January 30, 1993 - From the January, 1993 issue

L.A. CRA’s 1993 Mission: To Jump­Start Debate on Economic Revival

Edward Avila, L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, outlines a CRA's 1993 mission to solve Los Angeles' urban planning problems. Avila proposes a four part solution: 1) economic development strategy; 2) community empowerment; 3) recovery redevelopment projects; and 4) lifting the central business district spending cap. 

I accepted the position of Administrator of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency in mid­1991, at a time in the city’s history when recession was savaging our local, regional and state economy. The economic upheavals and exacerbated social ills have been widely discussed and painfully fell through 1992. 

In 1993 thoughtful people don’t need another litany of the city’s problems, they need solutions. “What can be done?” is the appropriate question and the imperative for Los Angeles in 1993. 

Addressing the Crisis 

There are no easy answers. Our city, county and state are all struggling to overcome deep-seated fiscal problems that were masked by years of healthy economic growth. On the other hand, there is a remarkable crop of new and expanding California companies that are staking out leadership positions in virtually every major growth industry of the post-Cold War era. 

With the enormity of the challenges in job development and capital investment ahead, we in government need to play to our strengths, and get on with the task of focusing our resources on the economic survival of the city. 

We must create a climate where fundamental citywide economic objectives are agreed upon before we waste another minute on bureaucratic reshufflings and department consolidations. In the absence of long term strategies, how can we possibly know what the best or most effective organizational structure is to achieve results? Without a clear plan, how can we avoid using short term fixes that risk destroying the very revenue sources that will be critical to the city’s future success? 

The Economic Imperative 

We cannot afford to take these economic development issues for granted. Los Angeles must stimulate its own economic base and help direct its growth. Efforts at formulating, adopting and implementing local economic development strategies must begin now. To accomplish this, we must identify those businesses and industries which naturally belong and want to be in Los Angeles.

Strong basic industries like apparel design and manufacturing, environmental services, foreign trade, motion picture and television production and health care, must be encouraged to build on their competitive advantages. 

Simultaneously, we have to improve communication with business and industry to understand what they need to grow and create jobs in our city. We must foster the collaborative relationships necessary to support the industries of tomorrow. Once we know that local industries need to grow and evolve in our city, we must then maximize existing tools, including redevelopment, to get the job started.

As the Administrator of the Los Angeles CRA, I want to use this agency to work with city leaders to create and implement a broad-based economic development policy requiring the coordinated efforts of a variety of agencies. I believe that the Los Angeles CRA has economic development expertise that is unmatched in the city and needed more than ever in this time of change and challenge. 

In the past, the Los Angeles CRA has had success in attracting and encouraging the growth of business that reflected the needs of the day. It served the City well in reversing the previous exodus of major employers, building its high-rise core, providing homes for major corporations and providing thousands of jobs for residents of Los Angeles and the region. 

With the support of the Mayor and City Council, the Los Angeles CRA has undertaken redevelopment projects in seventeen areas of the City. The retention and expansion of the entertainment industry in Hollywood and North Hollywood, development of an industrial park and a future oriented environmental industry zone in Wilmington/San Pedro, the expansion of the jewelry and produce markets in downtown Los Angles, and support of the City’s vital tourism and visitor industry, are successful examples of the types of programs which the Los Angeles CRA knows how to implement right now. These efforts, while exemplary, are still too few and too scattered to make the difference that we need.

CRA Must Change 

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Times have changed and the Los Angeles CRA must change, too. Industries are shrinking and leaving, jobs are disappearing, capital is fleeing. If we continue to follow only the agenda of the past thirty years, our critics may be proved right; we would be irrelevant. However, I am convinced that this is not the case and redevelopment remains one of the most flexible and responsive tools for economic development and growth to address the needs of the Nineties. 

Redevelopment is a means by which our city can focus its resources and energies on our neediest communities. Over the past six months, I have personally engaged the Mayor, members of the City Council and other elected officials, Commissioners, community leaders and economic experts to discuss the redirection of redevelopment efforts in Los Angeles. I have heard from people throughout Los Angeles of the desires, dreams and needs which shape their daily lives, and I will continue this dialogue. 

Based on these discussions, in 1993 I intend to propose the repositioning of the Los Angeles CRA to squarely address the issues of the Nineties. To respond to the new economic imperative, I want to outline a course of action that will have its first fruits in the next 120 days, before the anniversary of the civil unrest. There are initially four interconnected parts to my proposal, which collectively define a new role for the CRA in the future of our City. 

The Four Part Proposal 

1. The Economic Development Strategy: Together with community and business leaders, and other city departments, we will propose an economic development strategy to the City Council in order to assist in the development of an overall citywide policy. Our strategy should focus on the most distressed communities in our city. Our concentration should be on job creation, economic development and community empowerment.

As part of this effort, the CRA will be sponsoring a series of articles, “Perspectives on Economic Development,” as well as roundtable discussions and will participate in community forums and hearings to stimulate discussion and lay the foundation for constructive action.

2. Community Empowerment: The second, and most important, component is to put the tools of redevelopment in the hands of the community. I understand that communities are fearful of redevelopment, but that is not a reason to reject such a powerful resource. The only way to eliminate that distrust is to create meaningful partnerships between the city and its local communities. If this means that we have to rethink how redevelopment is carried out, I’m prepared to do that. 

In conjunction with the proposed adoption of the recovery redevelopment projects, we will listen to each community to see how it wants to implement its redevelopment project — what types of projects to pursue, who participates, how to select developers, when, how, or even whether to use the power of eminent domain. I fully intend to take the lead in proposing new redevelopment models for Los Angeles with the help of its communities and leaders. This may include recommending changes in the law, if needed.

3. Recovery Redevelopment Projects: The third component is the establishment of recovery redevelopment projects in areas devastated by the civil unrest. On December 23rd, a motion was introduced in the City Council, by Councilmember Ridley­Thomas, to initiate a community planning process in those areas which could lead to the establishment of commercial and industrial redevelopment projects. Through this process, we could make available to communities who want them the land assembly, financing, and local reinvestment tools of redevelopment.

These tools can work together with state enterprise and revitalization zones, transit corridor development, and other public programs. I am committed to seeing this effort through and ensuring that it includes an unprecedented level of community input and participation.

4. Lifting the Central Business District Spending Cap: The fourth component will no doubt be the most controversial. We will soon reach the point where money from Central Business District tax increment will no longer be available. We must lift the spending cap on the downtown redevelopment project to provide resources necessary for the economic survival of the city and its poorest neighborhoods. 

Los Angeles' Central Business District can act as a funding source to spur job creation, housing, and neighborhood revitalization in downtown and, to the extent the law permits, throughout Los Angeles’ economically disadvantaged areas. Lifting the cap will require the cooperation of many parties. In the coming weeks, I will present a program for these monies and initiate discussions to lift the cap. 

Los Angeles is in a time of change and I am challenged by the opportunities that those changes bring. I am confident that with the creative input of the people of Los Angeles, redevelopment can be an evolving tool for dealing with today’s issues and creating tomorrow’s dreams.

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© 2022 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.