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‘Enterprise Zone’ : Council Backs Special Status for Pacoima

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday voted to press ahead with an effort to establish Pacoima as a state “enterprise zone,” but refused to offer additional incentives that officials say would help the community compete with other areas for the designation.

Pacoima is among 20 finalists vying for 10 enterprise-zone designations in California. The state program is aimed at upgrading blighted areas by offering tax breaks to businesses for locating there.

Los Angeles city staff members have said that Pacoima would stand a better chance of winning the designation from the state Department of Commerce if the city offered additional incentives, such as exemptions to the city’s business fees and utility taxes.

But Councilman Dave Cunningham, who opposes such zones, persuaded the council not to offer incentives, saying that the designation would provide “puny” tax breaks that would do little to stimulate business development.

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“For the life of me, I’ve not seen what one gets out of the state enterprise zone designation,” Cunningham said during a brief floor debate.

Watts Also Competing

Nonetheless, he joined the rest of the council in voting to spend $100,000 for more studies to keep alive the applications of Pacoima and the Central City area for designation as enterprise zones. Watts also is in competition for the designation under separate state legislation.

Cunningham said state officials have told him privately that they are eager to select at least one community from the Los Angeles area for a state enterprise zone.

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Councilman Howard Finn, who represents Pacoima, said the designation is important to residents of the community, which has an 18% unemployment rate.

“This could be a way to eliminate a lot of the problems in Pacoima,” Finn said.

He said that, despite the council’s unwillingness to offer added incentives, Pacoima stands a good chance of winning the designation because it has received the strongest community support.

Doug Ford, manager of the city Community Development Department, which is preparing the application, said Pacoima’s community support was the strongest of the 57 original contenders. It ranked as the 16th neediest on the list of 20 finalists named by the state.

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