Following a story in the Los Angeles Times about a decades-long saga to redevelop a swath of property in South Los Angeles, Reason magazine online this week argues that the city is "leading the nation in vacant lots." Yeah, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa likes to call L.A. the world capital of many things (eco-fashion, pop culture, solar power); we're betting he won't be claiming this title, however.
Reason reasons that in many cases the Community Redevelopment Agency moves in, takes over land via eminent domain or other means, and then sits on the vacant property as groups argue in court about how to proceed. That appears to be the case with the planned Slauson Central Retail Center, which would be built atop a working scrap-metal recycler that was seized following the 1992 riots in order to seed new business in the area.
Problem is, the project has been held up in court even as the City Council's final approvals near. About $7 million in public money is on the line, and an organization, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, would develop the property.
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But Concerned Citizens was accused by the City Attorney of trying to flip another property purchased with government grants, property it promised to turn into a community center and soccer field. Ugh, right?
... All you really need to know about this project is that the Community Redevelopment Agency is involved. The CRA's post-1992 involvement in South L.A. has produced a nearly unbroken string of million-dollar projects that don't get built. These projects come with big promises of affordable housing, high-end retail, world-class restaurants and private-public achievement. They proceed through costly subsidies and exploratory efforts. They nearly always involve eminent domain seizures of valuable land. They get gorged on by the friends and families of local politicians. And in the end, they produce vacant land.