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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CRA: Take the Vine Street project and shovel it!

As the fraud-riddled Vine Avenue CRA project is advanced to City Council for a vote for the 13th -- yes, 13th! time --  we like everything in this Stephen Box presser.

Especially the first and last sentences.


Box points to CRA and calls for a Los Angeles City Prosecutor.

“It is time to have a prosecutor’s office that will finally represent the people”

L.A.’s City Hall: At the 8:30 meeting of the Housing Committee Stephen Box stood up and called upon the City of Los Angeles to create the position of City Prosecutor that would finally represent the people. Pointing to the growing mountain of skepticism surrounding CRA projects, such as 1601 Vine, Box declared a need for the people of L.A. to have legal representation.

“The state has an Attorney General and State Counsel, the county has a District Attorney and County Counsel, but the city of L.A. only has a City Attorney, someone who represents the City Hall, but nobody to represent the people of L.A.,” Box explains. “Who’s the people’s lawyer?”

The need for representation is acutely clear as the CRA’s 1601 Vine project appears on yet another City Hall agenda, this time at the Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee. Box pointedly explains, “This has been through the City Council 12 times.”

Citing a failure of leadership, Box detailed how the property at 1601 Vine set in motion a self-swindling pattern where the City of LA appraised a property at $4 million and then paid $1.45 million over the appropriate price. The pattern continues as the CRA turns around and offers the property to the original owner for $825,000. This gift of $4.6 million in public funds amounts plus the other expenses will result in the CRA spending more on this project than on the W Hollywood, becoming just another sweetheart deal at the expense of tax payers.

Calling this project an example of the inherent issues with the CRA that are the cause of growing frustration with stakeholders and planning watchdog groups, Box explains that putting CRA money back into the local government is one of the immediate steps that can be taken to address the budget crisis.

The CRA’s own Board Vice-Chair, Madeleine Janice, expressed her concerns over 1601 by saying that it is the “poster child for abolishing the CRA.” Box agrees and says the appearance of wrongdoing warrants a thorough investigation and establishing a City Prosecutor should be the first step in ensuring open and transparent oversight in City Hall. This and other campaign themes are continuing to resonate with neighborhood voters in his race for Council District 4.

Box’s call to action is clear. What is unclear is if the City Council will finally put the voice of the community first and take this "shovel-ready" project, put it in the ground and bury it!