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Mayor Urges Builder Fee to Finance Housing : Construction: Bradley wants to double number of new homes. Levy on commercial projects proposed.

TIMES URBAN AFFAIRS WRITER

In a provocative policy statement that aroused business leaders and neighborhood activists, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley on Wednesday announced a broad plan to double the city’s production of new homes and proposed to pay for much of it with a citywide levy on new commercial construction.

Bradley said the construction goal must be met to avert a crisis in affordable housing. Now, he said, about 15,000 new homes are built each year to meet the needs of a population that is growing at a rate of 30,000 families annually. He said that 70% of those families need subsidized housing.

To help finance the subsidies, Bradley proposed to raise $30 million a year through the levy on new commercial property. Spokesmen for the city’s business community expressed displeasure with the fee, saying it would probably contribute to the growing migration of businesses from the city.

One of the city’s largest homeowners groups took issue with the mayor’s statement that neighborhood associations are largely responsible for the shortage of affordable housing because they resist its construction near them.

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“One of the things that I know you recognize as an impediment to the development of affordable housing in this city,” Bradley said, “is that those who are already in place, those who have their homes in neighborhoods very nicely built up somehow seem to believe that they don’t have a responsibility to those who follow them. And so the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude takes over.”

“My friends,” the mayor said, “we’ve got to get over that attitude. . . . There are too many people in this country who are without housing, and there is no place to turn except to say to every community that you’ve got to assume your share.”

Bradley’s speech, delivered to an audience of about 100 employees and officials of the city’s Housing Department, was the latest expression of a social agenda that increasingly has taken aim at middle-class neighborhood groups while trying to meet the needs of immigrants and poor people.

Last month, in a speech to city planners, Bradley argued that the city’s anti-growth movement, led by homeowners’ groups, was beginning to threaten the economic health of the city.

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Rob Glushon, president of the Encino Residential Property Owners’ Assn., reacted angrily to Bradley’s comments, saying the mayor should bear the blame for the shortage of affordable housing.

“I think it’s outrageous for the mayor to blame neighborhood residents for the city’s failure,” said Glushon. “I would challenge him to point out any affordable housing project turned down because of Nimbyism.”

Bradley’s housing address also offered a multipoint plan to stimulate the construction of low- and moderate-income apartments. Among the points is a proposal for housing officials to consider waiving environmental reviews that currently apply to housing developments of 35 units or larger--a requirement that covers more than 50% of all new apartment buildings. It was a 1987 directive from Bradley that set the environmental review process in motion. At the time, the mayor said he was mandating the environmental review procedures to ensure compliance with a California Supreme Court ruling.

Aides to the mayor said that Bradley was not urging that all housing developments be exempted from environmental review but that such reviews, which are often time consuming, be restricted to larger projects--those of 100 units or more.

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In addition, the mayor’s new housing plan formalized a number of suggestions that have been batted around City Hall for at least a year. He called for a concentration of housing construction along new rail routes and for more mixed use housing developments--buildings or blocks where offices, stores, apartments and condominiums are interspersed.

Bradley called for concerted efforts by local housing officials to prevent 10,000 federally subsidized apartments from converting to market rate units when the subsidies expire over the next few years. He urged the city Housing Department to press a pending request for $20 million in federal housing funds, and he announced that the city would use some of that money to begin acquiring and rehabilitating slum housing.

On the issue of new fees, Bradley had good and bad news for real estate developers. He recommended dropping a $35-a-square-foot charge now imposed by the Community Redevelopment Agency on downtown developments. But he also called for a new citywide levy--that could range from 65 cents a square foot on warehouses to $6 a square foot on office buildings--to help pay the cost of new housing. At that rate, each new skyscraper could generate several million dollars in housing construction revenues.

“We are concerned about the level of all fees and their impact on business, especially in the current climate,” said Jim Hunter, president of the Central City Assn., a civic group made up of downtown businesses.

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Hunter is also a member of a task force assembled by Bradley to study the potential effects of a housing fee, and he said that “most of the business members of the task force have problems with fees.”

“In my discussions with companies leaving Southern California, fees and the increasing costs of doing business are a major cause of the defections,” Hunter said.

Michael Bodaken, the mayor’s housing coordinator, disagreed.

“Historically, (housing) linkage fees do not have a dramatic effect on the ability of reasonable commercial developers to build projects,” Bodaken said.

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The Bradley Plan

The eight components of Mayor Tom Bradley’s housing plan:

* HOUSING AT TRANSPORTATION CENTERS: Bradley, noting that Los Angeles is on the verge of developing a comprehensive mass transit system, directs city officials to work on ways to plan housing near the transit lines.

* CITY FEES: Bradley asks for reduction or elimination of the $35-per-square-foot fee that developers pay to the Community Redevelopment Agency to build residential housing downtown.

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* HOUSING LINKAGE FEE: By imposing a housing linkage fee on those who construct commercial and retail development, Los Angeles could generate $30 million annually. The mayor reiterates his support for the linkage fee, which is expected to go before the City Council for final approval next month.

* REDUCE DELAY: Bradley asks that the city reconsider the requirement that any housing project of 35 units or more be reviewed for environmental impact.

* EDUCATION: In an effort to reduce community resistence to this type of housing, Bradley asks for an education campaign by the Affordable Housing Commission.

* PROCESSING: Bradley directs the expediting of applications for $20 million of available funds for housing.

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* PREVENT CONVERSION: During the next few years, 10,000 federally subsidized housing units are at risk of being converted to market rate rentals when owners are presented with the option of prepaying their federal mortgages. Bradley says city agencies should work to prevent these conversions, which would make the units too expensive for their current occupants.

* BUYING SLUMS: Bradley directs Housing Department to try to purchase and rehabilitate dilapidated buildings as they come on the market.


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