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City Hall Makes Itself at Home in Valley

At the Van Nuys center opening, Hahn touts new accessibility to government.

June 24, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Nearly eight months after quashing a breakaway movement in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn presented the area Monday with a reconciliation gift -- a $33-million gift at that.

Hahn and a dozen other city officials were in Van Nuys for the grand opening of the Marvin Braude San Fernando Valley Constituent Service Center, a gleaming new four-story office building that the mayor said will be one of two new "neighborhood city halls" dedicated to improving city services in the Valley.

"The Valley is now receiving what residents asked for: a city government that is closer and more accessible," Hahn told a crowd of more than 200 Valley civic leaders and city employees at the dedication ceremony.

The event was part of a daylong barnstorming of Los Angeles, during which Hahn dedicated six of the seven neighborhood city halls that are part of his plan to decentralize city government. Other neighborhood city halls are in Sunland-Tujunga, West Los Angeles, Hollywood, Highland Park, South Los Angeles and San Pedro.

In Van Nuys, backers of the failed secession effort who attended the dedication said the Braude center is long overdue, but its delivery will not stop residents from wanting more say in their government.

"It's about time," secession leader James Stewart said. "We needed something a lot better than what we had, which was a dilapidated city office building here."

Stewart said the new building is "wonderful," but the Valley still wants a role in decision-making.

Similar sentiments were voiced by secession backers Victor Viereck and David Hernandez Jr. "It depends on what they do with the building," said Hernandez, who ran for Valley mayor in last November's secession election. "If it's just for press conferences and political speeches about what they are going to do for us, that would not be good."

Viereck said the City Council should hold regular meetings at the building, which Councilman Alex Padilla promised would happen.

At a meeting of city department heads at the newly designated West Los Angeles Neighborhood City Hall, Hahn urged the managers to foster a more customer-friendly attitude among city employees. "I have heard too many complaints in the last few years from people who felt they got the runaround or were put off," Hahn said.

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