By Tibby Rothman and Jill Stewart
In a move that California Gov. Jerry Brown might see as L.A.'s “let them eat cake” moment, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency has set aside $5.5 million in public help for Watts — yet earmarked $52 million for a garage for Eli Broad's museum.
Broad's proposed museum in the L.A. Civic Center, which will house his foundation's art collection and Broad Foundation offices, will get a parking garage, fancy plaza and glitzy sidewalks, all financed with Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds. No word from L.A. redevelopment czar Christine Essel or Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on how this would fight neglect, poverty and blight.
But check out how little they spend on actual blight and poverty in L.A.:
The list shows:
– All of South Los Angeles, population 550,000, where unemployment among young minorities is said to exceed 30 percent, would get just $32 million from the CRA — $20 million less than Broad would get for his garage.
– More than $1 in every $10 of the nearly $1 billion in “redevelopment” money controlled by Los Angeles is to be spent in pursuit of Eli Broad's dream of glitzing up the Civic Center's Grand Avenue area (which is neither poor or blighted) with luxury condos, a luxury hotel, and his architecturally stunning museum.
– Watts, devastated by the recession, would get only $5.5 million from the CRA, compared to $102 million for the Grand Avenue luxury project and Broad's museum.
Kinda takes the “community” out of Community Redevelopment Agency, doesn't it?
Jerry Brown's state budget plan would close down all CRAs statewide, using the $5 billion they control for essential local government services.
In L.A., which sits on nearly $1 billion of that, Brown is expected to earmark much of it to buttress badly slashed Los Angeles County health care and welfare help for the poor and working poor.
Essel and Villaraigosa insist the money is far better spent on private development.
The city's CRA board has asked the City Council to squirrel away the nearly $1 billion — the figure is actually $930 million — in a “non-profit” so Brown can't get his hands on it.
What if Gov. Brown does get the money?
In the State of California's hands, Eli Broad's $52 million could pay for health insurance for 52,000 California children who do not qualify for Medi-Cal.
Run that math past a parent who doesn't have insurance for a sick kid.
And Jerry Brown isn't backing down. He's instead saying that Los Angeles can't afford what its City Hall leaders want to build.
After a meeting in Sacramento yesterday (January 26) between Brown and angry mayors including Villaraigosa, Brown seemed pissed. He declared at a press conference that “The money is not there” any longer, for California mayors and city councils to subsidize private development.
Also yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council stepped back from the brink, delaying for about two weeks its vote on whether to shift the $930 billion in public funds to a non-profit to keep it out of Brown's hands.
A controversial rule governs how money can be spent by CRAs. That rule explains why Eli Broad's garage can get $20 million more for “redevelopment” than all of South Los Angeles combined.
The rule requires, almost without exception, that new property taxes generated by a CRA-financed development be spent in the same “redevelopment area.”
This rule has led to a spiral of low amounts of public investment in impoverished Watts and South L.A., where redevelopment is limited to a few modest commercial zones. It has had the opposite effect in downtown L.A., which bristles with upscale redevelopment projects and more to come.
The 275-project list also raises questions about why redevelopment funds are being set aside for the long-delayed Grand Avenue project “The Grand.”
The Grand's hotel, luxury shops and millionaire town homes may never be built.
Eli Broad successfully pushed for big city and county subsidies for The Grand. But the project — which LA Weekly has shown doesn't pencil out without massive public subsidies (see links below) — has been on hold for years.
The Grand can't get financing despite its subsidies because L.A.'s real estate market is awful, and L.A. — with its city government teetering on going broke, and its 13 percent to 15 percent unemployment — isn't a place where banks lend money to controversial big projects.
Eli Broad doesn't own The Grand, but it's his baby all the same. And in a neat package, his Broad Collection museum would open practically next door.
The Weekly has investigated The Grand's history, in which years of public-employee time and public-employee effort have been diverted to make Broad's dream come true.
For further reading, please check out: