Preceded by an open house where maps, diagrams, documents and City Planning staff were available at display tables to answer the public’s questions, the hearing session was held to a packed auditorium at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. In general, residents and community organizations commended the Department on the challenging and ambitious plan. It lays out the possible development of the area primarily along the main arteries of Crenshaw, Adams, Washington, Pico and other major boulevards, attempting to couple development along major transit hubs, (such as the Crenshaw Expo station), allowing for mixed-use. The plan does not touch residential neighborhoods according to City staff, only commercial districts. A number of concerns were voiced during the two-hour formal hearing session however.
Foremost was the Plan’s accommodation of 25,000 new housing units, including affordable housing, representing 25% growth. Several residents questioned whether the already congested area could indeed absorb such a rise without creating more traffic gridlock. West Adams residents urged the department to spend more time evaluating the area’s “character neighborhoods” to ensure their architectural integrity and quality of life would be maintained. Several testified about the very low ratio of green space to resident population and urged the City to build more parks and bikeways into the plan. The paucity of street trees compared to other neighborhoods also arose. Many speakers wondered how the special character of this diverse urban area would be maintained and hoped more small businesses wouldn’t be driven out by chain or box stores. Residents in Leimert spoke out against higher height allowances in the commercial zones near Slauson.
Several residents commented that the city has never really addressed the many social issues promised for clean up after the L.A. Riots, such as homelessness. Representatives from the William Grant Still Art Center and others testified about the impact of the "ho" hotels frequented by prostitutes, near their businesses. Homeowners complained about the over-abundance of auto repair shops and liquor stores presently in the area. An attorney representing Kaiser Permanente Center, which borders the zone, went on record approving the plan.
The majority of commentary centered around the issue of fast-food restaurants – with McDonald’s turning out several speakers to the hearing in favor of the chain. A mother currently being hosted by the Ronald McDonald program, a dietician advising McDonalds, a local franchise-owner and a Latino McDonald’s manager all remarked on the company’s exceptional record of community service and local hiring record. In turn, several community health advocates and residents objected to the relaxation of ordinances preventing more fast food restaurants to develop in the area.
All remarks become part of the public record to be considered by city planning staff and the Planning Commission. Whether a speaker was paid had to be disclosed on the preliminary comment sign-up form and is also on record.
Numerous speakers including representatives from MINC and UNNC were concerned that the comment period did not allow enough time for the public to digest the enormous amount of material and suggested that Planning Commision Hearing date on April 11 should be moved back.
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