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Party Review: 'Drop Dead CRA Day' at City Hall

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Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 4:20 PM

click to enlarge Out with a bang.
  • Out with a bang.
Today is a very special day.

Today is the day that all 400 redevelopment agencies (RDAs) across California -- including the massive L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) -- are shut down for good. And all the property taxes they've been raking in, for buildings within areas they've declared "blighted," will now go directly to the state for essential costs like education and emergency services.

Woot woot! This calls for a little celebration. Leave it to oddball Los Angeles citywatchers John Walsh and Miki Jackson, of HollywoodHighlands.org, to host a bona fide funeral party (emphasis on the party) for the CRA ...

... down at City Hall. Under the same roof, if you'll recall, that has sheltered decades of shady dealings between the CRA, City Council politicians and fat-cat developers who came sniffing for handouts. (No such thing as too rich!)

"Drop Dead CRA Day" was a bittersweet affair.

click to enlarge The CRA "always hands out the Jim Jones Kool-Aid to everybody, telling them how everything was going great," says Jackson, left.
  • The CRA "always hands out the Jim Jones Kool-Aid to everybody, telling them how everything was going great," says Jackson, left.
Walsh paired a dollar-bill tie with his signature plaid suit jacket to mark the occasion. Jackson, apparently an arts-and-crafts queen, fashioned the CRA a terrific tombstone -- plastered in skeleton hands and more dollar bills.

Although public commenters expressed relief that the CRA could do no more harm, they were visibly pained to recall horror stories of land grabs past.

"We had a vibrant community... not a blighted slum," remembered Gordon Pattison, a former Bunker Hill resident, of his long-ago neighborhood, before the CRA wiped it out and installed a business district. "Nine thousand people were displaced at the time."

Valerie Stewart, surviving daughter of actor Nick Stewart, stepped to the podium to remember her parents' historic Ebony Showcase Theater, once a groundbreaking outpost for black theater -- until the CRA seized it in the '90s through "eminent domain," one of their most notorious practices.

Recent City Council candidate Candice Graham backed her up on that one: "Dealing with the CRA actually killed him," she said of Stewart's famous father.

Thanks to Governor Jerry Brown, though, the worst is behind us. Partytime!

But don't forget, this is City Hall we're partying at here. Meaning the public-comment-period festivities were precluded by an hour-long ceremony to designate February 1 as Rob Dyrdek Day, in exchange for the seven skate parks that said Rob Dyrdek has constructed throughout Los Angeles. Every single councilmember was given time to stand up, praise Dyrdek and spew junk statistics on the city's dropping crime rate. (And, in Venice politician Bill Rosendahl's case, brag about how much more skaterific his district is than everyone else's.)

Then, once the spotlight was finally turned on the CRA death folks, two cops from the City Council's paranoid security outfit told Walsh and Jackson that they weren't allowed to wave around their sign while yelling at councilmembers. Or even hold the sign in council chambers at all, even inside a plastic bag.

One guard also started interrogating Jackson about what was in the Kool-Aid pitcher. (Seriously.)

click to enlarge City attorney tries to make up for an embarrassing First Amendment violation moments earlier.
  • City attorney tries to make up for an embarrassing First Amendment violation moments earlier.
So the focus turned from the CRA to an even more popular topic at L.A. City Hall: the First Amendment. Jackson dropped some constitutional truth bombs on the council about her right to hold up the tombstone thingy -- so true, in fact, that [an underling for] L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich jumped from his chair five minutes later, chased her and Walsh out into the hall (see right) and nervously invited them to come show the City Council their sign.

So they did. And it was beautiful.

click to enlarge cra_death_day_final_hoorah.jpg
Update: From here, the CRA's unfinished business and construction projects will be handled by a three-member successor agency and an oversight board. Governor Brown just appointed L.A.'s three agency members today: lawyer and lobbyist Timothy McOsker, rich developer dude Nelson Rising and professional consultant Mee Semcken.

We were initially unsure how the CRA would be held accountable for all its assets, seeing as it had stealthily transferred its $1 billion to City Council coffers when it got wind of Brown's big murder plot. But the smooth creation of this successor agency suggests that the state will get that money back. (The governor's spokesman has been contacted for more info.)

Brown's CRA replacement team will be tasked with "unwinding the redevelopment agency's hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, complex land deals, employee obligations and development loans," reports the LA Times.

Sounds like quite the afterparty.

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

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