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Hawthorne Sets Public Hearing on General Plan

Times Staff Writer

The Glenn M. Anderson Freeway will make parts of northern Hawthorne more suitable for commercial development than housing, according to a proposed new General Plan for the city.

But critics say it could be years before such development occurs. In the meantime, they say, the proposal would hurt residential property owners in the area.

The updated plan will be the subject of a Planning Commission hearing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 4455 W. 126th St.

The hearing will give residents an opportunity to comment on the voluminous plan, which sets forth policies and goals that--if adopted by the City Council--will govern how the area may be rezoned and developed in the future.

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Hawthorne’s original General Plan was adopted in the early 1970s. Periodically, the city reviews and updates the plan to reflect major changes, such as the I-105 freeway being built across the northern sector of the city, planners said.

I-105--popularly known as the Century Freeway--"will greatly increase regional accessibility to Hawthorne when completed (in) 1993,” the plan states.

Areas adjacent to the freeway “offer significant development potential for land uses requiring accessibility and visibility,” it notes. Such uses might include major retail developments, office towers or auto malls, said Planning Director Mike Goodson.

With little vacant land available in Hawthorne, the plan attempts to balance the need for more housing--especially affordable housing--against the demand for commercial development, he said.

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The plan notes, “There has been and will continue to be pressure to recycle residential uses to higher densities,” due to the city’s proximity to the new freeway and to Los Angeles International Airport.

Some residents, who plan to speak out at Wednesday’s hearing, say the city is pressing too hard for commercial redevelopment. They say such redevelopment increases city revenues at the expense of homeowners displaced by the projects.

A provision of the plan calls for an area between 116th Street and the freeway route to be designated for commercial use. Currently, the dilapidated area contains both businesses and homes.

Ray Sulser, a former member of the commission who resigned in 1986 in a dispute with the city, contends that the owners of some 400 single and multifamily residences in the area will be hurt by the commercial designation in the General Plan.

Because residential development in an area designated to become commercial would be a nonconforming use, Sulser said, owners would not be able to obtain permits for major remodeling.

Also, he said, homeowners may find it difficult to sell their properties in an area targeted for commercial development. He said he surveyed several lenders, some of whom said they would not provide loans; others said they would loan 60% to 70% of the appraised value rather than the customary 80% to 90%, he said.

Homeowners will be “locked in,” Sulser said, noting that it could take five to 10 years before the city is ready to redevelop the area and buy out the existing property owners.

Bob Bennett, who for the past 10 years has owned a duplex in the area, said he is fearful that the value of his property will be frozen while the city engages in years of planning for the area. He said he is near retirement and had hoped to sell his duplex and move away.

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Goodson said that, because the Anderson freeway is being built 65 feet above the surrounding neighborhoods, the area will be buffeted by noise and be undesirable for residences.

He said that, in answer to Planning Commission comments, the planning staff will present a modified plan that would allow residents to undertake remodeling projects amounting to 10% or less of their homes’ square footage. For the city to allow or encourage more substantial remodeling would be improper, he said, given the city’s intention to encourage commercial development.

Sulser said that he believes that many homeowners in the area, which Hawthorne annexed from Lennox in 1986, do not yet know that an updated General Plan is on the verge of adoption. “These people are unaware of what will happen to their property once the plan is adopted,” he said.

He said he believes that the city is “putting the cart before the horse” by designating the area for commercial use before a developer or development plan are in hand. Instead, he said, the city should adopt the plan using the current uses. Then, when development plans are imminent, the city can amend the plan and designate the area commercial.

Goodson said the General Plan is supposed to be a long-range planning document and the city has an obligation to make public its intentions.

The plan states that if its guidelines were followed to the maximum, the city’s housing stock would ultimately increase to more than 34,000 units from the current 26,000. Because “total build-out rarely occurs,” the plan said, a more realistic prediction is for an increase to about 27,000 units.

With maximum “build-out,” the plan calls for Hawthorne’s current population of approximately 67,300 to increase to about 82,500; the more likely forecast, based on 80% “build-out,” is for an increase to 70,000, planners said.

The plan calls for the protection of low-density residential areas. The plan designates 738 acres for single-family detached homes and 694 acres for high-density residential projects with up to 40 units an acre.

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The plan tightens apartment standards to discourage overcrowding of housing. It relaxes condominium standards to encourage development of housing that is at least somewhat more affordable than single-family dwellings.


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