By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Some critics say the new park’s design process, although it has included public workshops, could stick Los Angeles with another ugly and uninviting public space like greenery-stripped and concrete-heavy Pershing Square, an embarrassing flop designed by Mexico City architect Ricardo Legorreta.
Even if the park is embraced as a public square, as hoped, taxpayers are at risk if the five-star hotel and luxury condos run into trouble. At the public hearing in February, Gerry Miller, the city’s chief legislative analyst, assured the City Council that without the massive taxpayer subsidies “it is infeasible for this project to exist.”
But Doug Kaplan, a Northern California developer and expert on the proliferation statewide of these taxpayer-subsidized private projects, says that’s hogwash — and political cover.
Says Kaplan of the Grand Avenue plan, “Here’s the truth: Developers don’t demand subsidies they need. They demand and they get subsidies because local politicians provide subsidies for the taking” — in this case, a Los Angeles City Council whose members have almost no private experience in land development.
Novack, the aide to fiscal conservative Antonovich, who opposed the project, says the public-private deal contains no safeguards to protect taxpayers if the Related Companies come back for “more subsidies for phase two and phase three. So that’s when they’ll come back and ask for more money.”
Gi, of the Community Redevelopment Agency, one of the public partners, claims cost overruns will be avoided because “they passed an oversight ordinance where CRA has to get City Council’s approval on budgetary and other items. Any amount over $25,000 goes to the CRA Board of Commissioners, then City Council.”
Despite Gi’s enthusiasm, government oversight plans have a disastrous history in Los Angeles, home of the $320 million–per-mile subway and the $400 million Belmont Learning Complex debacle — a school placed atop a toxic site. In fact, Witte does not dispute that Related Companies might seek further subsidies to complete the three phases, conceding, “There’s always a possibility that may occur.”
Whether Grand Avenue becomes yet another plastic CityWalk, or draws in monied out-of-town crowds à la Rodeo Drive, one thing seems certain: The project is rolling forward to its expected fall groundbreaking, even if its most ardent supporters can’t agree on why.