Thursday, February 15, 2007

Grand Avenue project passes go

Grand Avenue project passes go
City and county OK the $2.05-billion plan to reshape downtown L.A.
By Cara Mia DiMassa and Jack Leonard, Times Staff Writers
February 14, 2007

"Despite criticism about tax breaks and land giveaways, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council gave final approvals Tuesday to a sprawling mini-city atop Bunker Hill that will alter L.A.'s skyline and set a course for future development in downtown.

Elected officials and other backers of the Grand Avenue project described the vote as a turning point for Los Angeles, whose civic leaders have tried for decades without success to establish a central cultural hub downtown that would draw people from throughout the region.

"This is a historic day for Los Angeles. It changes the entire complexion of the center of our city," said civic booster Eli Broad, who is spearheading the development.

The $2.05-billion Grand Avenue project would be the largest single development in downtown history, and would be built almost entirely on public land that would be leased for 99 years to mega-developer the Related Cos. It has few if any equals in the region, in part because of the complexity and scope of the private-public partnership."

by: Andre de Montesquiou
Venice SONIC
(Save Our Neighborhood's Integrity Coalition)

Having lived in Los Angeles for all of my 45 years, it's exciting to think we may have a real downtown someday. I've always been jealous of San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. The city has cooperated with big time developers, and the real estate titans have finally recognized the untapped potential of a developmental goldmine in the Skid Row area. On the surface it appears to be a win-win situation for Los Angeles and the developers.

However, success, in any endeavor, is contingent upon careful cost-benefit analysis. What the City has not properly budgeted for is the cost and impact of displacing thousands of homeless from Skid Row and relocating the numerous service organizations that have been established to service them. The current "solution" is to assign 50 police officers to Skid Row and drive out the homeless. But where do they go? The city has no plan. The Mayor is clearly saying, "Not In My Backyard."

Areas of Los Angeles which are or soon will be suffering from a transplanted homeless problem are deeply concerned. Creating mini-Skid Rows in Venice, Hollywood and other parts of the City will have catastrophic effects on existing residential neighborhoods and businesses. When one reads about billion dollar deals, huge land grants, and condominiums selling for a million dollars as the vision for the Skid Row area, one realizes the extent of the planning, negotiation, and city involvement that has taken place. But there has been inadequate planning for thousands of homeless. They are simply being forced to other areas of the city.

If Americans read about this in the paper or saw it on 60 Minutes, and the context was a third word country, we would be appalled. Remember how the coverage of the riots, fires, earthquakes, floods, and bank shootings in Los Angeles seemed so surreal. The forced dispersal of thousands of homeless -- often drug addicted, alcoholic and engaged in crime -- for the benefit of favored developers, is unfolding before our eyes, and it too seems surreal.

The City of Los Angeles needs to implement a plan for the homeless, and that planning process needs to be open to all communities and neighborhoods. To date that has not occurred. Areas of Los Angeles which are suffering from a transplanted homeless problem are deeply concerned, to say the least. How can the City, with billions at its disposal, and the proposed downtown developers, with billions to be gained, throw the Skid Row homeless to the wind, with the rest of us to suffer the consequences? The Mayor and Councilmembers can do better, and must be held accountable.

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