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Rebuild Valley Panel Considers Tax Credits, Added Transit Service : Aftermath: About 150 politicians, community leaders attend Reseda meeting to discuss recovery after quake.


Give tax credits to people who telecommute. Forget aerospace and help other San Fernando Valley industries that are adding jobs to grow. Expand bus service. Expand Metrolink.

Those were some of the ideas for reshaping the Valley for the future that emerged Friday at a daylong conference of state representatives and community leaders in Reseda.

About 150 people attended the "Valley Leadership Conference: Rebuilding the Valley," sponsored by the state Senate Select Committee on the Northridge Earthquake.

The committee is headed by Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys). Roberti, who is running for state treasurer, faces a recall election next month brought about primarily by firearms rights advocates angry at him for promoting gun control.

More than a dozen other elected state officials also participated in the conference, including state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica); state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles); Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills) and Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar).

They discussed topics ranging from how to improve transportation in the Valley to stimulating regional economic development, enhancing emergency preparedness and meeting future housing needs.

"L.A.'s recovery depends on the Valley recovery," Roberti said in his opening remarks. "The vision we begin to develop here today can help guide all of us as we rebuild the Valley as it needs to be for the 21st Century."

Pacific Bell is looking at a number of ways to promote telecommuting, said Julie Dodd-Thomas, a marketing executive for the telephone company. Ideas include possibly shaving the profit on phone service for people who use computers to work from home. While several bills providing tax incentives for employers who adopt telecommuting have been introduced in the state legislature, none extend the tax benefit to individuals, Dodd-Thomas said.

She added that in the six weeks following the Jan. 17 Northridge quake, nearly 6,000 individuals called Pacific Bell asking for information about telecommuting.

Transportation consultant Ryan Snyder urged the city to invest in more buses, rather than expanding rail service.

But William Fulton, editor of a monthly newsletter on urban planning, said there is no single solution to solving the problem of traffic congestion in Los Angeles. In fact, "congestion is not going to go away--period," Fulton said. "Traffic is like water, it seeks its own level. When you add capacity it just fills up again."

Fulton recommended pursuing a number of "truly viable transportation systems that are alternatives to people driving their cars, whether they be bus or rail." He added that he has noticed what appears to be demand in the Burbank area for additional Metrolink service.

Nancy Bolton of the UCLA Business Forecasting Project said she and other economists were surprised last month, when local employment didn't show the drop they expected after the Northridge quake.

Beginning in April, Bolton said, "we should begin to see the stimulative effect of the quake" as government funds and insurance payments are poured into rebuilding. While investors may be hesitant to put new money into Los Angeles for awhile, "as the memory of the quake fades, investors will come back," she said.

On the housing front, two contractors complained that not enough rebuilding work was going to minority tradespeople.

Kenneth Collins, president of the Valley Minority Assn. of Contractors, also chastised Valley business leaders for not having paid more attention to poorer Valley communities--such as Pacoima, where he lives--before the quake.

"Pacoima has been a disadvantaged community for the longest time, not just since the earthquake," Collins said. "Where have you been?"

Roberti promised to compile recommendations from the daylong conference at Reseda High School and pass them on to appropriate legislative committees. He added that he may schedule a second conference this summer, possibly in the city of San Fernando.

But Harry Nakada, a North Hills nursery owner who attended Friday's conference, worried whether it would lead to any real action.

"The meeting was very informative and there were a lot of good ideas," Nakada said. "But sometimes good ideas just fade away. I hope that doesn't happen this time."

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