Los Angeles Has Become Too Big, Some Say

It sprawls across a geographic mass 10 times the size of San Francisco, with nearly five times the population.

Some residents say Los Angeles has become too big and unmanageable. On Tuesday, they'll try to break the nation's second most populous city apart using ballot initiatives that ask voters to turn Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley into independent cities.

If successful, the efforts would drop Los Angeles to No. 3 in population behind New York and Chicago and make the valley a rival to Phoenix as the nation's sixth-largest metropolis.

Most polls, however, indicate the secession efforts are long shots.

Even if they lose, secession supporters will continue to push for more local control. They have complained that their areas don't get a fair share of city services, from police protection to filling potholes.

"Secessionists don't want to leave LA, just live in a city that works," said Mel Wilson, a candidate for mayor of the proposed valley city. "It's sad that a city gets so large that not even its leaders have the power to bring about constructive change."

At the very least, secession will prompt Los Angeles to decentralize some departments and create new avenues for input from residents, said Robert Hertzberg, the former speaker of the California Assembly and a valley legislator.

Hertzberg, who does not support secession, said California's major cities need to evolve to reflect changing populations, demands and demographics.

"We draw these imaginary lines and we say they are never changeable," Hertzberg said. "To me, if we can come up with better ways to govern, we should explore them."

The two secession initiatives on Tuesday's ballot must win a majority of votes within the boundaries of the proposed new cities, as well as an overall majority in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles currently has about 3.7 million residents. A proposed valley city would have 1.3 million residents, while Hollywood would be home to 180,000.

Polling by the Los Angeles Times has shown secession trailing in both Hollywood and the valley. Citywide, secession is not attracting enough supporters to pass, according tracking polls by the pro-secession LA United campaign.

If it fails, Wendy Greuel, a City Council member who represents the San Fernando Valley, said she might revive a plan to eliminate the council and divide the city into nine boroughs, New York-style.

Two previous plans, one to put the borough question on the November ballot and another to study the proposal, were voted down by the City Council in July.

Supporters may seek other ways to create a valley city, including a statewide ballot initiative, if secession loses.

"The issue is far from going away," said Robert Scott, a longtime valley secession advocate. "The issues have now been defined as they've never been defined in history."

No matter the outcome, the secession movements have gotten the attention of the city's power brokers, said Richard Katz, a board member of the secession group Valley Vote.

"From the start, this has been about giving people power to have control over their lives and having the decisions that affect their lives (made) at a local level, not a downtown level," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

APTV 11-02-02 1457EST