A double Marriott hotel project that will occupy the lot across from L.A. Live just got a huge boost from you, the Los Angeles taxpayer.
You have the L.A. City Council — and downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry, in particular — to thank for that. As a big warm thank-you for all the jobs and economic prosperity that developer Williams/Dame & Associates is promising to create in the heart of L.A., the city has approved a contract…
… “that will allow a developer to keep as much as half of the tax revenue its … hotels will generate,” reports the City Maven.
Based on projected profits, that means we'll be paying the hotel up to $850,000 per year to grace us with its presence and further “Manhattanize” the cheesy L.A. Live district, which is owned almost entirely by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).
Unsurprisingly, the giant Marriott towers (together called the Olympic North Hotels project) have been pushed through the approval process by AEG, known around town as teacher's pet to greedy politicians.
It's no secret that AEG wants to expand its L.A. Live empire into an even bigger, brighter “Blade Runner” paradise. The developer is well on its way to building an NFL stadium and events center in the district — so luxurious shelter, within walking/carting distance, is a must. Plus, AEG owns the land on which Marriott plans to build.
The Maven reports that Councilman Bill Rosendahl was the only one to speak out against this blatant “corporate welfare” at the meeting. He said:
“I've got a whole string of hotels over there on Century Boulevard that don't get any support on that level and I think downtown is vibrant enough that we don't need to subsidize them. We want the hotels, we want the jobs, we want to develop forward but do we have to do this alleged corporate welfare concept?”
So Rosendahl got his name in the press as standing up against the sketchy giveaway. But then, in a classic councilmember move, he voted “Yes” on the subsidy so that the final tally could come out a happy, unanimous 11-0.
Still, he's right — developers would want to build hotels in booming parts of the city without wasteful freebies attached.
“Every major brand is interested in being Downtown right now,” AEG's own Ted Tanner told Blogdowntown back when the hotel deal was still in the works. So why should the city lose out on millions, in the middle of a budget crisis, just to make the deal a bit more feel-good?
City officials argue that profits from the nearby convention center would more than make up for the hotel's incentive package. Via the Los Angeles Times:
John Wickham, an analyst with the chief legislative analyst's office, advised the panel that the city needs as many as 5,800 more hotel rooms near the downtown convention center to make that facility competitive on a national level.
Perry eagerly repeated the convention-center argument at today's meeting. But it could be junk science. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal examined American cities' blind support for the centers, in truth a dying breed:
For two decades, America's convention center business has been declining, resulting in a nationwide surplus of empty meeting facilities, struggling convention halls and vacant hotel rooms. How have governments responded to this glut? By building more convention centers, of course, financed by debt backed by new taxes and fees on already struggling taxpayers.
Congratulations to Williams/Dame and AEG and Marriott, who somehow just convinced the L.A. City Council that they desperately needed a few more millions to pile atop what are sure to already be some redonkulous annual profits. (A no-questions-asked correspondence that likely went something like this.) Now be sure to leave a pretty penny in Perry's tip jar, y'all, or your next big vision may not be so warmly received.
The Community Redevelopment Agency may be on its way to the grave, but its legacy of bedfellows/sweetheart deals/billionaire giveaways lives on, in full luster, at City Hall.