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LAFCO Members Urge a Revision of Valley Secession Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The plan for a San Fernando Valley secession study should be altered to clarify that Valley cityhood backers--and not a government consultant--are responsible for developing the proposed structure of the new city, officials said Wednesday.

Two weeks after hiring a consultant to study Valley and Harbor cityhood, the Local Agency Formation Commission delayed final approval Wednesday of a work plan so it could be revised.

“We need to know ahead of time what the rules of the game are,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a commission member who sought the revision. “We need to spell out that the [cityhood] applicant has the responsibility for developing this plan.”

Yaroslavsky said the work plan presented to the commission Wednesday could be interpreted to give the consultant a major role in developing what the new city structure should be.

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Language clarifying the roles of the secessionists and LAFCO consultant will be presented to the commission at its next meeting.

Richard Close, chairman of the secession group Valley VOTE, said his group is willing to take on the primary responsibility for initially preparing the proposed structure of the new city.

“We are prepared to do whatever LAFCO says,” Close said after the commission meeting.

The issue of who does what in the study is a touchy one. Los Angeles city officials have objected to the idea of LAFCO playing a major role in helping secessionists draft a new city plan, saying the agency should be objective and analyze whether the secessionists’ plan is revenue-neutral.

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“We are not supposed to make this happen,” Yaroslavsky said. “We are the judge in a divorce.”

Deputy Mayor Bill Violante, who sat in the audience during Wednesday’s meeting, said the city’s concerns remain.

The consultant has proposed that the study and required public hearings be completed in 22 months, plenty of time to put cityhood proposals on the 2002 ballot.

Under the work plan, the consulting firm of Public Financial Management would gather and analyze data provided by the city. That analysis would then be used by the applicants to develop their proposed structure for a new city.

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LAFCO and its consultant would then analyze the proposed structure to make sure it does not financially harm either the old or the new city.

Commissioners said secessionists should propose whether police services in a new city should be provided by the LAPD, a new city police department or the Sheriff’s Department.

The discussion of who would police a new city also raised the issue of whether the Valley can be expected to share in the cost from lawsuits stemming from the Rampart police scandal, even though the misconduct occurred outside the Valley.

Larry Calemine, LAFCO’s executive director, said the issue would have to be analyzed by attorneys. But he said his initial reading is any unpaid costs still remaining when new cities are formed would likely have to be shared by the new Valley and Harbor cities. City officials said the cost of lawsuits in the Rampart case could exceed $125 million.

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“It really is a citywide liability,” Calemine said. “Even if there was a breakup of the city, I don’t think the new city can escape those liabilities.”


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