By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
No academics were fooled by the study. The researchers who reviewed it for L.A. Weekly applauded the nonprofit’s intentions to draw positive attention to blighted, ignored or heavily minority areas but universally questioned its methods and conclusions.
“Their units of analysis really concern me,” says LMU’s Magnabosco. “Even in the tables for these particular communities, I would never allow something like this to leave my shop. [With] a lot of these numbers that they’re putting out, it’s not clear who vetted this.”
The study cites a surprising 16 percent increase in resident ownership as evidence of new wealth in the nine L.A. neighborhoods. It fails to mention that thousands who could not afford homes bought anyway — and are now the sad stats in the foreclosure crisis.
“There’s going to be a huge area here affected by the mortgage crisis,” says James Allen, a Cal State Northridge geographer who co-authored “Changing Faces, Changing Places,” the most comprehensive demographic profile of Los Angeles since the last Census. “That’s going to defeat a large part of the positive here.”
According to the April to July data from RealtyTrac, a foreclosure database, more than 905 default notices have been sent to the nine areas — the very homeowners touted by the fluffy study. All told, 1,401 homes are in the process of foreclosure.
“DrillDown L.A.” didn’t impress Ali Modarres either. The associate director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A. points to Social Compact’s unacceptable use of “apples and oranges”: comparing the income of current homeowners to the 2000 earnings of “average” residents. Where to start with such a tortured piece of data? Homeowners make more money than average residents, who are mostly renters. They can’t be compared. Second, average residents’ incomes were taken from the 2000 Census, not adjusted for inflation, further padding the supposed progress.
“Methodology typically determines the outcome,” Modarres says. “And they chose their own methodology. How much of this is inflationary and how much is even comparable [to the Census data] because they’re using a completely different methodology?”
Mayor Villaraigosa, who has come under criticism for chronically announcing big quality-of-life initiatives — planting 1 million trees, reducing congestion, fighting grafitti, ending filthy dumping — that go nowhere, seems almost desperate to make struggling neighborhoods appear better off.
Cecilia V. Estolano, the Villaraigosa appointee who heads the Community Redevelopment Agency, is not at all bothered by the pointed questions raised by these independent academics. “We think it’s a great report,” she tells the Weekly, “and we think it’s going to be tremendously useful to get companies to invest in these areas. We intend to use this data to [give to] marketers. ... I think this report will help spur more investment.”
In fact, the opposite is more likely. Villaraigosa’s seeking of a hollow study will probably be seen as statistical chicanery by serious community investors like grocery stores — an effort by the Villaraigosa administration to paper over a situation instead of addressing the quality-of-life issues that keep investors out.
Richard Livingston, a veteran site consultant for grocery chains nationwide, who is also familiar with Social Compact’s impact on luring investments like grocery store chains, says simply, “All that data is meaningless!”
He tells L.A. Weekly, “They’re all cherry-picked to make it look better than it really is. It makes me sick when I read these things. It’s like late-night infomercials. It’s selected information. ... You can’t pee on these supermarkets and tell them it’s lemonade.”