June 30, 1992 - From the June, 1992 issue

Dan Garcia on the Zev/Ridley-Thomas CRA Point-Counterpoint

Editor Dan Garcia, former President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and currently Vice-President of Real Estate Development for Warner Bros., provides commentary on the point-counterpoint.


The CRA, on the other hand, is its own worst enemy.

The L.A. City Council’s recent attempt to invade the CRA’s funds raises significant legal issues. Such funds must be used for redevelopment purposes or be relin­quished to local tax authorities. Thus, the City’s general fund shortfall cannot be subsidized by CRA dollars. 

It is not clear whether the Council’s efforts, if suc­cessful, would have survived legal scrutiny. In retalia­tion for the Mayor’s veto, the Council attempted to elect itself the new CRA Board — a condition that exists in many small cities. This effort narrowly failed. 

The dialogue above between two Council members representing vastly different socio-economic constitu­encies bears close scrutiny. In my view, the City Council’s collective parochialism and pettiness has contributed to the City’s economic decline. They have arguably fiddled while Rome has burned. 

Moreover, there is an argument that the distribution of City resources has protected the affluent at the expense of the poor. Thus, one views with great suspicion the interests a power-hungry Council has in mind when it comes to taking over the CRA. The extent to which the Council represents a voting electorate not reflective of the City’s residential population exacerbates this issue. 

The CRA, on the other hand, is its own worst enemy. For years it has been politically naive and clumsy. Its own budget documents are monuments to unclarity and provide substantial runmunition to anyone who cares to scrutinize them. Its priorities have been focused far too long on the CBD and it has struggled mightily to move forward in the face of an increasingly skeptical City Council. 

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Yet the contention that the lion’s share of CRA money goes to fat cat developers is fanciful — just look at any routine development agreement and you’ll see that downtown developers are being gouged like everyone else who dares to build in L.A. 

In any event, shouldn’t we encourage tax increment funding to be used for development and job creation? Development does create jobs, and without those jobs our tax base will erode more and our social and physical infrastructure needs will fall ever shorter. 

The debate above is, therefore, important to this City’s future, particularly in light of our April insurrection.

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