L.B. Schools Blast City Study on New Housing as 'Grossly Deficient'

Times Staff Writer

The school district has turned up the heat in its two-year dispute with city officials over classroom funding, labeling a new city-commissioned study "grossly deficient."

At the same time, the district blasted city officials for their "continuing cavalier treatment of and arrogant disregard for the schools in the community."

The harsh language was included in the district's first written response to an environmental study of proposed changes in a plan that would allow dwellings to be built in more of the 421-acre Downtown Redevelopment Zone.

'Unbelievable' Report

"It's unbelievable to me that the report could be issued showing no impact at all on the school district," E. Tom Giugni, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, said in an interview.

The environmental study--and the tough school district response--are scheduled to be considered Nov. 11 by the City Council and the Redevelopment Agency, which must certify the adequacy of the environmental report. The district response was delivered to city planners late last week and distributed to the school board on Monday.

Also included in the district's response was a request for $72 million in city assistance to pay for three new schools. But Mayor Ernie Kell said that amount is unrealistic, especially in light of recent passage by the Legislature of funding that would bring the district about $3 million to $5 million a year if it is signed by the governor.

The district's comments follow two years of disagreement between the city and its rapidly growing school district about how much City Hall should contribute for new classrooms.

1985 Suit Withdrawn

The district filed a lawsuit in 1985 to try to force city officials to assess fees on developers or provide other money to the 66,000-student school district, which is already at capacity and projects an enrollment of 91,400 by 1994.

It eventually withdrew that suit, saying it wanted to improve relations with the city. But now, 13 months later, it has secured no city commitment to help.

The sharpness of the district's response to the new study reflects school officials' increasing frustration, Giugni said. "The only progress I see at this point is that we're still talking with the city," he said. Giugni and City Manager John Dever are scheduled to meet to discuss the issue next week, Giugni said.

In its response, the district maintains that city consultants gathered too little information before concluding that only 13 students will be among the 3,494 people who will live in the 1,839 additional dwellings that the downtown redevelopment plan would allow.

"Projecting only 13 more students for the remaining 25 years of project activity is irresponsible," said the document written by school facilities administrator Mary Anne Mays and approved by Giugni. Overall, the environmental study "lacks integrity" because it does not consider the severe effect downtown redevelopment has had on schools on its periphery and elsewhere in the city since 1975, the district said.

Written Response Due

Roger Anderman, executive director of the Redevelopment Agency, would not comment on such specific allegations, but said he will issue a written response by Oct. 20.

He did say, however, that the goal of the environmental report was to look only at the effect of proposed amendments to the redevelopment plan, not at the overall effect redevelopment may have had on school enrollment. "There was no requirement to look beyond that narrow issue," he said.

The report's projection of only 13 students for the 1,839 additional dwellings is based on a survey of 415 existing downtown apartments and condominiums similar to those allowed under the amended plan. Only three school-age children live in those dwellings, the report says.

Residents of the new dwellings--many of which would be bachelor apartments or have just one bedroom--are expected to be single persons or young couples without children, the report said. It concluded that after the 1,839 additional homes are built there will be one less school-age child on the 12 blocks affected by the amendments.

Bigger Picture

School officials, however, insist that it is time for the city to look at the bigger picture--the effect a projected 30,000 new dwellings citywide will have on local schools during the next 15 years.

Giugni said new construction throughout the city, including growth spawned by downtown redevelopment, already has filled local schools to overflowing. And Mays cited issuance of about 2,645 residential building permits over a 12-month period ending in June as evidence of that continuing boom.

City officials, however, have repeatedly said that money for new school construction or the leasing of temporary classrooms should come from state or federal sources. And they are aware of the $3 million to $5 million a year the district will begin receiving in January if Gov. George Deukmejian signs a $5-billion package of school construction bills approved last month by the Legislature.

The legislation would give school districts, not city councils, the power to levy fees on developers and places on the ballot one $800-million bond issue this November and a second one in 1988.

Developer fees would be limited, however to $1.50 per square foot on homes--about one-fourth of fees now imposed in some cities--and 25 cents a foot on commercial and industrial projects. For a 1,500 square-foot home that would mean a fee of $2,250.

Effect Called Negligible

The city has consistently maintained that most new construction has had only a negligible effect on school enrollment and that severe crowding in downtown schools results from immigration by large Latino and Southeast Asian families.

Fees on developers--usually imposed in growing suburban communities to pay for new roads, utilities and schools--might unfairly discourage construction here, city officials have argued.

Mayor Kell, who over the last year has served as a peacemaker between city and school officials, said that because the schools will have the right to impose fees on developers he is less inclined to vote for much city financial help.

"They fought for developer fees and they got what they wanted," he said, referring to the bill passed by the Legislature. "Some of us on the City Council didn't think that was a constructive idea, so it's going to be interesting to see what their argument is going to be now."

Even if all proposed state assistance is approved, however, it will not come close to meeting the demand for more classrooms, Mays said. As things now stand, all 80 local schools are at capacity and about 9,000 downtown-area students must be bused away from crowded schools in their neighborhoods, she said.

Strings Attached

Strings would also be attached to money from developer fees, which could be used only as the local share of costs in state-funded construction or building rehabilitation projects, Mays said. Thus, those fees would not provide the millions of dollars the district says it will need to lease several hundred classrooms to supplement the new construction during the next seven years. (Enrollment projections beyond seven years are not reliable, Mays said.)

The state Allocation Board has tentatively approved construction of three Long Beach elementary schools, which would have about 60 classrooms and accommodate about 1,800 students, Mays said. But construction would not be completed until about 1989 at the earliest, Mays said.

The state also has agreed to send 32 portable classrooms that would house about 1,000 students to Long Beach by January, she said. Rent is only $2,000-a-year for each one, she said.

In addition, the school board voted Monday to publish its intent to operate a few elementary schools year-round beginning next fall. Capacity at year-round schools increases 20% to 25%. However, costs of air conditioning necessary for summer classes under the year-round plan would be about $600,000 for the average elementary school, Mays said.

L.B BUILDING PERMITS BY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ZONES 1. Bryant Elementary School -- 389 Units 2. Willard Elementary School -- 312 Units 3. Lee Elementary School --279 Units 4. Kettering Elementary School -- 240 Units 5. Burbank Elementary School -- 212 Units 6. Stevenson Elementary School -- 179 Units 7. Edison Elementary School -- 169 Units 8. Lafayette Elementary School -- 136 Units 9. Lincoln Elementary School -- 134 Units 10. Longfellow Elementary School -- 83 Units 11. Birney Elementary School -- 77 Units 12. Mann Elementary School -- 73 Units 13. Madison Elementary School -- 72 Units 14. Lowell Elementary School -- 59 Units 15. Fremont Elementary School -- 48 Units 16. Roosevelt Elementary School -- 44 Units 17. Burroughs Elementary School -- 40 Units 18. Whittier Elementary School -- 29 Units 19. Harte Elementary School -- 29 Units 20. Signal Hill Elementary School -- 16 Units 21. Los Cerritos elementary School -- 13 Units 22. Naples Elementary School -- 11 Units 23. Addams Elementary School -- 8 Units 24. Barton Elementary School -- 4 Units 25. Bixby Elementary School -- 4 Units 26. Gant Elementary School -- 4 Units 27. King Elementary School -- 4 Units 28. McKinley Elementary School -- 4 Units 29. Sutter Elementary School -- 3 Units 30. Burnett Elementary School -- 2 Units TOTAL: 2,645 units Units are the number of residences possible based on building permits taken out from July, 1985 through June, 1986.

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