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California Controller John Chiang to Probe L.A. Redevelopment Agency, 17 Others

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Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 1:50 PM
click to enlarge John Chiang takes on the L.A. CRA
  • John Chiang takes on the L.A. CRA

Looks like we Angelenos may have raised enough of a ruckus about the last-minute $1 billion money transfer between the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and the L.A. City Council for a state official to get involved.

Welcome to the shitshow, Controller John Chiang.

When Governor Jerry Brown proposed a couple weeks back that California's redevelopment agencies be abolished -- and their budgets be redirected into schools, healthcare and emergency services -- over a dozen of the agencies freaked.

Our ginormous version, the L.A. CRA, called a "special" meeting with only 24 hours notice, at which staffers and board members agreed that $930 million in CRA projects should be transferred to the City Council, and a replica org should be created under a different name (presumably to preserve their jobs and ties with developers).

Chiang comes out swinging in his official statement today:

"The heated debate over whether RDAs are the engines of local economic and job growth or are simply scams providing windfalls to political cronies at the expense of public services has largely been based on anecdotal evidence. As lawmakers deliberate the Governor's proposal to close RDAs and divert those funds to local schools and public safety agencies, I believe it is important to provide factual, empirical information about how these agencies perform and what they bring to the communities they serve."

According to the press release, Chiang will look into the following redevelopment-agency practices:

• How the RDAs define a "blighted" area

• Whether they are appropriately paying for low- and moderate-income housing as required by law

• Whether they are accurately "passing through" payments to schools within their community

• How much RDA officials, board members and employees are being compensated for their services

Chiang may be able to get a head start on the L.A. CRA investigation with a quick dip into our archives: "In Criminal Scheme to Skirt California Law, L.A. 'Community Redevelopment Agency' Only Reminds Us Why It Should Be Toppled." Most recently, we're wondering whether he'll find billionaire Eli Broad's extravagant new downtown art complex to be "blighted" enough for a $52 million CRA gift?

Otherwise, we wish our California Controller the best of luck -- and won't be surprised if he comes out as jaded and mad-man furious as the rest of L.A.'s citywatchers.

In addition to Los Angeles, the following cities will be targeted: San Jose, Richmond, Pittsburg, Fremont, Pasadena, Fresno, Palm Desert, Placienta, Parlier, Hercules, Anderson, Citrus Heights, Calexico, Coronado, Desert Hot Springs.

The RDAs in Sacramento County and Riverside County will also fall subject to the audit.

According to Chiang, the 18 chosen ones are "geographically diverse and represent a mix of varying populations." As the biggest redevelopment agency in the state, the L.A. CRA was bound to make it in there -- and, needless to say, we're among the many who can't wait to see what kind of juice he can squeeze from its file cabinet.

Update: Controller's Office spokesman Jacob Roper tells us that Chiang initiated the probe just because "there's such a large debate in the capitol ... that he wants more information there for policymakers."

Said info should be ready by mid-March.

The sudden transfer of RDA funds into city coffers -- an epidemic currently sweeping the state -- will not necessarily be a focus of Chiang's review. However, Roper says that, depending on the March findings, "other audits might take place down the road."

Damn well hope so.

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