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The Secession Debate


On the eve of a vote likely to put Hollywood secession on the November ballot, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn joined about 50 anti-secessionists in the heart of Hollywood to argue against it.

"Los Angeles wouldn't be a great city without Hollywood in it," the mayor said at a midmorning rally staged at the MTA Red Line station at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street by a group calling itself HALO--Hollywood and Los Angeles as One.

"Secession," Hahn said, "isn't the answer."

Hollywood secession leader Gene La Pietra quietly waited for the rally to end so he could make his case to reporters. Group officials said they held the event before today's scheduled vote by the Local Agency Formation Commission of Los Angeles County to show there is opposition in Hollywood to breaking away from Los Angeles.

The panel, which sets the terms and conditions for forming new cities, has already decided to put the San Fernando Valley secession measure on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Meanwhile, panel Executive Director Larry Calemine released a report Tuesday showing that the cumulative financial impact of the Valley and Hollywood breaking from Los Angeles would probably be more positive than negative for the new municipalities and the city they would leave behind.

At the Hollywood rally, Hahn urged the commission to decide against putting the Hollywood measure on the citywide ballot, noting that recent economic studies by Los Angeles officials and state Controller Kathleen Connell said Hollywood would not be a viable city.

Hahn argued that support for secession in Hollywood isn't widespread, noting that a recent survey by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce showed that chamber members were opposed to breaking away from Los Angeles by a 2-1 ratio.

Hollywood secession is "half-baked," Hahn said. "We don't want to be part of it."

One of the speakers at the rally, Los Feliz resident Christi Van Cleve, said Los Angeles officials were working hard to provide services to overcome problems in hard-luck neighborhoods, where secession might seem appealing.

"I don't think [La Pietra's] solution is the answer," Van Cleve said.

In addition to carrying placards that read "I Love L.A." and "Divorce Might Work for People but [Is] Bad for Cities," secession opponents circulated papers asking the panel to exclude Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and residential areas covered by the Los Feliz Improvement Assn., the Franklin Hills Resident Assn., the Melrose Hill Neighborhood Assn. and the East Hollywood Community Assn. from the proposed new city of Hollywood.

When the rally ended, reporters sought out La Pietra. He accused Hahn and other anti-secessionists of trying to scare voters with dire predictions of financial doom. "There's nothing to be afraid of," La Pietra said. "One great city will soon become three great cities--Hollywood, Camelot [a proposed name for the Valley] and Los Angeles."

For example, contracting police services from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department would save the new Hollywood $9 million a year, La Pietra said.

He dismissed suggestions that the new city would replace the Los Angeles Fire Department. "It's a great fire department and it will stay in Hollywood," he said.

He said the new Hollywood would continue to enforce rent control, which the Los Angeles City Council enacted citywide in 1979.

"Seventy-two percent of Hollywood residents are renters," he said. "The power is with the renters, not with Gene La Pietra."

Calemine's report was in response to concerns by Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski that the financial harm caused by two cities breaking away could be cumulatively greater than each analyzed separately.

"In a rational world, the city of Los Angeles will 'right-size' and reorganize in the long term to effectively and efficiently deliver services to [its] smaller constituent base," Calemine said in the report.

He said research in the field of urban management indicates that some services, including police and fire, are provided at a higher cost per capita in large cities than in smaller municipalities.

In some cases, Calamine said, it would be less expensive to contract with the Sheriff's Department instead of using the LAPD.

Other services, including sewage treatment, water and electric service, benefit by the economies of scale in larger cities, Calemine found. He noted that sewage treatment and utility services would continue to be provided to the new cities by Los Angeles under the breakup scheme.

Calemine's findings were dismissed by Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook, who said they were flawed.

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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