CRA Backers Take Lead in Balloting


Proponents of a plan to create the city’s largest redevelopment project in the northeast San Fernando Valley made a strong showing in an election for a key committee, but half the ballots had not been counted Monday.

Early returns showed that candidates who share City Councilman Alex Padilla’s support for redevelopment are in the running to capture more than half of the 18 vacant seats on the Project Area Committee.

Candidates on the pro-redevelopment slate drawn up by a group called We Improve Neighborhoods were leading or tied in votes for 11 of the 18 seats.


“It appears there may be a majority that would want to ramrod this proposal through,” said Jim Leahy, vice chairman of the 23-member committee and an opponent of the redevelopment plan.

Leahy, who led in a race for reelection for one seat, has called on Padilla to kill the project, saying it is too unfocused and that the Community Redevelopment Agency has a poor record in other areas of the city.

Opponents criticized Padilla for arranging buses to transport his partisans to the election Friday. Leahy said he was disturbed that Padilla helped bus in dozens of residents who entered the Ritchie Valens Recreation Center in Pacoima clutching the redevelopment group’s list of recommended candidates.

“I absolutely felt he tried to stack the election,” Leahy said, “It may be legal, but it just doesn’t seem ethical.”

The election was a crucial test for the proposal to place 6,835 acres under redevelopment in the northeast Valley. More than 200 ballots were cast this year, compared with about 40 in the last comparable election in 1997.

“The northeast Valley needs redevelopment,” said Dave Gerswhin, a spokesman for Padilla. “There are many blighted areas there.”


Padilla refused direct comment on his involvement in the election.

He provided input to redevelopment group members on which candidates he supported but did not sign off on the slate, Gerswhin said.

“In general, he supported candidates who supported redevelopment,” the aide said. “WIN asked the council office for assistance, and we helped get them transportation.”

Kris Heffron of the city clerk’s office said she was aware of complaints about the election but knew of nothing that might invalidate the results.

Marlene Grossman, a member of the redevelopment group and a leader of Pacoima Beautiful, said the slate was the group’s list of preferred candidates and was not developed by Padilla.

The buses were open to anyone who wanted to attend the election, she said, not just those who agreed that redevelopment is needed.

“It’s really time for Pacoima to get what it needs,” Grossman said.

But Leahy said Padilla did not make it known to the community at large that bus transportation was available.


Carol Silver, a candidate who was listed on the redevelopment group’s slate, said she decided to run before asking Padilla for his support. She said she had no knowledge of the redevelopment group’s slate or how she got on it.

“I don’t know who those people are,” she said. The former president of the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce said some redevelopment is needed.

“I think there has been a lot of fear spread, not necessarily by people who live in the area,” Silver said. “We need some responsible development here.”

’ In general [Padilla] supported candidates who supported redevelopment. WIN asked the council office for assistance and we helped get them transportation.’

Dave Gerswhin, a spokesman for City Councilman Alex Padilla, left