For almost two decades, officials of the Los Angeles Community College District have tried in vain to find money to build a badly needed parking structure for Los Angeles Trade Technical College, south of downtown.
Tonight, district trustees will be asked to launch a novel partnership with the city and other agencies that--if financing can be obtained--would bring not only parking but small businesses and about 100 apartments to a district-owned site across from the college.
The two-acre site on Grand Avenue, just south of the Metro Blue Line commuter train route along Washington Boulevard, was purchased for parking in 1973. It has been used primarily as temporary headquarters for the college's child development center because the district has been unable to build the parking structure.
Under the proposal, the district would form a separate, nonprofit organization to oversee the project and provide the land. The city would secure financing, most of which would be sought from federal and state agencies. The district would own the $22-million, multistory project after 50 years.
As envisioned by architect Katherine Diamond, the structure would include four levels of parking, about 800 spaces, for public, student and faculty use. About 15,000 square feet of retail space would occupy the ground level, and provide revenue to help pay off the construction loans. A rooftop community stretching from one to three levels above the parking will provide large, low-rent apartments clustered around park-like areas, small playgrounds and a community meeting room.
The city Department of Transportation would build and run the parking concession, while the housing would be overseen by Esperanza Community Housing Corp., a nonprofit community agency. The retail operations would be managed by the district's nonprofit organization.
The project, which is scheduled for a City Council vote Wednesday, would serve a bustling, mostly minority, working-class area that offers many low-paying jobs, the college and good public transportation but little affordable housing. Unlike nearby South Park, where developers have had difficulty finding takers for pricier housing designed to lure the middle class to the inner city, officials expect demand to be high for the low-rent, family-size units in the college district's project.
"This project answers two very great needs--the college's desperate need of parking and the area's need for affordable housing," said Jerry Neuman, an attorney working with the district on the project. College officials estimate that Trade Tech is about 1,000 spaces short on school days.
Sister Diane Donoghue of Esperanza said her agency has a waiting list for apartments in the project, which would be completed in the fall of 1994.
Gary Squier, head of the mayor's Housing Preservation and Production Department, praised the proposal as "probably the first time in the city" that a project has encompassed so many objectives--providing parking as well as housing that is affordable and close to jobs and transportation.
He said obtaining sufficient financing could be difficult and gave the project a "50-50 probability that it will go forward."
Another potential obstacle lies in opposition of trustee Patrick Owens. He said he will ask colleagues to turn down the project tonight and support an alternate plan that would incorporate a student learning center into the parking structure.
The Owens-backed alternative would be built and run by the district for use only by students and staff at Trade Tech. But there are no funds available for such a project.
Owens' objections center on three areas--he fears students will take a back seat to the public for parking space in the structure, he dislikes the district relinquishing sole control of the property, and he disagrees with plans to move the child development center to a campus site once used to teach students how to frame houses.
"It just doesn't solve the problem, and it is going to downsize the building trades area," Owens said.
But James A. Grivich, Trade Tech's vice president for administration, said the lease with the city will be designed to accommodate students and staff at affordable rates. Further, he said, the framing operations were discontinued five years ago, and the college has no plans to reinstitute them, so there will be room for the child center.
The district's board, including Owens, unanimously approved the project in concept a year ago. Owens said, however, his yes vote was inadvertent.