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Advocates of Affordable Housing Reject Developer Plan : Development: Activists angrily criticize a voluntary incentive program suggested by builders. One opponent calls it 'a 100% rip-off.'

March 31, 1991|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — Efforts to forge a new affordable-housing law for the city faltered again last week, with housing advocates angrily denouncing a proposal by developers and calling it a greedy blueprint for profits at the expense of the poor.

"Any hope of getting a consensus is gone," said Toby Rothschild, executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach, one of a coalition of activist groups lobbying for an affordable-housing program to replace one recently repealed by the City Council.

The developers had proposed a voluntary incentive program. In return for building affordable units, they want permission to exceed normal density limits, to relax design standards and to postpone payment of development fees for recreation and transportation.

Legal Aid attorney Dennis Rockway characterized the developers' latest proposal for incentives as "a 100% rip-off."

Randal Hernandez of the local Chamber of Commerce, which is a member of the business coalition, said he was "really disappointed" in the housing advocates' condemnation. "We've come from two opposite ends of the political spectrum. Compromise was hoped for, but unlikely."

Hernandez nonetheless said he was confident that the City Council would come up with a housing package.

A council committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the issue, and Councilman Jeffrey A. Kellogg said he is determined to take a proposal to the full council by April 9, when a moratorium on the demolition of low-cost housing units in the city is scheduled to expire.

The moratorium is almost certain to be extended for at least a month, Kellogg and others said. It has been in place during months of wrangling over the city's affordable-housing policies.

The council, under intense pressure from the development community, recently killed a city law requiring developers who tear down low-cost apartments to replace them or pay a fee to the city. For months before the repeal, attempts had been made to devise a program acceptable to both developers and housing advocates. Hoping that continued negotiations would yield a proposal, the council kept the demolition moratorium in place after scuttling the replacement law.

But more than a month later, the two sides are still hurling darts at each other.

Housing advocates reluctantly have agreed to consider a voluntary program by developers, but they insist that if it doesn't work, then mandatory requirements automatically must be adopted, forcing developers to include a certain number of low-income units in new projects.

Moreover, Rockway contended that the incentives outlined by the business coalition in its latest proposal amount to "an attempt to exploit the housing crisis . . . and reap windfall profits."

He cited, for example, a clause that would allow developers to retain a share in the affordable condominium units they build--even after the units are sold to low-income buyers--and a clause that could force owners of the low-income units to pay at least part of the deferred developer fees.

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