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Lawyer to the Stars Takes on Mayoral Duty : Beverly Hills: Allan Alexander's business and financial background and experience in city government are seen as key assets.

April 19, 1990|MATHIS CHAZANOV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Allan L. Alexander, real estate lawyer to the stars, recently advised Kim Basinger on her purchase of virtually an entire town in Georgia.

Now he has been installed as mayor of Beverly Hills, a city where a single estate can cost more than the $20 million that Basinger paid for most of Braselton, Ga.

Alexander, 49, said his years in Beverly Hills city government--five as planning commissioner and two as city councilman--helped him arrange the widely publicized deal for the star of "Batman."

And he will be calling on all that experience--and his background in business and finance--as he presides over a City Council that is suffering from sticker shock over its new Civic Center.

Because of extensive delays, additions and cost overruns, the Civic Center--a library, police station, fire station, parking structure and renovated City Hall--is expected to cost about $120 million, or enough to buy six Braseltons.

"As mayor, I will do all that I can to see that the Civic Center is completed as soon as is reasonably possible," Alexander said at his inauguration in a tent on the fire station driveway Tuesday night.

"You see, Max, that's the lawyer's way of saying what you said a year ago," he said in an aside to outgoing Mayor Max Salter, who had vowed at his own inauguration in 1989 to see the project finished.

Salter gave him a ribbon-trimmed paint brush to help complete the job.

And the Civic Center is but one of many complicated matters Alexander expects to encounter in the coming months.

"We are faced with issues ranging from complex bond financing to difficult policy questions like rent control. . . . It takes careful analysis and is very time-consuming," Alexander said in an interview shortly before his inauguration.

"You've got to develop a degree of sophistication that was not needed when life was a lot simpler 50 years ago," he said.

In Alexander, the city has a mayor who will not have to pick up that sophistication on the job.

Salter recently joked that the Beverly Hills would go bankrupt if it paid the usual rates for Alexander's time and that of City Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, who is also an attorney.

"From a business standpoint, I think without a doubt it's a sacrifice, but money isn't everything, that's for sure," Alexander said.

Since becoming a councilman, Alexander said, he has nearly given up his photography hobby, and he find less time for tennis at the Beverly Hills Country Club, which, he notes, "is neither in Beverly Hills nor a country club. It's slightly misleading, but it's got nice tennis courts."

Alexander has juggled business law with public service since he left Harvard Law School and the Graduate School of Business Administration at UC Berkeley, where he studied real estate and land-use planning. Earlier, he graduated with honors from Stanford University.

He and his wife, Joan, spent 1966 and 1967 as Peace Corps volunteers in Bolivia, where he lectured at the University of Santa Cruz and prepared an economic feasibility study for a rural cement plant.

Returning to Los Angeles in 1968, he went to work as a real estate and securities lawyer, but volunteered as board member and president of Public Counsel, which provides legal services through the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.

He is also a longtime board member of the Economic Resources Corp., a nonprofit organization that operates an industrial park in Watts.

Although he is a registered Democrat, he has a dream of mass volunteer service that recalls President Bush's "thousand points of light."

"I'm a big believer in people undertaking to devote a portion of their daily life to helping others, beyond donating money," he said. "I like to think of it like this: If each person gave one hour of work a week on community service, if every person in this country did that, it would be hundreds of millions of hours. We could really make a difference."

Alexander is a native of the Santa Cruz County farming town of Watsonville, and is proud of his status as a third-generation Californian. He and his family moved from Beverlywood to Beverly Hills in 1976, attracted by the leafy streets and good schools.

He got involved in city affairs as the first president of the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Assn., which was formed 11 years ago to deal with parking, traffic and other problems in the blocks south of Wilshire Boulevard, a relatively modest neighborhood where some houses still go for less than $1 million.

"I think he's a very intelligent, thoughtful person," said Ken Goldman, who has headed the neighborhood group since Alexander became a planning commissioner in 1983.

"He has not only brought intelligence and caring and a wealth of background to the job, he has done what he promised to do . . . to take some very complex problems and bring people together and come up with very satisfactory solutions," he said.

"He's done that from rent control to school funding. Maybe not everyone's happy with them, but they're good, solid, compromises," Goldman said.

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