SUN VALLEY — Two weeks before election day, candidates for the Los Angeles City Council's 7th District clashed Tuesday over whether limits are needed on apartment developments, with one contender calling for a moratorium on new multifamily projects.
The issue was raised at a forum sponsored by the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce, where candidate Corinne Sanchez said she is troubled by the concentration of low-income apartments in some parts of the 7th District whereas other areas of the city have not accepted their share.
"We do need more affordable housing," said Sanchez, who runs a social service agency. But she added, "I, as a homeowner, do have a concern about any more apartments. My property values have gone down as a result of poor planning. What I don't want is the northeast [Valley] to be stuck with all the low-income or affordable housing when we are not spreading it around."
She stopped short of calling for a moratorium but said if elected she would work to reduce the density allowed in some community plans where there is already a high concentration of apartments but not enough support services, including streets and stores.
In contrast, Alex Padilla, considered to be a front-runner, along with Sanchez, said he does not think there are too many apartments in the district.
"Not at this time," he said. "There is a need for more affordable housing."
Sanchez blamed the high number of apartments in some areas for traffic congestion and other problems in the northeast Valley, but Padilla, a legislative aide, said it is city government's job to deal with the issues raised by density.
"Certainly where there are clusters of apartments we have unique challenges for those communities," Padilla said in an interview. "As elected officials and leaders, we need to work together to address that."
Padilla said the city should do what it can to encourage home ownership, because it gives residents a greater stake in their community.
Ollie McCaulley, who works for a nonprofit housing corporation, went further after the forum, calling for a halt to construction of more apartments until more single-family homes are built.
"I don't want any more apartments built here," McCaulley said in an interview. "I would push for a moratorium that would not allow any more apartments until single-family dwellings are built in the district. We need a balance."
He proposed programs to help low-income residents leave their apartments and become first-time homeowners.
The 7th District has 33,997 single-family homes and 23,365 apartment units, according to the latest census.
McCaulley's moratorium proposal was criticized by candidate Barbara Perkins, a former consultant to the president of Mission College.
"That's a pretty harsh decision," Perkins said. "People need affordable housing. I don't think too many apartments, by itself, causes property values to go down."
Former San Fernando Mayor Raul Godinez II, also a candidate, said he is concerned that high-density residential developments have encroached into neighborhoods of single-family homes.
"That destroys the character of the neighborhood," Godinez said.
Tuesday's forum, which was attended by about 20 businesspeople, had few of the sparks that have marked previous encounters by the six candidates.
Sanchez remained on the attack against Padilla, who has received endorsements from Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar) and Eastside Councilman Richard Alatorre.
Several candidates have questioned whether Padilla would be independent.
"I am independent," Sanchez told the audience. "Nobody owns me. I don't have to call Sacramento. I don't have to call someone in East L.A. to say, 'What do I do now?' "