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City of L.A. Smuggles $884 Million From Redevelopment Agency At Surprise Meeting, Ducking State Cuts And Public Scrutiny

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Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM
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Update: Do we really want $1 billion and the future of L.A. urban development to remain trapped in the incestual CRA-City Hall family?

Update: Turns out they actually transferred all CRA assets and projects, bringing the total city transfer to more like an abstract $1 billion, according to Kaye.

Ron Kaye, ex-editor of LA Daily News, spotted the sneak thundercloud yesterday: a mysterious "special meeting" posted to the Community Redevelopment Agency's website, at which CRA commissioners would decide the fate of $884 million. (Too bad we were busy pulling our hair out over that silly meeting on the Zoning Code.)

The note was only posted 24 hours before the meeting's start time -- a painful 8:30 a.m.

This morning, despite the best efforts of Kaye and erratic city activist John Walsh to thwart them, all six CRA commissioners OKed the $884 million "cooperation agreement" with the City of Los Angeles.

How did they get away with this?

Yesterday afternoon, in a panic, Kaye urged his loyal readers to barrage L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and CRA-involved officials with a cease-and-desist letter of sorts, "to call for the immediate halt of this fraudulent action of the CRA to try to evade the legitimate budgeting process of the State of California."

The meeting announcement contained only the following vagueties:

AUTHORITY TO EXECUTE A COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH CITY OF LOS ANGELES FOR PAYMENT O APPROXIMATELY $885 MILLION FOR COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH CERTAIN REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY FUNDED CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT, PUBLIC IMPROVEMENT AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECTS LOCATED WITHIN THE CURRENTLY DESIGNATED 31 REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT AREAS

However, by all appearances, the gigantic transfer is a blatant attempt to evade a July 2011 slash of all local redevelopment agencies like the CRA -- one of the many strict budget decisions made by Governor Jerry Brown in his first week at the helm of California. Brown's proposal would save the state $6 billion a year.

Even the Associated Press caught on:

The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency has allocated $885 million for projects throughout the city before it is possibly dissolved under terms of the austerity budget Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed for California.

...

Commissioner Kenneth Fearn says there would be no assurance the money would go back to the city of Los Angeles if it falls into state hands.

Eliminating local redevelopment agencies is proposed in Brown's budget, which calls for $12.5 billion in cuts.

L.A. city officials also had the usual pack of political citywatchers to look out for. However, their efforts kinda backfired, in our opinion, considering they managed to violate the Brown Act's 72-hour-notice requirement on an item in which state officials have every reason to invest themselves. (Kaye notes that the reason for the Brown Act was actually invented right here in L.A., when City Councilmembers unanimously approved a certain "Number X" -- a boost in their own salaries -- without notice. So yeah, you see the precedent we're working with.)

In the sample letter form, Kaye states:

"The CRA has no legal authority to proceed with this special meeting. The CRA has failed to comply with the Brown Act. This decision, if it is approved today, will result in massive public outrage against the elected and appointed officials of the City and CRA, including a City Attorney that allowed this patently illegal meeting notice to be posted. Actions taken at this proposed meeting of the CRA will be subject to nullification in the Los Angeles County Superior Court."

No one is answering the phones at the Community Redevelopment Agency this morning. What we really want to know is: Where exactly will the $884 million go now? Same place as all those other "special" funds, we suppose.

Update: Kaye just posted a video of the meeting. It appears CRA Board President Kenneth Fearn also motioned for an agreement with City Hall that would essentially preserve all the CRA jobs, including their pensions, by making the agency into a city-run nonprofit. So much for Brown's bright idea...

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