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Flores Asks for Tighter Limit on New Apartments

Times Staff Writer

Acceding to a request from slow-growth advocates, Los Angeles Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores has recommended that duplexes be considered single-family homes in a proposed ordinance that would limit apartment and condominium development in San Pedro.

The recommendation is the latest in a series of moves by Flores to strengthen the pending interim control ordinance, which was proposed in May by a 25-member citizens advisory committee studying development in the community.

As it stands, the ordinance would bar developers from building apartments and condominiums on blocks where single-family dwellings make up more than 50% of the housing stock. Counting duplexes as single-family homes would reduce the number of blocks where developers could build multifamily housing.

Worried About Apartments

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The restrictions would apply to areas zoned RD-1.5, a designation that allows one unit for every 1,500 square feet of lot space. Some neighborhoods zoned RD-1.5 contain primarily single-family homes, and residents are worried about apartment construction in those areas.

Flores, who also inserted the 50% rule into the ordinance, said she recommended the latest provision because she feared that some stable neighborhoods that contain mostly duplexes--or, in some cases, two single-family homes on one lot--"would become the new target of apartment development.”

Community slow-growth activists, who had pressed for the duplex condition, were nevertheless surprised at Flores’ move.

“That’s great, that’s great,” said Shanaz Ardehali-Kordich, who serves on the citizens committee. “That’s exactly what we were asking for . . . I’m really impressed. That just means she’s definitely in tune to what the majority of people in town really want.”

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But committee Vice Chairman William Lusby, an architect who has called for less stringent controls on building, said he was dismayed and wished Flores had first consulted the committee.

“I feel that when she made both of these proposals, the 50% and now the duplex one, I think it would have been much better if she had worked through the committee rather than making the decision on her own,” Lusby said.

At Wednesday’s committee meeting, other members agreed and were harshly critical of the councilwoman.

“If this is what is taking place, then this committee is superfluous,” said committee member Tony Marino.

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‘I’ve Been Had’

Added Robert Whitney: “I feel that I’ve been had. I put a lot of time into this committee and I take great offense at what was done. . . . We came to an agreement that this 25-member committee could live with, and we’ve been politicked.”

No one from Flores’ office attended Wednesday’s meeting, but in an interview Tuesday the councilwoman said she thinks there is community support for her decision. She said the proposal does not override the committee but simply extends and strengthens what the panel has proposed.

“I went back and forth on it,” the councilwoman said, “but I recognize that duplexes are sort of a unique neighborhood. They still have the character of single-family; they have people who stay there for a long time.”

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With little vacant land for development remaining in San Pedro, residents have become increasingly concerned that the character of their community is being destroyed by “tear-downs,” in which builders raze single-family homes to put up apartments. The tear-down phenomenon prompted Flores to appoint the citizens advisory committee to come up with controls on development.

Builders Disagree

Developers have argued that controlling apartment building will hurt poor people and young people who cannot afford single-family homes, as well as many longtime residents who bought property with the idea of building apartments and renting them to bring in retirement income.

Developer Gene Bozulich, for instance, said in a recent interview that many residents benefit from selling their property to developers who want to build apartments. Furthermore, he said, he does not believe condominium development should be restricted because “a lot of young people can’t afford single-family homes.”

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The interim control ordinance, which would remain in effect while the committee studies permanent changes, is intended to preserve the character of San Pedro while the committee does its work. Flores said she is convinced that the duplex provision will enable the committee “to see these areas as they are, not as they might become.”

Without it, she said, “a developer could actually go in and turn a duplex street that has no apartments on it into a complete apartment street.”

Official Undecided

The hearing examiner considering the case said he will review Flores’ provision but that he did not know whether he will include it in the draft he will present to the Los Angeles Planning Commission Aug. 24.

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If the Planning Commission approves an ordinance that does not include the duplex provision, Flores said she will move to amend the proposed law when it comes before the City Council.

There is no way to tell precisely where apartment construction would be restricted under the interim ordinance, with or without Flores’ provision. Neither planning officials, Flores’ staff nor the 25-member committee have done a complete study of the housing stock in the community.

However, Flores aide Mario Juravich said a rough look at RD-1.5 areas persuaded him that without the duplex provision, the interim ordinance would do little to preserve the stable, single-family character of San Pedro.

Lusby said a review by the citizens committee indicated that if the ordinance were enacted without the duplex provision, about 350 houses in San Pedro could be torn down to make way for apartments. With the duplex provision, he estimated that number might drop to 250 or 275.

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Lusby added that he is concerned about a provision in the ordinance that prevents the demolition of houses declared landmarks by the San Pedro Bay Historical Society. The society has submitted a 12-page list to the hearing examiner, with several hundred homes on it.

“With the list that the San Pedro Bay Historical Society threw in at the last minute and with this (duplex provision),” he said, “I don’t look for very much building to be done in San Pedro.”


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