Wilmington, Harbor City Plan Will Be Revised Again : L.A. Planners Delay Action After Hearing

Times Staff Writer

After listening for two hours to a wide range of complaints and comments, the Los Angeles Planning Commission Thursday once again delayed action on a plan that will shape the growth of Wilmington and Harbor City into the next century.

Instead, commissioners instructed the city planning staff to examine the issues raised during Thursday’s hearing and make further revisions in the proposed Wilmington-Harbor City Community Plan.

The plan, with the new revisions, is scheduled to come back before the commission for the third time on Aug. 24. Commission President William Luddy said he hopes the commission will be able to adopt the plan at that time.


Update 1970 Plan

The revised plan will update one that was written in the late 1960s and adopted in 1970. The old plan left the two communities--but Wilmington in particular--subject to a patchwork of development that has allowed factories and heavy industry to crop up alongside single-family homes.

The new plan, which is designed to govern growth until the year 2010, tries to correct that. But the clash between residents and industry was evident Thursday in the comments of several dozen community leaders, property owners and business people.

For example:

The plan proposes zoning designations that will create a buffer between auto dismantling yards and nearby residential neighborhoods. Those dismantling yards that fall within the buffer zone would be designated “nonconforming,” meaning they could continue to operate but would have to get special permission to expand. The affected businesses are fighting the nonconforming designation.

A lawyer for Exxon pressed the commission to permit the Wilmington Oil Field to remain classified as “non-urbanized.” The new plan proposes that by Jan. 1, 2000, the oil field be designated “urbanized"--a stricter classification that, lawyer Gail Gordon said, would severely hamper Exxon’s oil extraction activities by forcing the company to cap some wells. “We think it’s unrealistic to recognize the viability of an oil field and then cut us down,” she said.

Wilmington community leaders asked that a parcel at the foot of Avalon Boulevard, where they are planning a waterfront development, be designated solely for commercial uses. Under the proposed plan, only a small part of the parcel would be zoned for commercial development. The remainder of the property, which houses a tank farm belonging to the city Department of Water and Power, would be zoned for heavy industry.

Residents want the tank farm eliminated eventually. “Everything in Wilmington is industrial,” community leader Gertrude Schwab complained at Thursday’s hearing. “Wilmington has always been, and still is, the poor stepchild of Los Angeles.”

In addition to striking a balance between residential and industrial uses, the revised plan is intended to promote revitalization of Wilmington’s downtown business district, preserve open space, curb truck traffic and protect the single-family character of Wilmington’s neighborhoods.

On that last score, some residents have contended the plan does not go far enough. Community activist JoAnn Wysocki, for example, recommended Thursday that east Wilmington, which she said consists primarily of single-family homes, be zoned R1, which allows single-family development only. The proposed plan calls for the area to be zoned R2, allowing duplexes.

“We are asking, we are pleading, we are literally throwing ourselves on your mercy to encourage, enhance and preserve the single-family nature of this area,” she told the commission.

It will now be up to the Planning Department staff to evaluate these suggestions and respond to them, either by arguing against them or by altering the plan to conform to them.

The lengthy plan--which includes maps, population estimates, housing data and zoning designations for every piece of property in the two harbor-area communities--has been inching its way through the city bureaucracy for the past six years. Those familiar with it agree that most of the work is done and that the upcoming revisions involve fine-tuning.

Despite the delays--and despite predictions by some city officials that it may be yet another year before the plan is adopted by the City Council and put into place--residents seemed pleased with the progress.

“I’m not frustrated,” said Wysocki, “because every time we come to one of these hearings we get a little bit more, and the city commissioners understand us a little bit more.”