Redevelopment Project in N. Hollywood Questioned

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A plan to dramatically extend the life of a massive redevelopment project in North Hollywood appeared to be in jeopardy Thursday after several Los Angeles redevelopment officials questioned whether there is the tax base and public support to proceed with the plan.

"If this thing has any chance of being salvaged, it has to be dramatically reformed," Dan Garcia, chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, told the agency staff that recommended the extension. "Will that be enough to save it? I don't know."

The comments from Garcia and other CRA members are the first sign that the powerful agency is considering pulling the plug on the controversial 16-year project that was adopted in 1979 to revitalize the blighted 750-acre area.

Without the so-called plan amendment, the project would run out of funds sometime next year. But if approved, the amendment would lift the spending cap from $89 million to $535 million and continue the project until 2019. The power to condemn property, which expired in 1991, would be renewed until 2007.

Since it was adopted, the redevelopment project has rehabilitated 836 homes and apartments for low- and moderate-income families, built 865 units, and constructed 469,000 square feet of office, retail and parking space, according to a CRA report.

The proposed spending increase would help finance 29 new projects, including the rehabilitation of about 240 homes and apartments, and provide funds to upgrade street lighting and subsidies for commercial development, among other improvements, according to CRA officials.

Longtime critics of the project expressed cautious optimism that the CRA is finally listening to their pleas to end the project.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Mildred Weller, a longtime CRA critic and co-chair of the advisory panel.

For years, critics have blasted the redevelopment project, saying it has diverted millions of dollars in tax money and has condemned dozens of parcels of private property and yet has largely been unsuccessful at eliminating the blight in North Hollywood.

After expressing concern over the plan amendment, the CRA board voted to delay for at least two weeks a decision to certify the plan's environmental report to give agency staff more time to address the board's concerns.

The change in tone of the board appears to have come with Garcia's appointment to the board in November. Garcia said that as chairman of the board he plans to put tough questions to the agency staff.

A final decision by a joint meeting of the CRA and the council is expected in August or September.

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