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Digest

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Freeway Plan Approved

A plan to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway through South Pasadena and East Los Angeles was finally approved by the federal government last week, after 33 years of heated debate.

There is, however, a final loophole that could still kill the highly controversial freeway extension, which will cut through downtown South Pasadena, eliminating 900 homes and 6,000 trees. Federal officials have agreed to reassess the environmental impact of the extension after its design plans are completed a process expected to take about two years.

Meanwhile, South Pasadena has vowed to file suit to halt the project.

Century to Roll Back Cable Rates

Century Cable agreed last week to pay $12.3 million to its Los Angeles customers to settle a long-running dispute with the city on overcharges.

Parent company Century Communications Corp. admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. Under terms of the agreement, Century will pay $8.2 million in rebates to its L.A. customers and provide $3.3 million worth of rate reductions; each current Century customer will get $60, to appear in 12 monthly installments starting May 1.

Century was ordered last year by the Federal Communications Commission to reduce rates in Southern California because of alleged overcharges for basic cable services starting in November 1995.

Kaiser Taken to Task by CalPERS

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, whose annual contracts with health care providers are considered a bellwether for employers across the state, blasted Kaiser Permanente last week for demanding a 12.6 percent rate hike.

Also last week, CalPERS approved deals with nine other health maintenance organizations that called for an average 5 percent increase in premium costs. CalPERS is the nation’s second-largest purchaser of health insurance after the federal government.

CalPERS officials accused Kaiser of mismanagement and said the increase was “outrageous.” Kaiser lost $270 million in 1997 and is trying to make up for the red ink by raising rates.

Bond Measures Passed

During municipal elections last week, five of seven bond measures to fund school improvements were approved by L.A. County voters. Also, Beverly O’Neill was easily re-elected mayor of Long Beach.

Bond measures passed in Duarte, Temple City, South Whittier, Montebello and Paramount, but failed in Torrance and Compton.

The largest municipal election was in Long Beach, where the mayor, city attorney, city prosecutor, city auditor and five of the nine City Council seats were in contention. O’Neill was elected to a second term with 79 percent of the vote. Jenny Oropeza, Ray Grabinski and Jerry Shultz were elected to the council, with the remaining two seats facing runoff elections.

Lead-Based Paint Settlement

In the largest case of its kind brought under California’s toxic protection initiative Proposition 65, a settlement was reached last week in which the owner of the notorious Wyvernwood apartment complex in East L.A. will pay $1.2 million to test and treat children for lead poisoning.

Samuel S. Mevorach agreed to the settlement after four years of investigations into lead-based paint at the complex, which has 8,000 residents. At least four cases of lead poisoning have been identified among children living at Wyvernwood, where health officials found paint containing lead up to 25 times permissible levels.

Mevorach is also a key figure in the investigation of City Councilman Richard Alatorre, who is accused of accepting help with a home loan and other financial assistance from Mevorach at a time when the council was considering a taxpayer-backed purchased of Wyvernwood.

Disney CFO to Head Starwood

Richard Nanula, chief financial officer at Walt Disney Co. and right-hand man to Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, will quit his job at the entertainment giant to become chief executive of real estate investment trust Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., company officials announced last week.

Phoenix-based Starwood, best known for foiling Hilton Hotels’ attempt to acquire ITT Corp. by stepping in as a white knight and buying ITT itself, is busy incorporating both ITT and Westin Hotels and Resorts into its operations. Analysts peg Nanula as a good choice to oversee the process because of his experience helping Disney digest such huge acquisitions as Capital Cities/ABC Inc.

Merger Trial Date Set

A federal judge last week set Sept. 8 as the start date for a trial in which the U.S. government will argue in favor of blocking the merger of two aerospace giants, Century City-based Northrop Grumman Corp. and Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, which are opposing the merger on the grounds that it would give the combined company too much control over the aerospace industry’s defense electronics and radar businesses, were arguing for a later start date. The two companies pressed for an earlier one, saying delays could endanger the merger.

Also last week, Northrop Grumman reported a first-quarter net loss of $12 million, or 18 cents a share, as a result of costs related to the company’s merger with Lockheed. Pursuing the merger through the courts will cost Northrop about $3 million a month, said Richard B. Waugh, the company’s chief financial officer.

Hollywood Project Green-Lighted

The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency’s board of commissioners last week approved a development agreement with TrizecHahn Corp. to build a $385 million retail/entertainment center adjacent to the historic Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

As part of the agreement, the city of L.A. will issue $90 million in municipal bonds to finance a 3,000-stall parking garage and a 3,300-seat live theater, which will be used to house the Academy Awards after the center’s expected completion in late 2000. The bonds will be repaid through parking fees and new sales and gross-receipt taxes, and the city will retain ownership of the parking garage and live theater.

The 663,000-square-foot project, to be built at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, also must be approved by the L.A. City Council, which may consider it as early as this week.

Compiled by Dan Turner and Daniel Taub

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