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Alatorre Measure Would Control Northeast Area Growth : Groups React Cautiously to Proposed Development Limits

Times Staff Writer

Homeowner groups and business leaders in Northeast Los Angeles reacted cautiously this week to a proposal by City Councilman Richard Alatorre to limit development in the area while its community plan is revised.

The proposed interim control ordinance would cover the Northeast Los Angeles Community Plan area. It would allow development only when a project conformed with its neighborhood’s predominant density, scale and character. City planners say they are considering proposing such ordinances throughout the city to limit development while community plans are reviewed over the next 10 years.

The ordinance, introduced earlier this month by Alatorre and seconded by Councilwoman Gloria Molina and Councilman John Ferraro, would restrict development over a wide area including Mount Washington, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Monterey Hills, Lincoln Heights, Glassell Park and Atwater.

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It is designed to overarch several such ordinances already in place or proposed for various smaller areas in Northeast Los Angeles. Those ordinances, just a few of the more than 50 that have sprung up throughout the city in recent years, range from a recently expired moratorium on mini-malls in Eagle Rock to an ordinance that would prevent the demolition of historic buildings in Highland Park. They would all expire before the larger interim control ordinance proposed by Alatorre.

Review of the Northeast Community Plan is expected to take more than three years. The revisions are the first scheduled as part of a state-mandated review of all 35 development plans in Los Angeles.

Sections of Northeast Los Angeles have become the focus of increasing development activity over the past two years, with more than 12 neighborhood groups lobbying intensively for a package of density restrictions, historic preservation zones and design review standards to slow growth in the area.

But the area covered by the proposed ordinance is more than three times as large as that covered by the development controls that homeowner groups have sought, and the breadth of Alatorre’s proposal has taken those groups by surprise.

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‘A Broad-Reaching Thing’

“It never occurred to us to ask for such a broad-reaching thing, any more than you ask for the moon,” said Diana Barnwell, president of the Highland Park Neighborhood Assn. “The words are good--interim control ordinance. Put together they say something real powerful. But we don’t know what’s really in it.”

Business leaders in the area said they do not know what to make of Alatorre’s proposal either. But they said they fear that it will restrict their efforts to pump new life into the community.

“It’s very difficult to understand what’s going on,” said Jim Beckham, president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce. “It sure does put a crimp in our community. I think new development will certainly look with a dim view of coming into our community if this thing goes through.”

City officials said they want to control development pressure, which has increased as builders realize that land is about to be downzoned.

‘Changing Under Our Feet’

“Here we are trying to work on the community plans and trying to make some semblance of order out of what could be considered chaos, and as we’re working on something, it’s changing under our feet,” principal city planner Bob Sutton said. “We’re not stopping development, but we’re putting some kind of control on it so the council can make some decision without it slipping out from under us.”

The ordinance would mandate that new construction be compatible with existing buildings. It does not say how that is to be accomplished. Brad Sales, press deputy to Alatorre, said the details will be worked out soon by the Planning Department and the city attorney’s office.

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“What we’re trying to do is eliminate the sore thumbs--the projects that just aren’t consistent with the surrounding neighborhood,” Sales said.

The proposal will be discussed Tuesday by the council’s Planning and Environment Committee. It can direct the Planning Department to draw up the ordinance and to conduct hearings on it.


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