Profile/Woodard/28″/lk1st/mark2nd Lillian Burkenheim Position: Manager, North Hollywood Redevelopment Project Born: Jan. 15, 1948, Los Angeles Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of California, Santa Barbara; master’s in public administration, Cal State Northridge Personal: Married, two children, ages 8 and 15 Most Admired Person: Hubert Humphrey By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter Lillian Burkenheim heads what some people see as Big Brother at its worst a government agency with the power to take people’s land in the name of progress. But as manager of the North Hollywood Redevelopment Project, Burkenheim takes a different view of her role. North Hollywood has the potential to become an arts and entertainment hub in the east San Fernando Valley, but it’s going to take the power of the government in this case the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to pull together the resources and the land to make it happen, she says. The agency is analyzing bids from two developers interested in turning 42 acres of mostly manufacturing space into sound stages, offices, and, depending on the proposal, a hotel, performing arts center or culinary school. Efforts by Burkenheim’s predecessors to bring about a similar rebirth in the early ’90s fizzled when the economy went bust. But Burkenheim, a North Hollywood resident who has been with the agency since 1979, believes things will be different this time. Question: Redevelopment efforts in North Hollywood have come under a lot of criticism. How successful would you say the effort has been so far? Answer: A lot of efforts in North Hollywood have been extremely successful. There are a lot of small businesses thriving here. There are a lot of existing family homes that have been improved. We’re working hard to increase home ownership in the area. There are neighborhoods that were very problematic that have been transformed and are doing much better. There has been some development in the commercial core, the Academy (of Television Arts and Sciences) project, the office building along Lankershim (Boulevard), the shopping center these have all been very good projects. And they’re doing very well. So those have been really strong successes. Q: For the first time in several years you have not one, but two developers interested in building major projects in North Hollywood. Why the sudden interest? A: There are a variety of reasons. Right now, the economy is good and banks are lending money to allow development to occur. Even if there was interest in the past, there was no one willing to finance it, so you could not proceed with development. The entertainment industry is expanding exponentially and creating a larger and larger demand for office space. We have traditionally been the home of a lot of entertainment companies. And there are a lot of people in the industry who see the potential. Q: Are you satisfied with the two bids? A: They’re both good-quality proposals. They both have sound financing behind them. They’re both very well thought out. Q: What could either of these projects mean to North Hollywood? A: They would take a lot of buildings that came down in the earthquake and rebuild the retail frontage along Lankershim Boulevard, which will help reactivate the street. Also it will provide a strong, welcoming front to the MTA Metro Rail station (being built at Lankershim and Chandler boulevards.) The studio project will create 1,500 jobs skilled, well-paying jobs that will provide more discretionary income to the area. It will clean up the area, provide green space and a lot more positive activities, so the area will feel more vibrant. At the same time, hopefully if we design this well, we’ll be able to incorporate a lot of the existing entertainment businesses into a new campus that will have adequate parking and storage and other things that industry needs in order to grow. Q: The CRA in the early ’90s attempted to bring a major hotel, restaurant and retail uses to North Hollywood, but those efforts fizzled. Is there any assurance things will be different this time around? A: The economy at that time, and the surrounding area at that time, were not welcoming to development. Now, the economy is strong, and the area surrounding the proposed development is better because the businesses in the area have improved, which helps attract more businesses. Both of the developers of the proposed projects have letters of interest from a number of different companies. There seems to be a lot of groundwork that was done prior, including the developers coming up with (tenants.) I would think that would help move this development forward faster. Q: Property owners in the area targeted for redevelopment in many cases say they don’t want to sell. How likely is it you can assemble all the parcels needed for development without resorting to the use of eminent domain? A: It’s impossible to say at this point because we haven’t started talking to everybody in the area. I do know there are a number of people who are willing to sell and are interested in staying in the area, perhaps relocating to the reconfigured area. A lot of the businesses here are ready to expand but don’t have the room. I think there’s a lot of potential for good negotiations. Having said that, I know from experience that we’ll wind up in eminent domain on at least one property in dealing with the issue of dollar amounts. Everybody has an idea they live in a palace and the palace is worth gold. But the government, the city, can only pay what the assessed value of that property is. So I’m sure there will be discrepancies. Q: How do you justify using your power of eminent domain to take property away from one private business to give to another? A: I think you can walk around North Hollywood and see there is a lot of potential for this area. There are a lot of businesses here that have to leave because in many cases they’re landlocked. There’s no place for them to grow. If you’re going to have a viable community, you’re going to have to have the ability to assemble land. If you don’t take that opportunity to put together larger sites, then development will move to where there isn’t development, so that we’ll always be building in Santa Clarita, and Fillmore and other areas, and we’ll leave the cores of the city to deteriorate. Q: What would you say to critics who argue that eminent domain has become a marketing tool local governments use to lure bigger businesses? A: I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. What has happened is that people go to other places to do their shopping or whatever kinds of services they need. If there starts to be nothing in an area to attract the shoppers back, and attract the businesses back, you have the jobs moving further and further from the area. And you have the money moving out of the area. So the area really declines. The reason the redevelopment agency is in North Hollywood is because the community asked for redevelopment to come here. They tried very hard to make it happen without any government assistance, and they couldn’t do it.