A coalition of community activists on Thursday urged the City Council to override the mayor's veto of a proposal to convert the historic May Co. building into a colossal garment-making plant.
The plea came at a news conference orchestrated by owners of the property--now called the Broadway Trade Center--and their lobbyist, former City Councilman Art Snyder, as a political pressure tactic in what has become a fractious issue at City Hall.
The developers, who paid about $25.5 million for the 85-year-old edifice at Broadway and 8th Street, want a conditional use permit for 600 businesses and 7,000 people.
At a news conference inside the 1-million-square-foot building, community activists from organizations including Las Familias del Pueblo and Concerned Citizens for South-Central Los Angeles said the complex would provide badly needed jobs for thousands of unskilled laborers.
"I am a friend of Mayor Tom Bradley's, but he is simply wrong on this issue," said Juanita Tate, executive director of Concerned Citizens for South-Central Los Angeles. "In South-Central Los Angeles we have an unemployment rate of 40%--how the hell can I not support something like this?"
Father Juan Santillan of St. Lucy's Catholic Church on the Eastside of Los Angeles agreed, saying the project would provide "dignified working conditions" and "food on the table for my parishioners."
"When I hear of an opportunity to create a better lifestyle for our people, I support it," said Santillan, whose brother works as a paralegal in Snyder's law offices.
Bradley vetoed the project on grounds it would increase downtown traffic congestion, lure tenants from the nearby garment district, and change the character of a section of downtown zoned for commercial and residential uses.
Bradley also chided the property owners for failing to discuss the plan with the Los Angeles Police Department.
In a controversial letter sent by Central Area Capt. Jerry Conner to zoning administrators, the department expressed "major concerns" about the project's impact on downtown traffic and crime.
Sgt. Rod Luckenbach, who helped draft Conner's letter, said those concerns had been "modified" after an investigation of Conner's letter ordered by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. Police Department officials, however, declined to provide details of the revisions pending a review by Gates.
Danny Partielli, executive director of the Broadway Trade Center, said Snyder has been trying to find a compromise amenable to Bradley, the City Council and opponents of the project including Stanley Hirsch, who owns six buildings in the garment district.
Snyder said a possible agreement would, among other things, have the project develop in increments to prevent a massive exodus of tenants from nearby garment district buildings to the Broadway Trade Center.
Bradley was unavailable for comment. His spokesman, Bill Chandler, said that although the mayor vetoed the project because of "serious public safety issues," Bradley was "willing to look at any compromise that addresses these issues."
The City Council, which had approved the conditional use permit in a 10-5 vote, is scheduled to consider the veto on Nov. 12. The council will need 12 votes to override the veto.