In "Feeding Frenzy" (March 6, 1998), Howard Blume exposed the team of consultants responsible for creating the state’s most expensive high school, Belmont High, near downtown Los Angeles.
Between the fits and starts of El Niño’s downpours, concrete and steel are rising at the corner of Temple Street and Beaudry Avenue, but a project once described as a Cadillac will almost certainly look more like a Pontiac with manual windows — except in terms of the $200 million price tag. The affordable housing has been scrapped, at least for now, and even a scaled-back shopping center appears iffy. Also in doubt are such promised features as a pool and lights for the athletic fields.
From the start, the Belmont complex was overly ambitious, all at once attempting a kitchen sink full of untried approaches. But it also became the feeding ground for a district-subsidized brain trust — some of them with troubling conflicts of interest — who answered mainly to [Dominic] Shambra and were rarely accountable to anyone. This clique of outside consultants, attorneys and financial analysts became consumed with the idea of pursuing retail development at Belmont, an emphasis that directly benefited project developers and the consultants themselves, while it delayed construction of badly needed classrooms, jeopardized state funding and drove up costs. In the shark-infested waters of real estate speculation, Belmont triggered a feeding frenzy, one that left the needs of students high and dry.