Housing Panel That Has Met Once in 6 Years Is Revived

Times Staff Writer

The City Council has resurrected the Baldwin Park Housing Commission, appointing four people to a panel that has met only once during its six years of existence.

The commission, a non-governmental body, is being revived to deal with problems expected to arise from the displacement of residents by the Sierra Vista Redevelopment Project. The $200-million commercial and industrial development was approved by the voters in November, 1986.

Although the city is still negotiating details, the controversial project is expected to require the demolition of several hundred homes, including some low-income housing.

"The numbers involved--both the dollar numbers and the people numbers--say this is going to be a significant local issue," said John Hemer, city director of housing and economic development.

Major Components

The project, which will include a 400-bed Kaiser Permanente hospital and a 20-acre shopping center, is the largest of the city's six redevelopment projects and covers two miles of San Bernardino Freeway frontage.

Under state law, Baldwin Park must set aside 20% of the tax revenue generated by the project to replace low-income housing torn down for the development.

It will be up to the commissioners in the next few months to advise the City Council, itself acting as the more formal Baldwin Park Housing Authority, on where and how to develop low-income housing, Hemer said.

Baldwin Park expects to receive the first $225,000 in tax revenue generated by increased property values in the area before the end of the year, and hopes to schedule the first meeting of the commission in January.

The seven-member commission was created by the council in 1981 to advise the Housing Authority, which is charged with overseeing city policy. But since it was formed, it has met only once--so that the members could meet each other.

Although there are five other redevelopment projects in the works, none has involved the displacement of large numbers of people or the demolition of significant numbers of low-income housing units, Hemer said. "There was no need earlier (for the commission to meet)--no burning desire or issue," he said.

The commission had dwindled to only three members--Frank Barnato, June Glass and Newton Seay --when the council decided to revive it earlier this month.

"My purpose in voting for it is to make it more active, to check into our housing and to look into our subsidized housing," said Councilman Jack White.

The new appointees are Nellie Martinez, Ed Huetinck, Harry Kirk and Dorothy Peyton.

Martinez, 39, said Baldwin Park needs low-income housing and this is the way to get it. "I just want to get involved in whatever's needed," she said.

Kirk, 64, who said he will keep in mind the needs of senior citizens, said that "hopefully the commission working together can give advice to whomever needs it."

From the outset, the Sierra Vista project was stiffly opposed by residents of the area, who feared that they might lose their homes. But over public protest, the City Council adopted the plan in July, 1986.

Soon after, the Baldwin Park Homeowners Group began an effort to put the issue on the ballot. After several stormy public hearings, the council voted to exclude 1,500 homes from the project, but the action did little to assuage the fears of those who thought that their homes might be jeopardized by "encroaching redevelopment."

When it came before the voters, however, they approved the project, 4,210 to 3,253.

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