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Bradley Budget Cuts Draw Fire : Spending: Council panel attacks mayor's proposal to eliminate city trash cans, anti-graffiti crews.

April 30, 1993|JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scrutinizing the fine print in the city's budget, a Los Angeles City Council committee on Thursday discovered several ugly surprises: proposals to remove all of the city's 3,500 street corner trash cans, to eliminate crews that remove graffiti from pedestrian tunnels, and to reduce spot cleanups of debris from streets and alleys.

The changes are suggested in Mayor Tom Bradley's proposed budget, which continues a 3-year-old hiring freeze and would reduce the staff of the Bureau of Street Maintenance by 50 workers.

The council's Budget and Finance Committee also heard of a proposal to close three of 22 building and safety offices, which means that customers would have to travel farther to obtain permits.

And committee Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky, objecting strongly to a plan to take money out of a parking meter trust fund, threatened to remove all parking meters from Westwood Village and Studio City.

The committee is expected to vote on many of those topics today, with the full City Council to take up the budget next week.

Yaroslavsky was particularly indignant at the proposed elimination of 3,500 street trash cans where pedestrians dump garbage. The receptacles are placed in commercial areas throughout the city.

"What were you smoking when you proposed this?" Yaroslavsky boomed at street maintenance officials. "I think this is an outrage.

"It's a reflection of the warped priorities of the city of Los Angeles that you would let the streets and sidewalks deteriorate any more than they already have," he said.

The street maintenance bureau's budget also suggested a 70% reduction in spot cleanups of streets and alleys--meaning that 18,600 cubic yards of debris would be removed annually, compared to the current 62,000 cubic yards. And crews to clean pedestrian tunnels would be eliminated.

Bureaucrats said they had nowhere else to turn--with other portions of their operation, such as street paving, tree trimming and weed abatement, already reduced to a minimum.

But Yaroslavsky promised that at least the sidewalk trash cans will be restored. "That can't stand and it won't stand," he said.

Councilwoman Joy Picus said she will fight a proposal to close a building and safety office in Reseda--saying that it would make it more difficult for her constituents to obtain permits and conduct other business. The locations of the two other building and safety offices scheduled for closure have not been announced.

Yaroslavsky contested one of Bradley's most important measures for closing a $180-million budget gap--taking $37 million from a special parking fund.

Instead of blocking Bradley from taking the funds, though, Yaroslavsky threatened to yank parking meters from the streets of Westwood and Studio City. He said that money from his district is being unfairly targeted to help bridge the deficit.

Other areas, such as Chinatown, Koreatown and the Mid-Wilshire district, would also be improperly stripped of their meter revenue under the budget proposal, Yaroslavsky charged.

"The Westside and the West Valley and downtown and Chinatown and Mid-Wilshire are simply not going to subsidize the rest of the city," Yaroslavsky said during a debate on Bradley's budget proposal. "You are not going to get those nickels and dimes and quarters out of there."

The councilman predicted that merchants--angry that the money promised to build parking lots is being siphoned off for other uses--might even resort to small-time civil disobedience, such as jamming chewing gum in meter slots.

Although they are not required to do so, transportation officials said they would probably go along with a request from a council member and district merchants to remove meters.

"The council policy and the law of the city has been that the money should be used to build parking lots," Yaroslavsky said. "Otherwise, there is no reason why the merchants of Westwood Village should put up with parking meters in that area."

Even if meters were removed, street parking restrictions would remain in effect. The laws could be enforced by having parking monitors mark autos' tires.

Yaroslavsky did not offer alternative sources of revenue to replace the parking meter funds. But he said he might relent if a method is found to build the parking lots that had been planned for Westwood and Studio City.

Bradley's plan to tap the city's parking meter fund received harsh criticism from some residents and business leaders.

Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., which led the effort to get funding for the parking lot, protested that Bradley's plan is unfair to Studio City residents and business owners.

"The city's been collecting literally thousands and thousands of dollars from Studio City for years, and we get nothing to show for it," he said.

Bradley's office declined to comment, but the mayor has previously said that borrowing from such special funds was his only option in maintaining other city services, in particular the Police and Fire departments.

Times staff writer Hugo Martin contributed to this story.

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