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The Big Face-Off : What will it take to revitalize Central Los Angeles? Eleven candidates for mayor lay out their plans for the area's economic renewal. : Of Promise and Peril : While the Mayoral Candidates View the Central City With Potential for Great Economic Revitalization, They Say the Riots Show It to Be a Place of Uncertainty.

March 28, 1993|GREG KRIKORIAN

In many ways, it is the future of Los Angeles. A paradox of wealth and poverty, of gleaming skyscrapers and cardboard shelters, tree-lined streets and trash-ridden tenements. The inner city is all of these things. And because of that, it is as much a view of where Los Angeles has been--and may go--as any part of the sprawling city.

So as the candidates for mayor crisscross this metropolis, promising more jobs, safer neighborhoods and tighter spending at City Hall, an obvious question is: What would they do for Central Los Angeles? And what would they do to bring jobs and hope to an area that for years has had little of either?

Not surprisingly, with many neighborhoods still scarred by last spring's riots, several candidates say no economic plan, no infusion of public programs or private dollars can succeed in the urban core unless its communities--from Boyle Heights to Baldwin Hills, Watts to Little Tokyo--are made safer.

"Fundamental to any economic development plan has got to be making the city safe," said Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), one of 24 mayoral candidates on the April 20 ballot. "Until the (inner city) is safe, banks won't invest there . . . and people won't want to come there. And it will be hard to create jobs here unless people feel safe."

Added another, City Councilman Nate Holden, whose district includes Koreatown and much of Mid-City: "You have to make people not only feel safe, but be safe."

And while the candidates describe Central Los Angeles as a place of great economic promise, they also say the riots--which hit hardest there--show it to be a place of great economic peril.

"I think most people recognize that people don't riot for the fun of it. They riot for good reason," said attorney Stan Sanders, another candidate. "And part of the reason is the persistence of poverty in Los Angeles. We are the homeless capital of the world. We have hunger in this city you wouldn't believe."

With the future of the inner city so vital to Los Angeles as a whole, City Times asked the 11 major mayoral candidates to outline their economic plans for a part of the city that many agree has been overlooked for years.

Some of the plans have been borrowed from the past. Some, borrowed from other cities. Regardless, the proposals suggest that most of the candidates have given more than passing consideration to Central Los Angeles.

The plans range from major shifts in spending priorities and creation of business enterprise zones to proposals for city-funded development banks and loan guarantees for entrepreneurs. Indeed, several candidates believe that small businesses hold the key to the inner city's future and pledge to focus on aiding their development.

One candidate, Nick Patsaouras, envisions the city's core as a hub for high-tech, transportation-oriented industries. Another, Julian Nava, has a proposal to transform gang members into small-business operators, thereby giving them a financial stake in their communities. And many others--from Katz to former Deputy Mayor Linda Griego to Councilmen Joel Wachs and Michael Woo--outline multifaceted agendas to bring economic rebirth to the inner city.

Most of the candidates agree the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, in its zeal to transform Los Angeles' skyline, has abandoned the more important mission of revitalizing blighted neighborhoods. As such, Councilman Ernani Bernardi says, the agency should be disbanded, with its responsibilities transferred elsewhere.

Although other candidates are not willing to go that far, they do say the inner city's future, in large part, hinges on new priorities for the cash-rich CRA.

"No. 1, I would redirect the CRA away from subsidizing high-rise buildings and shopping centers to instead revitalize the industrial base, especially small businesses and environmentally clean industries," Woo said.

Added attorney Tom Houston, a former deputy mayor: "The CRA did a good job Downtown. They just overdid it. There are a lot of empty buildings now."

Like several other candidates, Houston said he would redirect the CRA's spending to low-income housing development and manufacturing projects. The first such project, Houston said, would be a new slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility that would provide employment for as many as 4,000 people in Central Los Angeles.

"The meat-packing industry was in South-Central . . . it moved to the Midwest where there were no unions," Houston said. "Now there's a great demand for fresh meat--meat in stores within a day of slaughtering. So there is a place (here) for the meat-packing industry."

Ironically, the centerpiece of Houston's jobs program is a project on which he would face a conflict of interest as mayor because one of its participants--Southern Pacific Transportation Co.--is among his clients. The project is the Alameda Corridor, a proposed $1.8-billion transportation link between Downtown and the Port of Los Angeles.

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