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Renewal Proposal Appears Doomed : Bradley Takes Hard Line Against Controversial Northridge Plan

Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley made his opposition known Friday to a controversial proposal that would make it easier for landlords to evict 3,000 predominantly low-income Latinos from a blighted cluster of apartments in an otherwise fashionable residential area of Northridge, thereby appearing to doom the plan.

The proposal was tentatively approved by the City Council last August on a 9-4 vote. However, it requires a second council endorsement and the mayor’s approval to take effect.

The mayor’s office said Friday that he would veto the plan, if the council gave it final approval on a second vote. Ten votes of the 15-member council would be needed to override the mayor’s veto.

Support for the plan had been dwindling in the face of accusations that it is racist. Councilman Ernani Bernardi, a vocal opponent of the plan, said Bradley’s stand indicates that the controversial proposal is “a dead issue.”

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“The mayor’s message is a victory for us and has made us realize the power we have,” said Raul Morales, head of a tenant group formed to fight the proposal. At least 12 civil rights and tenant groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Fair Housing Council and the Coalition for Economic Survival, had converged on the three-block Bryant Street-Vanalden Avenue area to organize tenants to fight the unprecedented plan.

The proposal calls for transforming the run-down, crime-ridden Bryant-Vanalden area into a gated middle-class community.

The mayor’s statement, which was made in a letter received Friday by San Fernando Valley Legal Services, was hailed as a victory by the numerous tenants and civil rights organizations that have branded the plan both racist and unconstitutional.

Councilman Hal Bernson, who proposed the plan as a solution to longtime problems in his district, said Bradley’s action “appears to be politically motivated.” He accused Bradley of acting without “even understanding what he’s talking about.”

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“The least he could have done is give me a call and say, ‘What’s this all about, Hal?’ ”

Bernson said he will press ahead in seeking City Council approval for his proposal.

The council’s August vote instructed the city attorney to draft a one-time exemption to the city’s rent control law. The exemption would allow landlords to evict tenants if landlords spend $7,500 to renovate an apartment--instead of the $10,000 now required--in order to attract what a council committee called “a different class of people.”

Bradley said in his letter, “Support for the proposed ordinance has eroded substantially . . . . I will veto it if it is ever passed by the council and sent to me for approval.”

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The city attorney’s office is still drafting the plan, which will be resubmitted to the council for final approval.

Deputy Mayor Tom Houston said in an interview Friday that Bradley was briefed early in the week in response to citizen protests against the plan. Afterward, the mayor authorized his staff to begin lobbying council members to defeat the ordinance, Houston said.

“After hearing the briefing, he said that there is no way he would permit that to happen,” Houston said. “He thinks it’s unfair to the residents.”

Rally Planned

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Bernson’s proposal has spurred previously unorganized tenants in the apartment development to form Padres Unidos (United Parents). Despite the mayor’s statement, tenant organizer Morales said his group intends to continue to fight the proposal by staging a rally in the neighborhood and continuing a petition drive. He said the group will also continue weekly cleanup of the streets, which began after the Bernson proposal surfaced.

“We want the area improved, but we want the improvements for us,” Morales said.

Bernson’s office has received more than 2,000 letters from nearby Northridge residents in support of the renewal project, according to an aide. He said the residents see this as the only way to rid their neighborhood of crime and unsightly conditions.


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