Culminating nearly four years of debate, a divided Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to adopt a long-term framework to cope with the projected addition of 820,000 people to the city's population by 2010.
Although city planners put forward the inch-thick document as a blueprint to respond to the city's expected growth to 4.3 million, dozens of homeowners and several council members criticized the plan, saying it steers growth into already congested neighborhoods.
Mayor Richard Riordan, who had issued a statement urging citizens to participate in the General Plan debate, took no position on the document, saying he is waiting until final minor details are decided on later.
The 9-4 vote--with council members Jackie Goldberg, Mike Hernandez, Marvin Braude and Joel Wachs voting against the plan--came after more than two hours of debate, with dozens of residents testifying against it.
After the vote, some homeowners--some of whom donned wolf masks in an attempt to portray the plan as "a wolf in sheep's clothing--predicted it would result in rampant growth of apartment houses in what are now single-family neighborhoods.
The debate essentially centered on whether the plan should accommodate the predicted growth or try to slow it down.
"They just said to hell with the citizens of Los Angeles," said Gordon Murley, chairman of the San Fernando Valley Federation.
But supporters of the plan said that the population growth projected by the Southern California Assn. of Governments cannot be halted. They argue that the plan simply sets guidelines for where and how the growth will be allowed.
"People are going to come to Los Angeles no matter what we say," said Councilman Mike Feuer, one of the plan's supporters. "The question is not, should people come to Los Angeles, but if they come, what should we be doing."
The General Plan Framework, which was last revised in 1974, acts as the city's land-use bible. It sets guidelines, to be followed by city bureaucrats who administer zoning and building permits, under which all development takes place.
For the most part, the plan envisions 21st century Los Angeles much as it is. But it builds upon the so-called "center concepts" at the heart of the 1974 plan. That idea called for the creation of dense neighborhoods of shops, offices and housing, connected by public transit.
Still, planners say that homeowners should not fear the framework because it is consistent with community plans--the detailed land-use documents for neighborhoods that are adopted with the input of neighborhood groups.
"If we do not have a [general] plan, it will be business as usual," said Con Howe, director of the city's Planning Department.
For the first time in the city's history, the plan calls for encouragement and retention of local businesses and for development to concentrate around the city's growing transit system. But the plan also says that the city must provide sewers and streets to cope with predicted population increases in the growth areas.
"We believe it strikes the right balance," Howe said.
But Goldberg and Hernandez said that SCAG's population projections, on which the plan was founded, predict more growth in the Hollywood and northeast Los Angeles areas than anywhere else in the city. They complain that the plan accommodates that increase with more dense multifamily housing in those areas--crowding schools, adding to traffic congestion and causing other quality of life problems--instead of spreading that growth throughout the city.
"The targeted growth areas are not only in our areas but in our areas in a big way," Goldberg said. "Where is the equity in this kind of plan?"
According to the plan, the communities of Boyle Heights, Silver Lake, Echo Park, South-Central Los Angeles, Hollywood and Wilshire will grow by 320,000 people, or about 40% of the city's entire growth by 2010. About 310,000 additional people are anticipated in the San Fernando Valley, to bring its population to 1.5 million.
But Councilman Hal Bernson, who heads the council's Planning and Land Use Committee, argued that much of the expected growth is due to birth rates in certain areas and that the plan is simply responding to those growth rates.
"Anybody who says that this [the plan] will increase the population by one person is not telling you the truth or doesn't know what he is talking about."
But several homeowner groups blasted the plan, saying that it will destroy single-family neighborhoods by allowing condos and apartment houses to be built where they are now blocked by zoning regulations. They also argued that the plan does not address how to pay for the street and sewer infrastructure needed to accommodate such dense housing patterns.
"All of this is just pie in the sky," said Lori Dinkin, president of the Valley Village Homeowners Assn. "You are ruining the city."