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Valleywide Focus

New Chairman for Boulevard Board Picked

July 28, 1993|SCOTT GLOVER

In what may signal an about-face in the way a 20-year plan to overhaul Ventura Boulevard is put into practice, a Sherman Oaks realtor who said he favors cutting the plan's budget by half has been elected chairman of the citizens panel that oversees its implementation.

Jeff Brain, 34, was elected the second chairman of the 13-member Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan Review Board by a vote of 7 to 4. One board member was absent from the Monday vote and one seat is vacant.

The review board's power is limited to prioritizing city departments' work on the plan to limit growth, ease traffic and enhance neighborhoods along the 17-mile strip.

However, recommendations by the politically appointed panel carry weight at City Hall.

Brain, president of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, was appointed to the board by Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky when it was created in 1991.

In his role as chairman of the board's budget and finance subcommittee, Brain has publicly questioned several key elements of the plan.

Most notably he has suggested that the plan's $222-million budget could be reduced by half by finding cheaper alternatives to street widening proposed to ease traffic along the boulevard. He also favors spreading the cost of the improvements among all boulevard property owners as opposed to relying on fees collected from new development.

"The goals of the plan are good goals," Brain said Tuesday. "But there are some holes in it and some bad assumptions. We are just trying to make it work."

At least one veteran boulevard observer said that he sees Brain's election as a threat to the plan.

"If (Brain) has his way, he'll gut the plan," said homeowner activist Gerald A. Silver, who served on the citizens committee that helped hammer out the document and is a staunch proponent of the plan in its current state. "He'll try to undo all the work that took years of consensus building."

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