controversy, clearing the way for a major office complex. The highly touted $41-million Academy project, a cluster of offices and apartments so named because it will house the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, is under construction.