Mayor Tom Bradley on Thursday named the seven appointees to the city's new Affordable Housing Commission--a group that will have a significant say over how the city uses hundreds of millions of dollars in housing funds.
Advocates of low-income housing, minorities and the poor dominate the new board, which includes two Latinos, a black woman and a former Legal Aid Foundation attorney who is a longtime critic of the city's housing and redevelopment policies.
"This will not be a rubber-stamp commission," said John Ferraro, who as president of the City Council appointed three of the commissioners. Bradley appointed four. All seven face approval by the City Council.
Bradley's appointees include Charles Elsesser, a former Legal Aid attorney who has openly battled the city over policies he argues have diminished low-cost housing in Los Angeles. Elsesser is an aide to state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).
The mayor's other selections for the panel are Jackie Dupont-Walker, a nonprofit housing developer with a background in social work and administration; Nancy Lewis, whose consulting firm has helped develop projects for Alternative Living for the Aging and other needy groups, and attorney John Huerta, a land-use litigation expert who from 1980 to 1985 represented the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Ferraro's appointees are tenant advocate Paul R. Ash, president of the Park Labrea Tenants and Residents Assn.; attorney Anthony Zamora, who works for a law firm that represents some of the largest developers and banks in the city, and Rockwell Ames, a longtime government official who frequently serves on various city boards and committees.
The appointments sparked criticism. Alice Callaghan, a nonprofit housing developer based in Skid Row, questioned the wisdom of appointing commissioners who are newcomers to the field of affordable housing.
Callaghan said that with the exception of Elsesser, none are at the forefront of a growing private movement to create low-income housing.
"I want to know why the mayor didn't appoint somebody with a track record in affordable housing who understands the business, who has a lot of experience," Callaghan said.
Bradley, however, pointed to the mix of people, saying that all interests are represented by the new board, including for-profit developers.
The unpaid appointees are charged with aggressively attacking the city's housing woes and reforming City Hall's disparate housing efforts, now under the purview of 11 different agencies.
Commissioners will oversee the newly created, 244-employee Housing Preservation and Production Department.
The department and commission together represent the most sweeping reorganization within City Hall in the last decade, the mayor said.
Elsesser said one of the commission's biggest jobs will be to restructure the housing programs now pursued by the city. "In this time of shrinking funds (for housing production and rehabilitation), we can't afford any misdirected, misspent or wasted money," he said.
One of the commission's first tasks will be to push for voter approval of a $100-million housing bond issue that is expected to appear on the November ballot.
A similar measure was rejected by voters in 1988 despite having no organized opposition.
HOUSING COMMISSION APPOINTEES
The seven appointees to Los Angeles' first Affordable Housing Commission as announced by Mayor Tom Bradley and City Council President John Ferraro: Rockwell Ames: A longtime county official, Ames was a director of the county's Community Services Resource Corp., a group that oversees funding and services for the underprivileged and the elderly. In the 1960s he was Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty's executive assistant. He was recently appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian to the board of the 51st Agricultural District. Ames has served on nearly a dozen city boards and committees.
Paul R. Ash: President of Park Labrea Tenants and Residents Assn., a vocal group representing 10,000 renters in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. Ash is an electrical engineer.
Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker: President of Ward Economic Development Corp., an affiliate of Ward AME Church. Walker, a nonprofit housing developer, has long been active in community improvement efforts in South-Central Los Angeles. She serves on two museum boards and is a charter member of the Black Women's Forum, the NAACP and the Coalition of Neighborhood Developers.
Charles F. Elsesser Jr.: Senior housing consultant to state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti (D-Los Angeles). An attorney and expert on housing and rental laws, Elsesser was director of litigation for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles from 1986 to 1989. A frequent critic of the city's disparate housing policies, Elsesser has played a key role in lobbying for new policies and programs aimed at increasing the affordable housing stock.
John E. Huerta: Recently left a position as partner at the Pasadena law firm of Gronemeier, Barker & Huerta to join the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Huerta is former associate counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a board member of the National Council of La Raza and a member of the Democratic National Committee's platform committee.
Nancy Lewis: A consultant involved in the packaging and financing of mental health care facilities and senior citizen housing. Educated in urban planning at UCLA, Lewis works with nonprofit neighborhood groups to create housing. She played a central role in drafting state Propositions 77 and 84, which were approved by voters in 1988 and will provide hundreds of millions of dollars for affordable housing statewide.
Anthony N.R. Zamora: Recently joined the law firm of Riordan & McKinzie. Zamora was formerly vice president of a consulting firm specializing in urban planning and land use. He heads the Community Redevelopment Agency's Relocation Appeals Board, which reviews protests by homeowners who are being permanently displaced by the agency's development projects. Zamora served in the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.
ABOUT THE COMMISSION
Creation of the commission was first recommended by the mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Affordable Housing in 1988.
Its seven members will oversee the new Housing Preservation and Production Department, a 244-employee division which begins operations Aug. 12.
The commission will assess housing needs, plan a city housing budget, develop new funding sources and advocate new housing legislation.
Commissioners are appointed by the mayor and city council president to staggered terms of from one to five years.