Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Giveaway in LA

This is not a bad movie but business as usual in the big city -- where left-wing politicos collect money from taxpayers so that they can give it to wealthy developers who then support their political campaigns.

And its all wrapped in the worst silliness about how this is a beneficial project for everyone and anyone. And we've heard it all many times before, and that does not matter.

Here are excerpts from the headline story from today's LA Times:

"Grand Avenue project passes go ...
City and county OK the $2.05-billion plan to reshape downtown L.A. ...

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.The project also has emerged as Los Angeles' most ambitious effort to create dense, high-rise residential developments next to rail lines, offices, cultural attractions and shopping.

Though some consider the project a model for "smart growth" aimed at encouraging people to walk and use mass transit rather than drive, others see it as a tax giveaway that is not in the interests of local government. Critics complain that Related is essentially getting a double subsidy: The city and county are leasing the developer public land for a profit-making business at the same time that the city is granting breaks on future hotel and parking taxes.They also question whether the project would be the regional magnet its backers hope.

Both the council and board voted Tuesday, in part to demonstrate their lock-step support for the project. The City Council approved the deal 13 to 0, with Councilman Ed Reyes absent. The supervisors approved the project 4 to 1, with Mike Antonovich voting against it. By approving the deal, the governmental bodies agreed to transfer the land for the first phase of the project — a county-owned parcel — to the Grand Avenue Authority, a joint city-county agency that will in turn lease it to Related. (Later phases include land owned by the city's redevelopment agency.)The votes green-light all three phases of Grand Avenue, which calls for at least five new high-rise buildings and 3.6 million square feet of development.

The first phase would include two translucent glass residential towers to be designed by Frank Gehry, one 49 stories and the other 24.One tower would include a five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel. Two hundred of the 1,000 housing units included in the first phase would be reserved for low-income residents.

The municipal bodies also approved the development of a 16-acre park between the Music Center and City Hall as part of the project's first phase — one of the civic benefits that backers said was vital to the project's success.The development marks the furthest-reaching effort by local leaders to turn downtown into a 24-hour district on par with areas of New York, Chicago, London and Paris. ..."