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Occupy L.A.

Occupy L.A. Costs Will Mean More Budget Cuts, Says Mayor Villaraigosa -- $400K for Lawn Damage, $700K for Police Raid?

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Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 5:30 PM
click to enlarge The once-grassy wasteland outside L.A. City Hall. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Update, December 23: A preliminary report from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says Occupy L.A. cost the city $1.7 million.

Update: Santana says City Hall park repairs will likely cost even more than $400,000. Details at the bottom.

Originally posted December 21 at 10:35 a.m.

Well before Occupy L.A. was kicked off City Hall lawn in a midnight sweep, councilmembers started trying to convince them to leave on their own. Argument No. 1: You're killing our lawn.

Even back then, city officials were throwing around a $400,000 figure for restoring its former luster. Now, according to CBS LA, they've confirmed that total, along with $700,000 for the huge orchestrated LAPD eviction. In response, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa "says more budget cuts will be necessary to offset the costs," which he puts in the millions.

However, Valley Sod Farm Inc. tells the Weekly that landscapers usually charge...

... between $1 and $2 per square foot of lawn, including labor and materials. Because the lawn at City Hall is about 1.7 acres, the maximum cost of repairing it, based on that estimate, would be $150,000.

Of course, there are a few other costs to consider, as the Downtown News reported last week:

By Wednesday, the city expects to have a reliable accounting of the damage done to the 1.7-acre space that includes 480 sprinklers, 80 trees of varying species and the hardscapes.

However, a couple different sprinkler-installing companies in the L.A. area tell us a brand-new system of that size would cost only about $6,000, and a mere repair job would cost half that, including labor.

As for "hardscapes" -- if the concrete pathways/stairwells outside City Hall couldn't take two months of heavy usage by protesters, they needed to be repaired anyway. When's the last time Skid Row's sidewalks were repaved? And though trees in the park took a beating as well, they're still alive and trooping, probably glad for a little attention.

click to enlarge A piece of the $400,000 damage. - CBS2
  • CBS2
  • A piece of the $400,000 damage.

Only thing left, it seems, is graffiti removal. If the peace-and-love scrawls left behind at City Hall cost a quarter-million dollars to scrape off, we need to seriously re-evaluate our contract with said scraper-offers.

The $700,000 raid is another gray area, as far as responsibility goes. For weeks, L.A. politicians actually encouraged protesters to set up camp. But when Villaraigosa saw children at the tent city -- again, like Skid Row doesn't have children -- he sent the LAPD in to bulldoze Occupy L.A. and send 300 of its inhabitants to jail. The police department maintains it was necessary to deploy nearly 1,500 officers, to ensure the raid went off without a hitch.

That's debatable. (As is the "without a hitch" part.) But even if all that riot-squad grandeur was essential, Occupy L.A. can't be blamed any more than we can blame the Michael Jackson fans outside his heavily policed memorial.

Using the threat of budget cuts to pit occupiers against Angelenos (and labor unions in particular, who fight the cuts hardest) is pretty low. Especially while city officials throw $200,000 parties and gift millions to moneyed developers. Yet do we ever hear them blame budget cuts on their own behavior?

We've contacted City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana for more details on the Occupy L.A. expense report.

Update: Santana says he has no idea why CBS2 is spouting the $400,000 figure as a fresh news item. The Occupy L.A. cost estimates "didn't come from me, so I don't know where those came from," he says.

(So it seems the news station was just reviving Mayor Villaraigosa's running estimate, in light of his new announcement that budget cuts will be necessary to offset Occupy expenses.)

But wait. Santana says he expects the cost of repairing the lawn will be even higher than $400,000, based on "the costs of doing these kind of improvements." He says City Hall will be required to hire city employees to do the labor.

However, the City Administrative Officer says he has no way of calculating any official totals until the mayor and councilmembers give him a (long overdue) report on city damage/needs in the wake of Occupy L.A.

"I have no idea" what the final cost of Occupy will be, says Santana. He's hoping to finally receive the information needed to release such a sum "later this week." "They haven't decided what the plans are, so it's hard to figure out how much they'll cost," he adds, a little exasperated.

In other words: City officials have apparently been throwing around numbers without any solid data on which to base them. And they're procrastinating, big-time. Heh. Neither would be a first.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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