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REALTORS BACK SECESSION, SAYING LOCAL CONTROL WILL LEAD TO `BETTER LIFE IN VALLEY'.

Byline: James Nash Staff Writer

VAN NUYS - Prospects for an improved quality of life, a healthier business climate and even better schools over time led the San Fernando Valley organization of Realtors to come out strongly Wednesday for secession from Los Angeles.

An independent Valley city would likely lead to less red tape, a more-responsive local government and better basic services, said members of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, which represents nearly 7,300 real-estate agents in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

``In the long term, I think it would make for a better and more-desirable community,'' said Dev ``Dave'' Parikh, a Granada Hills Realtor and a member of the association's board of directors.

Parikh and others said a vote for secession wouldn't boost property values overnight. But they said a Valley-based political leadership would concentrate on Valley needs such as fixing streets and revitalizing neighborhoods and commercial corridors, leading to higher real estate values and an improved quality of life.

In formally announcing the association's support for a separate Valley city in the Nov. 5 election, the group said it was taking its lead from an Internet poll of its members. Leaders said 64 percent of the 2,069 members who voted in the poll support secession.

Realtors also said a vote for secession would create unprecedented political momentum either to demand reform in the Los Angeles Unified School District or petition for a new Valley school district - addressing one of the leading concerns of families as they consider whether to live in the Valley, they said.

``I do believe that once we are our own city, we will have a stronger voice in creating a better (Los Angeles Unified) school district or a new one of our own,'' said Northridge-based Realtor Alice McCain.

She said a Calabasas home in the Las Virgenes Unified School District will sell for up to $100,000 more than an equivalent home in nearby Woodland Hills, which is part of the LAUSD. McCain said many well-to-do Valley residents send their children to private schools rather than take their chances with the LAUSD.

Although a municipal divorce wouldn't split the LAUSD, secession advocates say it would give the Valley significant leverage to demand reforms in the district or to petition for a new Valley school district.

Larry Levine, a political campaign consultant and co-chairman of the Valley anti-secession group One Los Angeles, said the Realtors' support for cityhood owes almost entirely to their selnterest.

``It's clear that the Realtors in this case are voting their own pocketbooks,'' he said.

Levine said secession backers are misleading voters by linking cityhood and breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

``The process for breaking up the school district is absolutely separate from breaking up the city,'' Levine said. ``A new city would have no more clout in the school district than the Valley has now.''

Members of the Realtors group said they expect a smaller Valley city to do a better job of allocating public resources.

Northridge-based Realtor Winnie Davis said if the Valley kept some of the tax dollars now going to other parts of Los Angeles, it could improve the quality of residents' lives by attending to basic needs.

``I personally feel that if we have a little more of the money from our taxes, we could repave the streets, trim the trees and even improve the homes,'' she said.

Taxes on home sales would decrease, members of the association said, citing how a Valley city no longer would collect Los Angeles' documentary transfer tax - which amounts to $4.50 for each $1,000 of a property's sale price.

The tax amounts to about $1,400 on the sale of a median-price home. It generally is paid by the seller.

The tax generates $88.5 million in annual income for Los Angeles, about 3 percent of the city's general-fund revenues. Los Angeles County charges a separate documentary transfer tax of $1.10 per $1,000 of sales price. The county levy would continue after secession, with the Valley city receiving a portion of the revenue.

An independent Valley city, as a general-law city, would not have the authority under state law to assess the transfer tax as Los Angeles does.

Four other cities in Los Angeles County have the tax. Culver City levies the same amount as Los Angeles, while Pomona, Redondo Beach and Santa Monica charge significantly less.

``It's been so hard to swallow,'' Northridge-based Realtor Wendy Furth said of the Los Angeles tax. ``When we sell property in Burbank or San Fernando or Calabasas, we skip that tax and it's a huge savings.''

Other Realtors said the documentary transfer tax, while burdensome on its own, is only one strand of a web of fees and regulations that make it difficult to sell and buy property in Los Angeles. Calabasas-based mortgage lender Don Bagwell cited a Los Angeles requirement that homeowners install a new gas shut-off valve before selling a home. If the valve were a pressing safety concern, the city should require it of all homes rather than only those being sold, he said.

Studio City Realtor Jay Rosenthal said he dreads doing business at Los Angeles City Hall because it often takes hours, officials are unhelpful or not there, and the regulations can be difficult to navigate. By contrast, dealing with city officials in Glendale, Burbank and other smaller cities usually goes quickly and is headache-free, he said.

``It's just a very different experience: one of service versus one of feeling like a burden,'' Rosenthal said.

After announcing their position on secession Wednesday morning, leaders of the association interviewed Valley mayoral candidates Mel Wilson - the association's president in 1997 - and Keith Richman.

The association's government affairs committee did not endorse either candidate, instead opting to speak to more of the 10 mayoral candidates before deciding, said Jim Link, the trade group's executive vice president.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 5, 2002
Words:986
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