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Yaroslavsky Says He Will Back Quake Recovery Plan : City Hall: Councilman announces his support for using redevelopment powers to rebuild damaged parts of Sherman Oaks and Studio City.

November 18, 1994|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky ended weeks of speculation Thursday by announcing that he will support a controversial plan to use redevelopment powers to rebuild quake-damaged neighborhoods in Sherman Oaks and Studio City.

In an effort to appease strong opposition to the idea, Yaroslavsky said he will recommend that the city immediately implement a recovery plan for damaged condominiums but delay other elements of the redevelopment program for 10 months, giving the council an opportunity to abort the effort later.

Under his plan, a citizens redevelopment committee appointed by Yaroslavsky could also oppose certain elements of the plan and the decisions of the panel could only be overturned by a two-thirds vote of the City Council.

"I have tried to be responsive," he said. "The thing is I do not want to walk away from a tool that could make a difference between financial ruin and survival."

As proposed, a redevelopment zone in Sherman Oaks and Studio City would include commercial and residential blocks along Ventura Boulevard and adjacent neighborhoods. It would divert property taxes to provide $18.8 million in residential and commercial loans and money to rebuild streets and public buildings.

Yaroslavsky's vote is critical because other council members have said his decision will strongly influence their vote when the plan goes before the council for a final decision Tuesday. Some of Yaroslavsky's colleagues, however, said his proposal was a way around making a difficult decision.

Reaction to the proposal was mixed, with some critics saying they are willing to consider the new idea and others continuing to oppose any use of redevelopment powers in the hard-hit communities.

Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., said his group has opposed a previous plan for an emergency redevelopment zone but is now willing to study Yaroslavsky's new plan.

"The proposal is worth looking at because there is no question that the condominium owners are the most affected," he said.

Close said he still does not trust the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to solve the problems in Sherman Oaks and Studio City but is willing to allow the agency to act as a lender of last resort for quake victims.

Matt Epstein, a Sherman Oaks resident and vocal opponent of the idea, was not appeased. He said Yaroslavsky's idea of launching only one element of the recovery plan was "like letting just a little of the cancer into the body and hoping it doesn't spread."

Like many other opponents, Epstein said he doesn't trust the CRA, saying it has proven in other redevelopment projects to be unresponsive to the opinions of residents.

"You let these guys in there and it's going to be a free-for-all," he said. "It's an absolute disaster waiting to happen."

But Fred Gaines, a Sherman Oaks attorney and supporter of the current redevelopment proposal, supports Yaroslavsky's new plan. He criticized opponents of the idea, saying most have been unwilling to compromise.

"I think it's a good idea," he said. "Those of us working on it have been trying at every turn to accommodate people's concerns."

Yaroslavsky unveiled the plan Wednesday night at a meeting of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. He said he made an "emotional plea" to the group but felt that many were still not sold on the idea.

Yaroslavsky said the plan would provide immediate help for condominium owners because many cannot make repairs to common facilities in a complex after other condo owners have abandoned their units.

The plan would allow the CRA to buy abandoned condominiums and make repairs so the units can be resold. For condominium owners who have not abandoned their units, the city's housing department already offers low interest loans of up to $35,000 per unit.

The other elements of the program--the sale of bonds to provide residential and business loans--would be delayed until at least October, 1995, under Yaroslavsky's plan.

Because he is leaving his post Dec. 5 to take a seat on the Board of Supervisors, Yaroslavsky said he wanted to provide his replacement an opportunity to pull the plug on the plan.

Until the full program is in effect, the appointed citizens committee could vote on any CRA action related to the project. The panel could also vote whether to keep the programs limited to condominiums or expand it to the other programs. Once all the elements are in place, the committee could also vote on whether to extend the five-year plan to 10 years. If the committee votes against any such matter, the council could only overturn the decision with a vote of 10 of the 15 council members.

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