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More Proof Bernson Is a Developer's Best Friend

August 08, 1993

* Well, it seems that City Councilman Hal Bernson is at it again. According to Times reporter John Schwada (July 21), Bernson is putting together a "reform" panel of 20 people whose mission will be to find ways to repeal many of the land-use laws that now protect the city from overdevelopment.

Bernson calls his hand-picked panel the "Task Force on Code Simplification." This is an interesting way to describe a group whose prime task is to clear the path for developers to stuff new projects down the throats of uninformed neighborhoods.

Bernson has always believed the best way for his developer buddies to operate is to keep the public out of the approval process. Among other things, he wants the city to stop publishing newspaper ads which notify the public of pending projects, and he wants to reduce the amount of time the public is now allowed to appeal a project.

In addition, he wants developers to have more opportunities to request amendments to the city's general and district plans. He is asking his task force to back him up by formally recommending these changes and more to the City Council.

Bernson also wants his task force to recommend the elimination of environmental reviews now required for commercial projects of 40,000 square feet or more. Bernson says, "The time is absolutely right for this," and claims businesses are leaving the city because of the amount of time it takes to get land-use approvals. The Planning Department, however, says that eliminating the environmental reviews will only save three to six weeks of time. Big deal.

I have read of dozens of companies which have left the city and the state, but have never heard of one that packed up and left because it couldn't tolerate a three- to six-week environmental review process.

Bernson is more likely to see companies refusing to come into his own council district because of his insertion into the new Chatsworth/Porter Ranch District Plan that all new businesses which require discretionary approvals must also pay to join the district's Transportation Management Assn. This includes mom-and-pop operations which are now exempt from such participation unless they employ 100 persons or more.

Bernson has long been known as the developer's best friend, and his latest scheme is one more example of why he has earned this dubious distinction. Let's hope the rest of the City Council can see through this "code simplification" sham, which is nothing more than a transparent attempt to pay back developers who contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bernson's political campaigns.



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