Hollywood Project Panel Tries to Shed Rowdy Image
A citizens advisory committee for the Hollywood redevelopment project, in a rare session devoid of the acrimony that has made it notorious over the past few years, moved this week to clean up its act and to ask the Los Angeles City Council for a new lease on life.
But Hollywood-area Councilman Michael Woo said in an interview that he has not decided what he wants the council to do about the Hollywood Project Area Committee, which has become well-known over the last 2 1/2 years for its boisterous, chaotic and often unproductive meetings.
Under state law, the group is scheduled to disband in May, three years after the City Council adopted a plan for the 1,100-acre redevelopment project. The council can extend the committee’s existence for one-year intervals, but Woo said he will recommend an extension only if the group’s “very rowdy and less constructive” elements are subdued over the next few months.
“While in theory the Project Area Committee can serve a very constructive purpose, I think anybody who has been to a PAC meeting in Hollywood also knows there is a lot of potential for wacky behavior,” Woo said. “In terms of whether the council has the responsibility to provide an official forum for wacky behavior, I think that is questionable.”
Exuding what one redevelopment official termed an uncharacteristic “clubby feeling,” the committee met Monday for the first time since the election last month of 10 members endorsed by Save Hollywood Our Town, a residents’ group that has sued the Community Redevelopment Agency in hopes of stopping the $922-million redevelopment effort. A judge is expected to issue a tentative ruling on the case next week.
Redevelopment critics now hold undisputed control of the 25-member committee, which they contended had been unfairly dominated by pro-business and development interests that have much to benefit from the renewal effort. The new majority moved quickly to affirm its grip on the committee Monday by ousting developer Michael Dubin as chairman and replacing him with Elaine Koenig, a homeowner who has headed a subcommittee on Hollywood Boulevard.
Seen as Moderate
Koenig has been critical of the CRA and its handling of Hollywood redevelopment, but she is generally regarded as a moderate and is expected to foster a period of relative calm on the committee. Although she says she sympathizes with supporters of the lawsuit, she has not joined in the litigation. Woo described Koenig as “very capable” and said he was “very happy” about her selection.
Koenig said in an interview that she will work to improve the committee’s standing in the community.
“The meeting went very smoothly Monday night, and we got through the agenda--something that hasn’t happened the whole time I’ve been on the PAC,” said Koenig, who was elected to the panel in November, 1987. “Having a high profile and a good profile of a group of people concerned about Hollywood and actually working to do something for Hollywood is really important.”
While committee members devoted little time on Monday to rehashing old problems, they did agree that many of their difficulties have been rooted in procedural disputes that could be avoided with the help of a professional parliamentarian. The committee voted unanimously--with two abstentions--to hire a parliamentarian on a trial basis, and CRA Hollywood Project Manager H. Cooke Sunoo said the agency would pick up the tab.
‘A New Era’
In debating the merits of a parliamentarian, committee members were candid about the past shortcomings of the panel. Member John Walsh, whose emotional outbursts helped fuel pandemonium at previous sessions, declared that the committee has entered “a new era.” Brian Moore, who on Monday replaced Bennett Kayser as Save Hollywood Our Town’s representative on the committee, also said it was time to shed the committee’s reputation in the community as a “charade” and a “zoo.”
“Although this is a new PAC, there are still elements of people being uncontrolled,” Moore said. “I believe the speaker should be in control at all times. I urge we do hire a parliamentarian.”
But member Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and one of the few CRA boosters remaining on the committee, said he doubts a parliamentarian alone can bring tranquility to the committee.
“How does the parliamentarian shut up the people who refuse to listen to the chair and be quiet?” Welsh asked. “You had better hire King Kong.”
In another move intended to bring greater calm to committee meetings by clarifying sometimes murky legal issues, the committee voted to begin searching for an attorney. Sunoo, the CRA project manager, has said the redevelopment agency would make its attorneys available to the committee, but members said Monday that they want legal counsel independent of the CRA.
It was left unclear how the committee would pay for an attorney since it has no funds of its own. Sunoo said in an interview that he did not know if the CRA would be willing to pay for an independent attorney. Councilman Woo said he would be reluctant to approve money for an attorney.
“A lot depends on whether an attorney for the PAC would merely provide legal advice to the PAC, or enable the PAC to get involved in litigation of its own,” Woo said.
One of the committee’s most popular decisions during its 3 1/2-hour meeting Monday was to request an amendment to the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan that would eliminate the CRA’s power of eminent domain. Although the decision was mostly symbolic--the committee has no authority to alter the plan--the issue is a highly emotional one in Hollywood.
Although the CRA has never used its eminent domain power in Hollywood, many residents said the fear of someday being forced from their homes is one of the most unsettling aspects of the redevelopment plan.
“If the developers want property, they go after it in the old-fashioned way: They earn it,” said member Chris Shabel, who represents the Greater Hollywood Civic Assn.
Woo said in the interview, however, that he would not support removing the eminent domain provisions from the redevelopment plan. He said the CRA has not abused its power during the 2 1/2 years since the plan was adopted.
“I don’t see the need for adopting additional controls,” Woo said. “I frankly don’t see eminent domain being used except in those rare instances where there is arguably some kind of public interest that is being served, which I don’t think would happen . . . to clear large parts of residential Hollywood, which I think some of the people raising the issue are trying to create the impression of.”
The Project Area Committee, which meets regularly on the first Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 1760 N. Gower St., will hold a special meeting Jan. 23 because of an unusually heavy agenda.