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Longer term limits give job security -- even to staff

Times Staff Writer

Two days after voters in Los Angeles relaxed term limits for the City Council, I received the following e-mail from a council staffer:

“Are there any legal challenges going on to this Prop? ... I need to know if I should buy that new car on the 6-yr or 2-yr plan.”

My vote: go for the 72 months, upgrade to satellite radio and treat yourself to heated seats because it can get chilly in the e-mailer’s district.

With the issue of term limits now resolved, everyone’s attention in City Hall can now return to what really counts: development disputes.

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And that leads us to downtown Hollywood....

What’s Council President Eric Garcetti’s beef with the proposed $350-million mixed-use project near the Pantages Theater?

Aesthetics and the lack of open space.

The back story: The New York-based Clarett Group wants to build more than 1,000 residential units and 175,000 feet of retail space on 7.3 acres along Hollywood Boulevard. It would be one of the largest developments of its type in the city.

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The site is currently occupied by parking lots. The location is enticing: It is adjacent to both the new Hollywood and Vine development project -- that will include a W Hotel -- and a subway stop.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the dispute is that it does not involve the question of density or traffic. Several community groups, including the local neighborhood councils, have endorsed the project.

And it’s not the size that bothers Garcetti. He, in fact, has a long-standing policy of adding a mix of housing and retail to his district.

This one is about aesthetics. Garcetti wants more open space, better access to the subway and better architecture to make this project stand out from the many other mixed-use projects around town.

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“Hollywood Boulevard is the Champs Elysees of Hollywood, and we deserve the best, but this falls short of the greatness I think it deserves,” Garcetti said. “They are good developers, but they have a little bit of a fortress” with this plan “and there is no real public space.”

And what do the developers say?

“I am hoping that we can bring the councilman around this -- we want to work with him -- but we think that we have an aesthetically pleasing project,” said Ben Reznik, the prominent land-use attorney hired by the developer.

“We did a calculation of all the open space in the project, and it comes to 30,000 square feet,” he added. “That’s huge.”

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Last month, the project went before a planning hearing officer. In turn, that officer will make a recommendation to the area planning commission, which will review the project in January.

The commission often has deferred to the wishes of the council on such matters, and it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Is state Sen. Richard Alarcon going to run for the City Council’s 7th District in the northeast Valley?

Here’s what Alarcon flack Luis Patino had to say Friday when asked:

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“I’m not in a position to confirm or deny your question. The senator is not available for comment today. I can tell you the senator is a resident of the 7th District. I don’t have further information other than that.”

Well, that clears it up.

Quotes like this always remind me of something once said by Inspector Jacques Clouseau: “I suspect everyone. And I suspect no one.”

Wait. Wasn’t Alarcon just elected to the state Assembly last Tuesday?

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Yes. And he’ll earn $110,880 there plus the $153 per diem when the Legislature is in session.

Council members make $171,168 beginning Jan. 1.

Didn’t Alarcon serve on the council from 1993 until 1999?

Yes. But perhaps the senator read in the papers that voters on Tuesday relaxed term limits for the council, meaning Alarcon can now serve at least another term.

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Does Alarcon really live in the 7th District?

City Clerk Frank Martinez issued a memo last month saying that all candidates for the district must be living there by Nov. 9.

Voter registration filings from 2004 show Alarcon living in Sun Valley in the city’s 6th District. Hey, that’s pretty close!

And the big picture is?

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The current 7th District councilman, Alex Padilla, just got elected to fill Alarcon’s seat in the Senate, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez is running to fill Padilla’s seat on the council and Alarcon just got elected to fill Montanez’s seat in the Assembly -- and now may run against Montanez for his old seat on the council.

Sweet news gods, I owe you one.

Anything going on at City Hall on Veterans Day?

Two workers were busy installing new seat cushions in the council chamber pews. This is exciting news.

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Until September, there were no cushions at all -- making for some very sore keisters in the public section, particularly when council meetings stretched into triple overtime.

In September, partial seat covers were put in place, but they were loosely anchored to the pews -- so whenever a fat-cat lobbyist sat down, the whole thing went out of whack.

The good news is that the upgraded cushions cover the seats and backs, and appear to be far more stable.

Another improvement that can’t be ignored: Garcetti had the photos of each council member posted outside chambers on a glass-covered bulletin board.

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Judging by some of the anatomically incorrect observations I’ve heard council members make about each other, the glass is presumably there to protect council members’ photos from the pens of their colleagues.

Where can I buy politicians’ clothes?

Regrettably this item comes one week too late. But those in South Los Angeles last weekend could have bought 30 old suits belonging to Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally at a parking lot sale at a local church.

“He kind of cleaned out his closet and realized he had gained some weight over the years,” said Jasmyne Cannick, a Dymally deputy.

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“He grew up in Trinidad, where he was very poor, and realized the value of passing things on.”

Cannick continued:

“The assemblyman was always a very sharp dresser -- a lot of his suits were custom made -- and even the suits from the 1970s and ‘80s are hip again. The people who got those items at the sale got a piece of history. I’d buy one of those suits just to say I have one of his suits.”

Next week: What Eric Garcetti does with his old shoelaces.

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steve.hymon@latimes.com


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