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PICO-UNION : Homes May Not Be in City Lottery

March 13, 1994|JAKE DOHERTY

Pico-Union residents inched closer to victory in a housing tug of war last week as the City Council sought to exempt a new development from a policy that would have awarded apartments to the winners of a citywide lottery.

Instead, residents in the Pico-Union 1 and 2 redevelopment project areas are now likely to be put at the top of the list for the Crescent Court apartments, an advantage they say they are entitled to based on Community Redevelopment Agency promises and the original redevelopment plan for the area adopted in 1970.

Crescent Court is a 32-unit rental townhouse complex on a two-acre parcel at 12th Place and Valencia Street, funded by a variety of sources, including an agency loan and federal tax credits.

The city last year adopted an agency-drafted policy that had sought to avoid discrimination in selecting residents for public housing developments through a variety of measures, including a citywide lottery.

But members of the Pico-Union residents' advisory panels protested that the agency's staff never informed them of the change in the original policy, which they said promised to consider residents of the project areas on "a preferential basis over non-residents." The agency's staff conceded a lack of communication.

Testifying before the City Council, several Pico-Union residents spoke of overcrowded and substandard living conditions and the promises of housing made to residents, especially those displaced by other redevelopment projects.

"We don't want the whole pie, we only want a piece of the pie," Julio Rivera, 11, a Pico-Union resident who shares a one-room apartment with four family members, told the City Council.

Councilman Mike Hernandez, who opposed the citywide lottery for this project, said Bradley G. Booth, chief counsel of the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, told him that a restriction of the selection process could be justified if specific criteria are met.

In a letter to Hernandez, Booth said, "Demographics and statistics regarding the density of the neighborhood and the tremendous impact that has on the citizens' quality of life, not to mention the increased burden on the city, could be sufficient justification to limit the participants to the lottery."

Based on 1990 census data, large portions of Pico-Union's residential areas suffer overcrowding at a rate greater than three times the city average, Hernandez said.

The agency held the lottery Feb. 18, but--at the request of the City Council--has refrained from notifying any of the people selected.

At the council's direction, the city attorney's office is gathering information to make the case that Crescent Court should be exempted from the agency's policy. Those findings are to be presented at Wednesday's council meeting.

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