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Residents Praise Plan to Fund School With Billboard

Some lawmakers worry a Pico-Union exemption would undermine city limits on new signage.

May 10, 2003|Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writer

A proposal to help pay for a performing arts academy in Pico-Union by sticking a billboard on its roof received praise this week from neighbors -- a view opposite that of Westside lawmakers who worry it would undermine a city ban on new billboards.

Moctesuma Esparza, whose film credits include "Selena" and who helped organize the city's legendary 1968 Chicano student walkouts, wants to take advantage of the proposed academy's location -- near the juncture of the Harbor and Santa Monica freeways -- to raise money with the billboard to help cover its costs.

"In many ways, the freeway tore this neighborhood apart," said Pico-Union resident Patsy Carter. "To me, it would be a real kick to finally get something back from the freeway."

Carter was among more than four dozen community members who showed up at Norwood Elementary on Thursday evening to hear Esparza's pitch. The academy, he said, would offer music, voice, dance and entertainment-business and well as academic courses to 900 middle- through high school students, with priority given to children who live within five miles of the campus.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 07, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 72 words Type of Material: Correction
Building location -- Articles in the April 24 and May 10 California sections concerned a plan to finance a proposed performing arts academy in the Pico-Union district by placing a billboard on top of the academy. The articles neglected to say that the building, a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument, is in the University Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, which has a board that reviews all exterior work on structures within its district.

Assemblyman Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Councilman Ed Reyes warned supporters of a political fight taking shape.

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski has introduced a motion opposing a state bill by Nunez, AB 762, that would allow the billboard if it complies with city regulations that permit them under certain conditions.

Miscikowski wants assurances that the bill will not preempt city laws. The bill received bipartisan support when it cleared an Assembly committee Wednesday, but several Democrats abstained from voting, including Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), whose district includes parts of the Westside.

Xavier Flores, an anti-billboard activist who does not live in Pico-Union, said he would support the plan only if it complies with all city laws.

"It could benefit this community tremendously," Flores said in an interview. "But it could have a devastating impact on all other communities by opening up the floodgates."

Nunez disagreed, noting that under his bill, a billboard would be allowed only if provisions permitting billboards in Los Angeles are followed. They include establishing a so-called supplemental-use district, which would give the city officials and residents a chance to weigh in.

"Everybody supports the school in this community, and they do so passionately," Nunez said.

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