S. F. Springs May Lower Sights on Redevelopment

Times Staff Writer

With the county balking at the scope of a proposed redevelopment project and asking for a chunk of future revenues, the City Council decided to take another look at its proposed Washington Boulevard project.

After meeting with Los Angeles County Supervisor Peter F. Schabarum earlier in the week, the city agreed to adjust financial projections and possibly drop a site in order to move ahead with the project.

The council, acting as the redevelopment agency, continued Thursday’s public hearing to 7:30 p.m. on July 10 to continue negotiations and hammer out an agreement with the county.

The proposed project would take in the commercial properties along Washington Boulevard from the Whittier Downs Mall on Norwalk Boulevard to the Southern California Edison Co. plant near Appledale Avenue.


Three Sites

The city made plans to focus on three sites in the project--the mall, the California Mushroom Farm and the Edison facility--to “act as a stimulus for the rest of the area,” said James Turba, project manager and assistant to the director of planning and development. If the agency concentrated on a few sites, he said, it “would trigger private investment” along Washington Boulevard, the most heavily traveled street in the city.

But the county has other plans.

Saying some of the areas included in the plan are not blighted, county officials asked the city to consider dropping the Edison facility and approve an agreement changing the financial structure of the project.


When an area is designated for redevelopment, all revenues received by taxing agencies--including the county and school districts--are frozen at the existing level. Any increases in tax revenues that result from improvements go to the Redevelopment Agency to use for further redevelopment.

But the county wants a “pass-through agreement,” where it would receive 60% of the tax increment generated from new development in the project area, said Virginia Collins, a chief analyst in the county administrator’s office.

A county study said that the project would “cause a financial burden and detriment . . . due to the loss of property tax revenues which would be received if no plan was adopted.”

Schabarum, in a dinner meeting with the council last week, suggested the city include the farm but drop the Edison site and agree to pay back part of the tax money it receives from the finished project.


“I’m up to here with redevelopment in my own house,” Schabarum said, referring to 13 projects in the county that have been considered in the last four months.

The city must adopt the redevelopment plan before July 19 in order to have the current fiscal year used as the base year for receiving the tax increment.

If the city cannot reach an agreement with the county, it could still go ahead with the project, but it could face court action.

Richard Weaver, city director of planning and development, said the project will “try to upgrade the whole corridor there by making it a viable area. The whole corridor needs some improvement.”


But he added that the city needs the full tax increment because those anticipated revenues make up 40% of the $12.7 million budget planned for the project over an 18-year period. Sales taxes would provide the balance of funds generated for the project. Besides helping developers assemble small lots for development, the agency can also bear some of the costs of landscaping and public improvements.

“If push came to shove, we’ll drop Edison,” said City Manager Don Powell, noting that it would not meet “anyone’s definition of blight.”

Full Taxes Needed

However, Powell repeatedly stressed that without the full tax increment the project “won’t fly.”


At the end of the meeting, city officials agreed to scale down the project’s budget and possibly agree to pay the tax increment back to the county in the future.

One issue the city and county officials agreed on is that the mall is in desperate need of redevelopment.

The aging facility houses a few stores, including a Thrifty drug store and Trak Auto, but most of the tenants have left, Weaver said.

The aging facility houses a few stores, including a Thrifty drug store and Trak Auto, but most of the tenants have left, Weaver said.


A developer has approached the city about tearing the center down and starting over again, but the site presents special problems, Turba said.

Demolition Costs

The cost of demolition would be high because it would have to be done in stages to accommodate existing tenants and because of an underground basement area and loading dock. “In the ‘50s the loading dock was innovative. In the ‘80s, it’s a waste of space and poor security,” Turba said. The site also needs to have all utilities upgraded.

The site’s peculiarities make it “difficult for a developer” to rebuild the center on his own, Turba said. If the project is adopted, the agency could help pay for demolition and the off-site improvements.


Although the tax increment would help pay for redevelopment along Washington, the city expects more revenues from increased sales tax as commercial businesses increase.

The Washington corridor isn’t “living up to its potential,” Weaver said. Surrounding residents and property owners “seem to be understanding, if not sympathetic, to the fact the area needs help,” he said.