Gates to Probe Letter Used in Veto of Project : Development: Bradley cited officer’s concerns in his opposition to plans for garment center in old May Co. building. Captain’s right to comment on the subject is questioned.
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has ordered an investigation into a letter, prepared by a subordinate officer, that Mayor Tom Bradley used to support his controversial veto of a plan to turn the historic, former May Co. building into a huge garment-making complex.
The letter, sent a week ago by Central Area Capt. Jerry Conner to zoning administrators, expressed “major concerns” about the project and proposed a host of conditions dealing with, among other things, parking and transportation--subjects normally outside the scope of the department.
Police spokesman Cmdr. Robert Gil said Gates asked for a review of the letter, saying that “it is a cause of concern.” Gil said the chief is troubled because of complaints from business owners and community leaders about the appropriateness of the letter and its recommendations. He would not elaborate.
In the letter, Conner proposed that owners of the building--now called the Broadway Trade Center--have two security guards, telephones, restrooms and video monitors on each of the structure’s nine floors. He also voiced concerns about the size of the project, which he said would require 1,000 parking spaces for employees and 2,000 parking spaces for patrons.
The letter, coupled with Bradley’s veto, has triggered a wave of criticism from business owners and organizations trying to revitalize the historic downtown core, including some of the mayor’s staunchest supporters.
Critics say approval of developers’ plans to convert the 1-million-square-foot building at the corner of Broadway and 8th Street into an industrial complex would encourage others to invest on a street that has suffered for years from vacancies and neglect.
“I talked to the mayor about this personally--I respect his opinion. I just think he is wrong,” said Bruce Corwin, who worked as Bradley’s treasurer for 20 years and is now president of Miracle on Broadway, formed to stimulate growth on the depressed thoroughfare.
“Conner’s letter is most unusual; he is requesting things that don’t apply to any other part of the city,” added Corwin. “Why haven’t these same conditions been applied to Farmer’s Market, Warner Center or the Convention Center?”
James Carne, chief inspector for the city Department of Building and Safety’s commercial division, said he was also upset by the letter.
“Building and safety and planning people are normally the ones who consider parking and code requirements,” said Carne, who has worked with the department for 30 years. “The Police Department usually testifies about crime in an area, nothing more than that.”
Danny Partielli, executive director of the Broadway Trade Center, called Conner’s conditions an attempt to quash developers’ hopes of winning a conditional use permit from the city for 600 businesses and 7,000 mostly Latino employees in the building.
In a brief interview, Conner, a 28-year veteran on the force, would only say that he was trying to convey “serious concerns” about “the adverse impact this many (employees and patrons) could have on my ability to provide police services.”
On Sept. 17, the City Council, after a heated debate, voted 10 to 5 to grant approval of the conditional use permit.
Bradley vetoed the project on grounds it would increase downtown traffic congestion, lure tenants away from the nearby garment district and unleash a flood of requests for similar conditional use permits from other downtown building owners in an area zoned for commercial and residential uses.
Bradley expressed his views in a letter sent to council members that specifically cited Conner’s proposed conditions.
Twelve votes are needed in the 15-member council to override the veto. Project supporter Councilwoman Rita Walters, whose district includes the Broadway Trade Center, said it was “doubtful” that the lawmakers could muster the necessary votes.
“I think it is a good project,” said Walters, whose campaign for office received Bradley’s backing. “I supported it before and I will support it again.”
Meanwhile, lobbyist and former City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, who was hired by the owners to persuade the council to grant the permit, joined a growing number of downtown business leaders who were interpreting Conner’s letter to mean that the Police Department wants to stop the growth of business on Broadway.
“The veto shocked us, but on top of that, we had never seen a police captain from a local station get involved in this way before,” said Robert Clinton, property manager of the 55-year-old Clifton’s Cafeteria at the corner of Broadway and 7th Street. “The conditions he listed didn’t seem fair.”
In a letter of protest sent to Gates this week, Estela Lopez, executive director of Miracle on Broadway, said Conner’s proposals suggested that “we here on Broadway are being held to a different and higher standard than districts elsewhere in the city.”
Bradley was out of the country and unavailable for comment. His spokesman, Bill Chandler, said, “It is quite unusual that the Police Department would pick this letter out of the hundreds routinely sent from police captains and commanders to city officials.
“The fact remains that the Police Department’s input was not heard when the City Council considered this item,” Chandler said. “The public safety recommendations by Capt. Conner are critical for the city to evaluate the impact of this project.”