City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky unveiled a $70-million bond proposal Monday that would provide money to help restore the fire-scarred Los Angeles Central Library, repair seismically unsafe branch libraries and replace the aged 77th Street police station.
The funding, which would include new library construction in the west San Fernando Valley and Watts, would allow "desperately needed capital improvements that cannot be funded out of existing revenues," Yaroslavsky said at a press conference outside the downtown library. The measure could be on the ballot by June, 1988, he added.
"These are projects that have been in the capital improvements program for years," Yaroslavsky said. "They've been on the shelf. . . . We had no mechanism by which to finance them."
The City Council was expected today to consider a motion to place the matter on the June ballot.
Under the proposal, the city would issue a general-obligation bond, made possible by the passage of Proposition 46 last year. Such bonds had been precluded by Proposition 13's strict property tax ceiling passed in 1978 because they would trigger tax hikes.
The yearly cost to taxpayers would be $4.90 per owner of an average single-family home, Yaroslavsky said, based on $100,000 assessed value.
'Full Support' by Bradley
The bond proposal would be the first offered in the city since Proposition 46's passage. The last obligation bond measure approved by city voters provided $60 million in 1971 to finance the sewer system.
Mayor Tom Bradley is in "full support" of the proposed bond issue, Bradley spokesman Fred MacFarlane said, "and will do everything he can to bring about the desired program."
Yaroslavsky, joined by council members Joy Picus and Robert Farrell, said the funds would provide $30 million to cover a shortfall in the Central Library's $152.4-million restoration, $12.5 million for seismic repairs to nine branches in the South-Central, Wilshire, Lincoln Heights and other areas, and $3.5 million for expansion of the Watts Branch Library and construction of a new branch in the Platt Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley.
An additional $15 million would be used to replace the 77th Street police station in South-Central Los Angeles. The 62-year-old facility is so crowded that female officers use a trailer parked outside as a locker room. Acting Police Chief Robert Vernon said the building is deteriorated and unsafe.
"We should not be in it really. There's no fire escape from the second floor," he said, "and the building has wood staircases. If a fire occurred, we'd be in bad trouble."
Picus said west Valley residents for "about 15 years" have been driving past a sign on an empty lot at 23600 Victory Boulevard hailing it as a "future site" of a library. "The bottom line is it takes money and we haven't had sufficient money to build the Platt Ranch library. A whole generation of kids has grown up there unserved by a branch library."
The projected shortfall for the restoration of the 60-year-old Central Library at 5th and Hope streets had raised concern among city officials that plans for the library would have to be scaled down. The shortfall had occurred despite commitments of more than $110 million from the Community Redevelopment Agency and a $28.2-million payment in June from developer Maguire Thomas, which is building two office towers near the library.
Due to the cost overruns, architects earlier this year cut about $20 million in planned costs by substituting less expensive materials, spending less for new furniture, equipment, a cafe and landscaping. But a shortfall of about $30 million remains, library spokesman Robert G. Reagan said.
At a Board of Library Commissioners meeting Monday, however, members voted to restore $5.1 million cut for landscaping of the west lawn. The action was taken, Reagan said, at the request of the mayor and the city's Cultural Affairs Commission.
Board members expressed support for Yaroslavsky's bond issue proposal at their meeting, Reagan said, although they had not been aware of it beforehand. "We heard it on the radio," he said.
After Yaroslavsky's press conference, which was held at the same time as the commissioners' meeting, Reagan said Yaroslavsky then came to the commissioners and informed Chairman Ronald S. Lushing and City Librarian Wyman Jones of his plan.
Yaroslavsky said he did not feel that failing to notify the key officials beforehand was an oversight. "The Library Department has been begging for seismic funds for a decade or more," he said. "There's nothing new in here the department has not asked the mayor and council for."