City Analyst’s Report Critical of Secession Bill


A controversial state bill that would make it easier for the San Fernando Valley to secede is “unclear” on key issues and robs the rest of Los Angeles of any decision-making power over a plan that could dramatically affect the whole city, the author of an analysis critical of the legislation said Friday.

The study, produced by the office of city Chief Legislative Analyst Ronald Deaton, urges the City Council to oppose the legislation by Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills) unless it is substantially amended.

A subcommittee of the City Council is scheduled to consider Deaton’s recommendation Tuesday.


Deaton said the biggest flaw in the bill is that it requires the area that wants to secede to simultaneously incorporate as a city but fails to set up a procedure to execute both complex efforts at the same time.

Boland’s legislation poses a unique problem, he said. “After you separate and you are not yet a city, what are you?”

He criticized the Boland bill for nullifying the City Council’s power to veto a secession plan even though the city could lose nearly one-third of its territory and population under the plan.

“We would have no say,” Deaton said.

But supporters of the bill said Deaton’s criticism is intended to discourage a secession vote and keep the Valley a neglected part of Los Angeles.

They also say that such procedural matters raised by Deaton can be addressed later by the Local Agency Formation Commission, a regional panel that decides secession issues.

“The reason they oppose it is because the Valley is a cash cow for the rest of Los Angeles,” said Scott Wilk, Boland’s chief of staff.


“There is plenty of opportunity to address those questions [raised by Deaton] as the bill winds its way through the process,” Wilk said.

As for giving the rest of the city a say in the secession, he said, “they can come to the table and I will guess that we will treat them better than they have treated us for the last 30 years.”

Robert Scott, a representative of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., which supports the bill but has not taken a position on the secession plan itself, agreed.

“I feel certain that LAFCO will resolve all those questions before it goes on the ballot,” Scott said.

Deaton’s analysis is the latest salvo in a secession debate that has been heating up as Boland’s bill heads toward a vote in the state Assembly, possibly as soon as the end of this month. Boland predicts passage in the Assembly but is not as certain about success in the Senate, where the city of Los Angeles has more clout.

But some city officials and state legislators say the bill has little chance of success and is nothing more than a grandstanding attempt by Boland as she prepares to run for the state Senate in a new district next year.


Supporters say that at minimum, the bill will allow Valley voters to send a message to the rest of the city that they don’t feel they are getting the service or attention they deserve.

However, there currently is no organized citizens’ effort aimed at making the Valley its own city, though even opponents of the bill acknowledge that such sentiment exists.

A survey of the City Council indicates that at least 9 of the 15 members oppose the bill, unless it is amended to address questions regarding how a secession would impact the tax structure and the division of city facilities, such as sewers and streets.

Mayor Richard Riordan has taken no position on the bill, but vehemently opposes a secession.

Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the northwest Valley and is a vocal supporter of the bill and a secession, also rejects arguments that a secession movement would encounter unsurmountable hurdles.

Bernson, who is also a member of LAFCO, said there are laws and procedures in place to allow the Valley to secede.


“Yes, it would be difficult but not impossible,” he said.

But Deaton said it would be unfair for LAFCO to set up a secession plan that would decide how to divide city assets such as streets, sewers, parks and airports without the say of the City Council or voters in the rest of the city.

“When we add an area to the city, everyone gets to vote,” he said. “So why can’t everybody vote when an area wants to break away?”

In his analysis, Deaton said Boland’s bill should allow for a vote of the entire city or the City Council. Also, he believes a secession plan should include assurances that the city would not suffer a “negative fiscal impact.”

Deaton, whose office is responsible for analyzing the impact of state and federal legislation on the city, is widely considered an independent-minded analyst, free of ties to city politicians.