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Turned-Off Residents Delay Lighting Project

Times Staff Writer

A small entourage of Harbor Gateway residents bucked the odds this week by persuading the Los Angeles City Council to hold off for two weeks on an $800,000 street lighting project that would cost property owners an average of $785 each.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Stan Horwitz of the city’s Bureau of Street Lighting said after the council’s decision. “In 15 years, I have seen it maybe four or five times.”

About a dozen residents made the 17-mile trek to downtown Los Angeles to protest the creation of an assessment district to pay for the new lights. There are scores of such districts throughout the city, set up to pay for everything from alley paving to tree trimming, and they usually receive routine approval from council members.

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“We have other priorities that we have asked for many, many times,” Marie Bunch, a resident of Harbor Gateway for 48 years, told the council Wednesday. “A library. More police protection. . . . And street improvements, and things like that. But we just haven’t gotten them. And then you come along with this.”

Called ‘Financial Hardship’

Laura Kabok, a musician who lives with her husband on 222nd Street, said: “For many of us, the cost of this project would be a financial hardship.” Property owners would be required to pay the assessment up front or extend the payments over several years at a 10% interest rate. They would also be charged a $35 annual maintenance fee.

Kabok, who already has a street light in front of her home, said: “There are a lot of retired residents in there who are on fixed income, and there are many young people starting out, because these are considered starter-type homes.”

The council, following the lead of harbor-area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, voted to postpone the matter until July 12 to give Flores time to meet with the residents.

Many residents were unimpressed, however. “I think there should have been a vote right now,” said Chris Johnson of 220th Street. “And they should have voted no.”

The proposed project would affect about 600 property owners in a 24-block area between Western and Normandie avenues and 223rd and Carson streets.

The neighborhood is one of only two areas in Harbor Gateway that has not received new street lights--and the accompanying bill--in the past several years. The other neighborhood, between Western and Normandie avenues and Carson Street and Torrance Boulevard, is scheduled to receive new lights later this year.

Citywide Program

City officials said the Harbor Gateway lighting project is part of a citywide program to reduce crime by improving street lighting. The project would replace 35 lights on Department of Water and Power utility poles with 266 free-standing high-pressure sodium lights. Nearly 40% of the $800,000 bill would be picked up by the city.

Horwitz, who oversees the program, said none of the other Harbor Gateway neighborhoods mounted serious opposition to the new lights. Thomas Torres, a street lighting engineering associate for the city, told the residents who visited City Hall that they were getting a good deal.

“We are not here to force it down anybody’s throat,” Torres said outside the council chambers. “If you don’t want it now, fine. We have a lot of areas that want it.”

Flores, in comments to the council, sympathized with residents’ concerns about inadequate city services in the narrow Harbor Gateway corridor, but said fighting new street lights was not the solution.

“In the past, we have had people protest street lighting, but when the lighting is in, it has so much improved the area, even people who protested have changed their minds about how they felt about the lighting,” she said.


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