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Redevelopment Agency Shuffles Management : Rebuild: Chief moved to Koreatown as part of plan to speed recovery of riot-ravaged areas. More than 50 staff members will be transferred.


HOLLYWOOD — The head of the Community Redevelopment Agency's Hollywood Project has been reassigned to Koreatown as part of a personnel shake-up intended to help speed the recovery of riot-stricken portions of Los Angeles.

CRA Administrator Edward J. Avila said Thursday that the move of H. Cooke Sunoo came in response to the City Council's directive to seek ways of revitalizing some of the hardest-hit areas of the city, including Koreatown and South-Central.

Because of a city hiring freeze, no new staffers will be hired, he said. Instead, through "a bit of wizardry," more than 50 of the agency's 320 staffers will be shuffled to new jobs as the CRA seeks to maintain its 20 existing projects while it considers whether to open new ones. About $3 million has been budgeted for the process.

Under redevelopment, which is governed by state law, a portion of property taxes collected from a blighted area is set aside to help revitalize that zone.

"The whole purpose (of the reorganization) is to determine if there should be a project area or not, and to have those communities make that determination," Avila said.

Sunoo will be replaced by Len Betz, a former assistant project manager for Hollywood, where legal action by some residents blocked the project for more than six years.

The agency is authorized to spend up to $922 million on the project by 2016, but neighborhood critics have argued that redevelopment would ruin the area while favoring big developers.

In the two years since they lost their lawsuit, little has been accomplished, the opponents say. They argue that tax revenues would be better off going to the city's general fund, where they could help pay for more police.

Avila hailed the project's "incredible progress" under Sunoo's management, citing new programs including security guards, live entertainment on Hollywood Boulevard, purchase of the old Egyptian theater and plans for residential and commercial building projects.

"The challenge . . . was to get (the projects) through the City Council and approved, so all you have to do is implement them, and that's what we're doing now," Avila said.

But Norton Halper, a longtime CRA critic, said the agency has remarkably little to show for its years of effort.

"What I want to do is compliment their achievements, " he said, "not their conceptual designs."

Robert Nudelman, chair of the Hollywood Project Area Committee, an unofficial citizens group, said Sunoo was being removed because of dissatisfaction with the agency's record in Hollywood. Avila denied it.

"That's pure nonsense," Avila said. "The assignment he's been given is a major responsibility you don't give to somebody you don't think well of." Sunoo, 47, has been assigned to the Hollywood project for five years.

The proposed Koreatown-Mid-Wilshire zone may include the areas between Western Avenue and MacArthur Park, Avila said. The South-Central zone may include a large area including as many as 12 distinct communities south of the Santa Monica Freeway.

"The big challenge is to accomplish the goals and objectives of the community involved, instead of making one big area and saying, 'You are all one,' which is a fallacy and doesn't work," Avila said.

Herbert Marshall, who formerly headed the agency's North Hollywood project, will oversee CRA activities in South-Central. Lilian Burkenheim, Sunoo's assistant in Hollywood, will take over North Hollywood.

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