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Council Panel Rejects Proposed Halfway House for Offenders

December 12, 1990|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles City Council panel voted 3 to 0 Tuesday to reject a plan sponsored by developer Goldrich & Kest and county probation officials to convert a failing retirement home in a quiet Studio City neighborhood into a halfway house for convicted lawbreakers.

The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee decided that the plan was incompatible with the adjoining single-family residential neighborhood. It was unclear whether the applicants would appeal the ruling to the full council.

Under the proposed plan, the Ventura Retirement Villa at 11201 Ventura Blvd., a 146-bed home for the elderly, would be converted into a residence for up to 140 nonviolent lawbreakers serving time in a work-furlough program. The retirement home is only half-occupied and is losing $10,000 a month, according to its operators.

The work-furlough program seeks to offer alternatives to jail for convicted misdemeanor violators. The program is sponsored by the county Probation Department.

Participants would not be locked up at the halfway house. Most would leave during the day to work at their jobs and would return to the facility at night to serve their sentences. Most would be convicted drunk drivers.

The proposed halfway house would be only the second of its kind in the county; the first is in South-Central Los Angeles.

Supporting the plan was an executive with Goldrich & Kest, the development firm that owns the property; the director of the county's work-furlough program, Carl E. Curtis, and Barry Rubin, an executive with Working Alternatives Inc., the Long Beach-based private firm that would operate the furlough program under contract with the county.

Goldrich & Kest is a major developer in the downtown area; its partner, Jona Goldrich, is a longtime confidant of and fund-raiser for Mayor Tom Bradley. In the San Fernando Valley, the partnership is seeking controversial exemptions from the impending Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan in order to build a shopping mall in Encino.

Curtis insisted that the work-furlough program would not involve people with "records of violent or predatory behavior."

"I can assure you that if allowed to do so, the work-furlough program will be a good neighbor to the residents of Studio City," Curtis said.

But the only supportive words for the project outside its immediate sponsors were uttered by Councilman Robert Farrell, a member of the committee. Farrell said all parts of the city have a "moral obligation to carry the burden" of certain unwanted but necessary public facilities.

But when it came to a vote, Farrell balked.

Opposing the project was Councilman Joel Wachs, who represents part of Studio City.

A Wachs aide, Arline De Sanctis, said the project was of concern to residents because it provided inadequate parking. Only 46 parking spaces are available on the site. With 140 residents at any time, it would create a parking problem, she said.

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