Two West Hollywood city councilmen last week argued the merits of borrowing $7.6 million to build a new fire station and expand the city library, projects that are linked to the proposed construction of a civic center in West Hollywood Park.
Councilmen Steve Schulte and John Heilman presented opposite views on a bond measure to be put before the voters April 11. They appeared Wednesday night at a forum sponsored by the West Hollywood Community Alliance, an organization of business people, at Warner Hollywood Studios.
Heilman said the bond measure is the only way to pay for the replacement fire station and the expanded library, which, like the current facilities, would be operated with Los Angeles County funds.
But Schulte said that instead of issuing bonds, the city should use its $14-million reserve to pay for the projects. “Why not use the reserves we have in hand?” he said, bringing cheers from the audience of about 65 people, mostly business owners and landlords opposed to the proposal.
Heilman said: “Facilities such as these are traditionally paid for with bond measures. It’s not appropriate to use our money to build county facilities.”
Schulte replied: “West Hollywood has never been traditional. I don’t see why we should all of a sudden be bound by tradition.”
Though billed as a forum on the bond proposal, the discussion frequently centered on the proposed civic center, an issue that Heilman and Schulte discussed outside the council chambers for the first time.
Opponents of the bond measure view it as a stratagem by the city to reduce the cost, and add to the political attractiveness, of the civic center by paying for facilities that were originally included in plans for that project. Even after the fire station and library expansion were dropped from the civic center proposal, city officials estimated that the first phase of construction would cost $23 million.
Long-Term Plan Urged
Schulte, a vocal opponent of the civic center, suggested that the city devise a long-term financial plan for major capital projects that would include the views of all members of the community, especially tenants, who by some estimates make up 88% of the city’s population.
“They (tenants) haven’t been consulted on the civic center or the bond issue, and they don’t want to be kept out of the biggest capital improvement project facing this city,” Schulte said. “This (the civic center) is the biggest thing we’re going to do for 20 years.”
Heilman said Schulte’s proposed long-term plan would only result in a delay in building the civic center. “The longer we wait, the more construction costs will increase, the more it will cost the city,” he said.
Schulte said he would submit his long-range plan to the voters for approval. But Heilman said there is no need to put the civic center plan on the ballot because the City Council has been conducting elaborate discussions about it for two years.
The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce said last week that it will not support the bond proposal. On Thursday, the West Hollywood Community Alliance also indicated its opposition.
“I think you can say overwhelmingly that we are firmly against the bond issue because businesses--especially small businesses--will suffer from it,” Alliance official Brian Scane said. “We have found virtually no support for the proposition in the business community. We’re opposing it purely on a financial basis, not a political one.”
The bond issue requires a two-thirds majority vote. Property owners would be assessed up to $33.47 a year per $100,000 of property valuation for up to 20 years.
Said Heilman: “I don’t think we’re talking about a lot of money.”
But Schulte said: “It’s a matter of equity. The $33 is not the issue. Not everyone who will benefit (from the fire station and library) will pay for it.”
The Save Our Parks Alliance, which also opposes the bond issue, hopes to put an initiative on the April, 1990, ballot to decide whether the civic center should be built in the park.
The group’s petition drive collected 3,358 signatures, which the city is verifying.
Concluded Heilman: “Whenever a city is going to build something this big, it’s an easy thing to attack.”