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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Affordable Housing Clouds Zine Business Strategy

This is one of a series of reports exploring the issues of business retention and recruitment in the greater Valley area. As part of the report, the Business Journal is posing questions to L.A. City Council members for the Valley about how they are improving the business climate. In the six years since he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council to represent the southwest Valley, Dennis P. Zine has established himself as a plain-talking, often business-friendly voice with a voting record heavy on public safety measures, traffic mitigation, controlled growth, public transit and tax reform. But Zine, a former police sergeant and one of only two registered Republicans on the council, has also championed a decidedly non-business platform: affordable housing. His most ardent support has been towards an interim control ordinance that requires developers to include affordable housing components in new projects currently being proposed. While the motion is intended to offer affordable units to secretaries, retail clerks and lower-income adults close to their jobs, many developers see the requirement as unfair and possibly illegal. The latest to voice opposition and appeal the rules is Ronald Simms, who wants to build a 438-apartment complex on the site of the former Valley Indoor Swap Meet at 6701 Variel Ave. The city council is scheduled to vote on the appeal April 20. In an interview with the Business Journal, Zine says he plans to back the interim control ordinance again. Question: Why are you so passionate about this ordinance? Answer: When Warner Center was established, it was designed to be a balance between jobs and housing. They had a specific plan and it said that by 2010 there would be 3,000 residential units. A few years back I got elected in 2001 we recognized we’re approaching 3,000. And I said, “Wait a minute. We’re not supposed to be there until 2010. What are we going to do until then?” So I came forward with a temporary interim control ordinance. We’re going to put the brakes on all residential. Then Planning Department met with me and said that’s a little extreme, put some conditions that are reasonable. So instead of the ordinance, we came up with a procedure that was voted on by the council that said you can build as long as you meet this criteria, the traffic mitigation and 25 percent workforce housing. Q: For a councilman who seems so pro-business A: I am pro-business. Q: this measure could be perceived as anti-developer, right? A: This is only residential developers. We didn’t want to hamper anything with business. Warner Center is built to the point where there’s really no space left. If you’re going to build something, you’re going to take something down, which is already business or commercial. Then you’re not going to have that balance. Those procedures passed councils and developers followed it. (Simms) is appealing that. He does not want to do the 25 percent, the transportation mitigation. It’s going to council April 20. I’m the second most conservative member on council Q: After (12th District Councilman Greig) Smith? A: Right. And all my more liberal colleagues who like inclusionary housing are saying, we’re supporting what you’re doing because you’re helping out the little guy. But I just think if we’re going to have any kind of balance we need to make sure we have workforce housing. Q: And you think it’s the city’s right to force that balance? A: What I’m looking at is maintaining the balance that was originally intended. I don’t want this to turn into a Century City. I want those folks at Macy’s, I want those folks at P.F. Chang’s, I want those folks who work around there to live in those units. All I’m trying to do is trying to help out the working class in that part of my district. It’s not about anti-business. Q: In general, how do you pick what developments in your district to support? A: They come to me, then I send all development projects to my (six) neighborhood councils for review. They’re grassroots; they’re the ones in the community. You want to build something, you go to the neighborhood council. Most developers are very understanding. Q: But there’s a thought that neighborhood councils are often resistant to projects in their areas. A: Well, I find them very reasonable. There’s been a few situations where the neighborhood councils supported a project and their immediate community did not. Q: Do you think they should have the right to overturn zoning decisions? A: No. I think they should have the power to advise. Q: How can the city council work as a whole to bring new businesses into the city? A: We cut the city business tax. We consolidated the forms so it’s not so cumbersome. The council is pro-business in the aspect of making it easier for businesses to establish in L.A. But there are factors we don’t have control over: the workers’ comp costs, traffic, no space. We don’t have control over that. Q: But if it’s a pro-business council, why did it pass the living wage ordinance near LAX? A: Yeah, I voted no on that. Q: But you said the council is pro-business. A: Well, they’re pro-business as far as establishing the business. But then as far as the compensation for the employees, they’re pro-union. Q: You also voted in support of another measure that forces hotels to keep workers on payroll for 90 days after a hotel property is sold. A: I believe there’s a responsibility for that person and their family to have some kind of cushion. Q: What businesses have you personally brought into your district? A: We helped with Quest Diagnostics, which opened a big lab over at Roscoe Boulevard and Fallbrook Avenue (last September). A wonderful operation. I also helped with the Vallarta Supermarket at Vanowen Street and Corbin Avenue. What I try to do is retain what we have and bring in additional. But when you look at the area I represent, south of Ventura is all residential; can’t do anything with that. Then you have mostly bedroom communities West Hills, Canoga Park. You’re not going to get big companies, although I have met Costco, they want to build a center in Woodland Hills. We’re working with them on that. I’m also talking with Home Depot about Woodland Hills. Q: They came to you? You’re that visible? A: Yes. Any kind of business I know that needs help, I help them in any way possible. That’s what we do.

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