In Criminal Scheme to Skirt California Law, L.A. 'Community Redevelopment Agency' Only Reminds Us Why It Should Be Toppled
Let's pretend, for a moment, that the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency didn't just defy the governor and violate the transparency codes of the Brown Act without batting an eye in a surprise meeting last Friday. Let's instead rewind to last Monday, when Governor Jerry Brown first proposed that California wipe out every one of its redevelopment agencies -- including the massive Los Angeles CRA.
Brown's argument? All the billions of dollars that quasi-autonomous CRAs spend and make off developers and property taxes should be redirected toward schools, police, firefighters, libraries, etc.
The Los Angeles CRA's retort? Board chairman Kenneth Fearn gave it to the Silicon Valley Mercury News on Friday:
Fearn said the Los Angeles agency needed to keep improving neighborhoods and boosting employment but feared the state would redirect the tax money to other parts of California.
"There's no means of assuring that the money gets returned to the city of Los Angeles" under Brown's proposal, Fearn said.
OK, Fearn. You asked for it. Let's take a little looksie at all the ways the CRA has "improved neighborhoods" and "boosted employment" during its ever-expanding reign over "blighted" L.A. sprawl.
Chris Essel, the mayor-appointed CEO of CRA
(In case you're still lost, and we don't blame you: The CRA is doing its best to transfer almost $1 billion in projects to the City of Los Angeles, where the money and the agency will then be transformed into a so-called "Successor Entity" -- basically the CRA under a different name. It would be allowed to keep the same budget, same staff, same workers-union allegiances, same pensions -- same everything.)
Back to business: What, exactly, has the CRA -- and the city's own housing and planning departments, indications of how City Hall would run a new "Successor Entity" -- done for us lately?
[Attorney Richard] MacNaughton is accusing top pols like [L.A. City Councilman Eric] Garcetti, and CRA officials, of a cover-up, of lying to the other 14 council members, and of underpricing the value of this super-choice Vine Street property by more than $1 million in preparation for its sale to City Hall pal Hal Katersky.
City Hall's incessant cravings for profitable land deals make the CRA a great friend to keep near. On the L.A. Department of Housing's part, the Weekly discovered in a March 2010 investigation that one of its grandest projects, "156 condos, called Puerta del Sol, and 378 other apartments squeezed between Avenue 26 and the thundering I-5," was built next to roadways despite scientific evidence from USC that the apartments would cause lung problems in any children who lived there. Patrick Range McDonald reports:
Meanwhile, on the other side of downtown, the Los Angeles Housing Department provided down payments to buyers to move into Puerta del Sol, a stylish condo complex in the Avenue 26 community where teenager Andrew Garcia breathes in the factorylike emissions and particulates created daily by 285,000 vehicles.
Since then, with the city's enthusiastic backing, including that of Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents Lincoln Heights, the village's politically well-connected developer, Percy Vaz, has marketed the project to families tired of commuting -- in effect, targeting parents to live in an area scientists now know is unusually hazardous to their children's health.
Coincidentally, a federal grant of $2.5 million, granted to the CRA in October for a freeway-side project that could put more kids at risk, will now be part of the $1 billion transfer to City Hall.
The CRA is currently allowed to have its way with any area of land designated as "blighted" by its own board -- along with the L.A. mayor and the City Council -- and currently presides over thousands upon thousands of L.A. acres. [For maps and layouts of all affected neighborhoods, click here.]
Inconveniently, though, the decisions do have to follow California Redevelopment Law. That's why the L.A. CRA took to lobbying San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, or "The Worst Legislator in California," to convince the rest of the State Legislature to lift those annoying regs this year: