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Money raised from McDonald’s and other donors pays for staff salaries at Genesis and also builds capital in an account that the nonprofit can use as a revolving loan fund.
“At the end of the day, if we get more McDonald’s out of it, so much the better,” said McDonald’s Carras. The corporation doesn’t endorse candidates, but in regards to the McDonald’s/Genesis link, “If Rocky uses that for his campaign, more power to him,” Carras said.
Janis-Aparicio, of the Alliance for a New Economy, is less enthusiastic: “The best indication of the mayor’s philosophy and Delgadillo’s is the kind of development and the kind of employers the mayor has pushed for the hardest. Co-sponsors of the Genesis project — Kmart and McDonald’s — are among the companies most virulently opposed to paying a living wage.”
Billboards also have a role to play in the Genesis game plan, even though the city is currently enforcing a moratorium on all new billboards. At the urging of Delgadillo’s office, the City Council recently approved the installation of billboards at two Genesis projects, as a way of making them “pencil out” economically. Not only do these signs get around the moratorium, but at one site, they also would bypass the city’s longtime ban on new freeway billboards, which are especially lucrative for billboard companies.
The tradeoff is worth it, said Delgadillo. “Many times the economic viability of these projects turns on a very narrow margin. Because of my deep conviction that everyone in every neighborhood deserves the opportunity to have a good job, I have been willing to look at any proposal to try and make the financing of job-producing projects viable.”
In the absence of incontrovertible success, Genesis has done exactly what critics have long accused the mayor’s Business Team of doing — inflating its numbers. According to promotional materials, “In his Economic Vision Address in March 1999, Mayor Riordan announced that by June 2001, Genesis LA will have signed transactions that represent 5,000 quality jobs and $250 million in private investment for inner-city development. We are proud to announce that the goals were surpassed as of April 19, 2000.” Delgadillo echoed this claim in an interview before the Weekly editorial board.
And sure enough, the column entries from a chart of successful projects add up to 5,210 jobs and investments of more than $305 million in private capital. But the list is suspect from the word go; the top entry is the Auto Club “project.”
“Folks here are not sure why we’re being considered a city economic-redevelopment project,” confessed Auto Club spokesperson Carol Thorp. Besides transferring about 250 employees, the Auto Club consolidated operations into three of its four buildings at the corner of Figueroa Street and Adams Boulevard.
Thorp double-checked with company officials about the role of the city and Genesis, reporting back that “The city offered to help us find a tenant. The one entity they sent over was from the entertainment industry. They looked it over and did not want it.
“We have no complaints about how the city treated us,” she added. “They tried to be helpful.” The Auto Club rented the space to a pair of nonprofit organizations it recruited on its own.
Another entry on the success-story list is called the Samitaur site, near the intersection of La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards. Developer Frederick Samitaur Smith has nothing but praise for the intent of Genesis LA, but noted that his project was well along when Genesis came calling. “They’ve been very helpful,” he said of Genesis and the Mayor’s Office. “Whenever I have a question, they’re able to hunt it. It’s a great effort and I wish it to continue.”
At Samitaur, Genesis takes credit for 1,350 jobs, a number that, according to Genesis, “represents the sum of actual jobs with people working today plus estimated jobs based on signed deals with financing in place, end users identified, space available for occupancy and/or spec space under construction.”
And so it goes, right on down the list.
A Weekly reporter tracked senior staff from the nonprofit Genesis and the Mayor’s Office all the way to the Las Vegas shopping-center convention this week to make sense of these numbers, to little avail. La Franchi offered that the Genesis effort was begun by the mayor’s Business Team well before Genesis was formally announced. Therefore, she said, it’s reasonable for Genesis to take credit for good things that happened before the formation of either the nonprofit or the for-profit Genesis. Regarding one pre-Genesis effort that was represented as a Genesis success story, La Franchi said, “The mayor’s Business Team was working on that site for years.”
Of course, the job-creation numbers of the Business Team itself have been called into question by the UCLA researchers. For which a mayor’s staffer offered a not-for-attribution explanation: “The numbers are just made-up numbers.” The staff member then decided a clarification was in order: “We basically call the developers, ask how many jobs they are creating and use that number.” And there is no adjustment, for example, to account for jobs lost at neighborhood hardware stores when a Ă˘ Home Depot opens in a new shopping center.