L.A. City Hall Offers Gensler, Wealthy SaMo Architect, $1 Million in Community Grants to Move East

Funny how L.A. City Councilmembers are acting all sympathetic toward the 99 percent camping on their front lawn -- then making sweet deals with millionaire companies so the well-off don't have to pay a dime. When as far as we can tell, that's pretty much exactly the type of behavior Occupy is spitting on.

In today's column, Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times quotes from extremely humiliating emails between Thomas Properties Group -- who was, at the time, wooing filthy-rich architecture firm Gensler into its downtown digs -- and City Councilwoman Jan Perry, one of the biggest development hounds in L.A. government.

After just a few days of correspondance...

... Perry's aide offered the architects $1 million to make a move they already wanted to make from their current headquarters in Santa Monica to downtown L.A., drawn from a fund provided to the city by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Here, the federal grant's heartbreaking pledge:

The [Community Development Block Grant] entitlement program allocates annual grants to larger cities and urban counties to develop viable communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

Yeah, so apparently awarding Gensler with a free ride into the prized "jewel box" at City National Plaza qualifies as an Oliver Twist sob story now.

Good to know how little (or how much, back-pocket) it takes to nab a Community Development Block Grant from the city:

To qualify for the grant, all Gensler had to do was promise city officials and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that it would create new jobs, with 51% of them going to people currently defined as low- to moderate-income. ...

Gensler said it hoped to add 110 new jobs to the 300-plus that it's moving downtown. But the program requires only one job per $35,000 of public money. That works out to just 29 jobs, and only 15 of them have to go to low-income people.

The LA Weekly broke the news of Gensler's gift back in April -- but seeing these unnecessary promises and flimsy, BFF contracts verbatim is especially sickening.

"Yes!" Perry's aide allegedly responded to Thomas Properties when asked if City Hall could cut a special deal for Gensler. "I think we can cobble something together. What is the timing? When do you need the funds?"

Of course, any architecture firm -- or any business at all, for that matter -- would be rightfully jazzed on such a prize. Beyond a little bad karma and some index-finger tsk-tsking, Gensler deserves none of the taxpaying public's blame for making good on an extravagant promise from a city that should know better.

Reminds us a little of the $52 million in Community Redevelopment Agency funds (which would otherwise have gone to fix up L.A.'s many blighted hoods -- or back into schools and emergency services, if Governor Brown had his way) on a garage for billionaire Eli Broad's new art museum.

But at least that shady-ass move came before City Council, were gadflies could rail on their elected officials for making such shamefully self-interested decisions.

The deal with Gensler is a new breed of monster. Lopez is (almost) speechless:

Perry -- whose mayoral campaign has received $4,000 from Thomas Properties employees and $2,500 from Gensler employees this year -- told me the move downtown was not a certainty and that Gensler made clear it needed help.

So the city is practically broke, Gensler is prospering and it's Gensler that needs help?

Almost scarier still is the visual monopoly that this favorite-child firm is starting to have on the City of Angels. Not only did it design the bright, tacky L.A. Live empire, but it's now infiltrating further into "Manhattanized" downtown with dibs on a design for the city's future NFL stadium.

(West Hollywood is currently getting a douse of the ultra-modern Gensler aesthetic, too, along its classic Sunset Strip. Their proposed "megagym videotron" spaceship, wrapped in cash-cow strip billboards, can only be described as what goobs thought the future would look like in the '90s. Seriously, so much barf.)

Making the company's promise of a 12-year lease and "continued job growth" more of a second blow than an excuse for gobbling up a poor man's grant. Like, wonderful -- now the endangered art-deco and antique-warehouse corridors of downtown L.A. can just become one big "Jetsons" nightmare.

One that we all get to pay for, whether we like it or not.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >