February 28, 1991 - From the February, 1991 issue

CRA Board Member Carlyle Hall: A New Monthly Perspective?

The controversial buyout of Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Administrator John Tuite’s contract set off a chain of events, including the resignation of CRA Commissioner Dollie Chapman, the nomination of consultant Norman Emerson to replace her, and the move by Council members to obtain greater oversight over the Agency. 

With the Agency very much in flux, it is critical to talk with Carlyle Hall, who was named to the Board in January 1990 to help address many of the criticisms still lodged at the Agency. Hall has served as the head of the CRA’s Housing Subcommittee and was recently tapped by Mayor Bradley to head the City’s negotia­tions with L.A. County on lifting the cap on CRA’s tax increment funds in the Central Business District (CBD ).

This interview with Hall also sets the scene for the March 7th session of the The Planning Report Luncheon Conference Series, in which Hall will be one of the panelists.

As the CRA Commission moves to consider hiring a new administrator for the agency, what are the attributes you’re looking for in John Tuite’s successor?

I’d say three things. First is the ability to deal with the political complexities of Los Angeles and particularly to establish a better relationship with the City Council. Second is obvious administrative capability — being a good administrator and an honest individual. And third is a sensitivity and concern about the problems of affordable housing and homelessness, the kinds of issues the Mayor has indicated the Agency should be emphasizing.

You’ve omitted specific experience in land development from your list. Is this a statement of what you think the priorities of the Agency should be?

Obviously the director will be involved with the development issues coming before us. But that is less of a priority because without resolving the other matters the Agency is hard pressed to do its job adequately on “normal” development activities. So this type of experience does have to be somewhat lower on the list of priorities than in the past.

The Community Redevelopment and Housing Committee of the City Council has passed an ordinance modifying the relationship between the Council and the CRA. Do you have some comments on this new power-sharing relationship?

I have long urged that the Agency embrace that partnership, but it’s taken a while for that to happen. 

Given the problems the City has in its budget, it’s not surprising that the City Council has become more interested in the way the Agency spends its money. The Council has demonstrated clearly that it will make use of its powers to oversee.

I have long felt that we need to embrace that partnership rather than fight it. I think this particular ordinance is fine and I think the Agency agrees, on the whole. I’m sure that there will be questions on some of the language before its final adoption by the Council.

What effect will bringing in the City Attorney and City Controller to serve the CRA have on the kind of legal and financial advice the Agency gets?  

With respect to legal advice, I am hopeful the City Attorney won’t make a negative difference. In the past the Agency has had the benefit of its own private sector Counsel and in general all of us (including me) have been satisfied with this arrangement.

On the other hand, there have been problems with the ability of the City Attorney’s office to process requests in a timely manner. I would be concerned if this change tacked on additional delays.

With respect to the Controller, I have no problem with the Controller auditing the Agency, and in fact we’ve been audited several times, most recently on our housing programs.

On the Central Business District (CBD) cap, you’ve been named the point man in the City’s negotiations with LA. County. Could you fill us in on the status of those negotiations?

These negotiations have been ongoing for several years, and became more active after the Mayor’s January l988 State of the City speech in which he proposed raising the cap on the amount of tax increment the agency can receive, significantly above the present $750 million (which we have now almost reached). 

The Mayor proposed that at least half of the new tax increment go to affordable housing programs. For the first two years the Mayor’s office, led by Mike Gage, conducted the negotiations.

They generally hit an impasse because the County, due to its budget constraints, felt it could not lose tax revenue. There’s no doubt that redevelopment agencies contribute to the loss of county revenue.

The County took a very hard line stance indicating it was unalterably opposed to losing revenue, despite the creative solutions proposed by the Agency to resolve the matter. 

How has this attitude changed in recent months?

With the imminent change on the Board of Supervisors, Richard Dixon (the County’s Chief Administrative Officer) has seen that the Board may be open to reaching an accommodation with the CRA.

The County also sees that the revenue the County might receive from raising the cap may be denied to it by the Gann limit.

One possible compromise would mitigate the loss of revenues to the County by “passing through” a large portion of the tax increment to the County and reaching joint agreement on how the rest of the funds would be spent.

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On a separate track, the City Council got interested in the negotiations because they too might otherwise receive funds from tax increment.

They have looked at various approaches to the CBD cap issue — from raising the cap generally to amending the redevelopment plan to remove a significant portion that has been successfully redeveloped to date while expanding the portion of the blighted area.

The down side of this latter option, of course, is that the financial engine to do the work in the blighted area comes largely from the area deemed successfully redeveloped. So there’s been an ongoing discussion about these alternatives.

What would the election of Gloria Molina or Art Torres mean to these negotiations or, put another way, does it matter who becomes the First District supervisor?

Between the two candidates the differences are small compared to the giant difference of having a new majority on the Board. Either way it will be a very different picture and I wouldn’t speculate which candidate would be better for the CRA. They’ll both be far better than dealing with the conservative majority led by Pete Schabarum.

What are the priorities of the CRA reflected in the Agency’s new budget?

The main priority is to increase substantially the amount of money we spend on housing. The total proposed CRA budget is $278 million, of which $90 million is financing and $15 million is administrative costs.

Of the money spent on programs, housing is by far the largest portion, with $99.8 million, followed by community facilities at $38 million, commercial development at $18 million, and transportation at $6.8 million.

Housing represents 52% of the $190 million of the CRA’s program costs.

As part of our 1992 budget we’ve also looked to the next five years and developed a “spend-out plan.” Over the next five years, the percentage of the Agency’s program budget that will be spent on housing increases until it reaches almost 60%.

The budget the Agency adopted in December is for the fiscal year 1991-92, beginning in July. The previous budgets had been subject to a long tug-of-war between the Agency and the Council, with the Council sitting on those budgets for a long time, refusing to approve them. This will be the first budget with the Council and the Board working under a new, more cooperative arrangement.

What type of housing is the Agency’s new budget emphasizing?

The biggest change is the Agency’s emphasis on housing needs at low and very low income levels. When I came on the Board it was my perception and the perception of the Mayor that the Agency needed to direct its priorities to the lower income levels, which inevitably means directing it away from moderate income levels. This is premised, in part, on the notion that the private market could do something for moderate income housing.

We have prepared a new housing policy, recently sent out for comment, that will acknowledge the shift toward needs at the lower income levels.

Two particular housing initiatives worthy of comment are the Spring Street housing initiative and South Park housing. Spring Street has had a difficult time attracting commercial development over the last 15 years and it may make sense to revitalize Spring Street by making it into an affordable housing resource for the City. We’re anticipating putting $26 million onto Spring Street over the next five years, going block by block converting commercial buildings into housing and constructing new housing.

We’ve also spent quite a bit of time looking at the South Park area as a reservoir for housing, with both market rate and affordable units. We are aggressively pursuing getting the private market to build housing in that area.

Finally, what substantive contributions do you think Norm Emerson will bring to the CRA Board?

As we move toward establishing better cooperation with the City Council, Norm’s good relations with many of the Council members and his experience in working with the Council on major public and private projects will be an important asset to the Agency. 

His integrity and forward-looking thinking should inspire broad confidence — enhancing our credibility with the Council and the public generally, and helping us to shape a program suited to the needs of the 1990’s.

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