Former Top HUD Official John Tuite, 53, Will Head CRA

Times Design Critic

The new head of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency will be John Tuite, a former top official of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Times has learned.

Although the agency declined to confirm or deny the appointment, others involved in the selection process said Tuite had been chosen for the job and was offered a two-year contract. Another source said he had accepted.

The agency board has scheduled a meeting with the overseeing City Council Government Operations Committee on Wednesday morning to introduce the new administrator and to hold a press conference.

The 53-year-old Tuite will bring to the $96,000-a-year position a reputation as a liberal committed to social betterment. Among his volunteer activities in the Los Angeles area has been to serve on the boards of the downtown Single Room Occupancy Corp., dealing with problems of the homeless, and Santa Monica's 3rd Street mall redevelopment effort.

As CRA administrator, Tuite will be overseeing a staff of about 350 and an annual budget of about $150 million. The agency is involved in a variety of ambitious redevelopment efforts and housing and social programs, from Boyle Heights to Hollywood.

However, the agency's focus is downtown, where it has spurred over the last decade an estimated $7.5 billion in private investment in office development and historic preservation, and an estimated $50 million more in cultural facilities. Projects have included the continuing redevelopment of Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo, South Park, Skid Row, Spring Street and the rehabilitation and expansion of the Central Library.

Taking the lead in these programs for years was an involved staff, headed by Edward Helfeld. Helfeld's strong support of staff initiatives led to disagreements with the agency's appointed part-time board whose members complained that the staff was too often presumptuous, and that the board should set policy and the staff implement it.

Contract Not Renewed

The conflicts led to Helfeld's contract not being renewed last December. For the last seven months the agency has been run by acting Administrator Donald Cosgrove, with Board Chairman Jim Wood and Commissioner Christopher Stewart taking active leadership roles.

Tuite also is known as a strong administrator, according to those who have worked with him, and his disagreements with HUD management was one of the reasons cited for his leaving that department after nearly 20 years as a civil servant.

"The board knows it is getting someone very much like Helfeld in his commitment to affordable housing and social programs, but is confident it can work with him," said a member of the selection committee who asked not to be identified.

As HUD area manager for Southern California and Arizona from 1980 to 1983, Tuite channeled about $2 billion in federal aid to communities for such program as new and rehabilitated low- and moderate-income housing and economic development.

Before coming to the West Coast, Tuite had served as director of HUD's Office of Block Grants and, in 1977, during the transition to the Carter Administration, as deputy assistant secretary for community planning and development.

Model Cities Program

Tuite also was active in the 1960s in the controversial model cities program, having become involved in inner-city problems. A native of Chicago, he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Mary of the Lake.

Tuite's involvement in the model cities program and his identification with the Carter Administration were cited by former associates as reasons why in May, 1983, he was summarily transferred out of the region to New Orleans.

Also cited by associates was Tuite's bridling at "special requests" to look favorably upon applications of local developers and politicians who professed to have "friends" in the Reagan Administration.

Tuite declined to accept the transfer and in June, 1983, resigned to become a private consultant, principally to groups seeking to develop affordable retirement housing.

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