Los Angeles Legislative Analysts Recommend Annexing Vernon

By Christina Villacorte, City News Service

Los Angeles officials took a closer look Tuesday at annexing the troubled and tiny city of Vernon.

L.A. Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller’s recommendation that L.A.’s mayor and City Council begin talking with Vernon’s elected officials about “voluntary annexation” cleared a council committee Tuesday, and soon will be heard by the full council.

Consolidating the city into Los Angeles under current state law would require the approval of Vernon’s voters.

Miller’s endorsement of proposed state legislation calling for the “involuntary dissolution” of cities with fewer than 150 residents was also forwarded to the full council Tuesday — as a back-up plan if Vernon’s elected officials balk at joining L.A.

No vote was taken on the proposals, because only one member of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee was present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman Jose Huizar used his authority as acting chairman of the committee to forward Miller’s recommendations to the full council.

“I am quite surprised that it would get to this point, but I think the fact that one city is proposing to annex another shows that that relationship is not a good one,” he said. “We should not have allowed it to get to this point. “

“I think this is worthy of a discussion, I think the full council should have this discussion,” Huizar added.

Vernon City Administrator Mark Whitworth said annexation, initially proposed by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, would result in the loss of thousands of jobs, and put L.A. in deeper financial peril.

“The city of L.A. would be absorbing about $1 billion of debt. Are you ready for that?” Whitworth said, directing his question at Miller.

“I’ve met with many of these business owners, and everyone — to a T — has said, ‘We won’t only leave Vernon, we’ll leave the state or we’ll close our doors,”’ Whitworth said. “You’re talking 50,000 jobs. Are you ready to face that?”

Miller conceded that annexation could cause “issues” related to the operation of Vernon’s municipal utilities, noting the city owns and operates its own water, power and gas services.

However, he also noted that Vernon had $190 million in revenues and $381 million in expenses in 2007-08.

“Should Vernon cease to exist as a charter city, the most viable candidate for annexation would be the city of Los Angeles, and it may be in our mutual interests to proceed with the process,” Miller said. “Accordingly, we recommend pursuing the matter through voluntary annexation, or, should the state pursue involuntary dissolution, through an alternative process through the state.”

Vernon was incorporated in 1905, bounded by Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park. It spans 5.2 square miles and has a population of about 100.

In the past, according to Miller, Los Angeles consolidated governmental operations with a handful of independent communities, including Eagle Rock, Hollywood, Hyde Park, Sawtelle, San Pedro, Venice and Wilmington. The last consolidation was approved in 1932 when Tujunga became part of Los Angeles.

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February 10, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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