Redevelopment Agency Giving Money Away in Los Angeles

Just when you think you have heard all the absurdities emanating from redevelopment agencies, another one comes along. Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that the city redevelopment agency is giving money away. Check out Steve Lopez, Hollywood Businessman Criticizes Redevelopment Grants, L.A. Times, October 26, 2011, at p. A2 — click here.

Here is how it works. The L.A. Community Redeveloppment Agency (CRA) has announced that if you are a Hollywood businessman you can get a $200,000 “loan” for maintenance of your building. Why the quotation marks? Because the loan isn’t a loan — it’s a gift of public funds. The gimmick is that if you take the “loan” and keep up your property for 10 years (which we thought sensible business people do anyway) you don’t have to pay the “loan” back. You can just keep it. This was mind blowing to hear. The rest of us have to use companies like Fresh Loan to help us out, but with these types of loans you do have to pay the money back overtime.

What brought this news item to a head is the statement of a civic-minded businessman in Hollywood who refuses to take this money because he sensibly believes that to do so would be wasteful, particularly when the City of Los Angeles is so strapped that it has had to lay off teachers and underutilize cops and fire fighters. Sounds reasonable to us.

So, as we are fond of concluding these dispatches: your tax money at work.

But wait. We almost forgot. After Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times reporter who wrote this story, got in touch with the CRA and inquired, he was told that the availability of these funds is conditioned on creating new jobs. Really? It turned out that the CRA paperwork said nothin’ about no jobs, and neither did two other CRA functionaries who spoke on the subject.

Now comes the best part. As Mr. Lopez was strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, it dawned on him that “[s]o many businesses look so shabby, that [the CRA’s] $1.5 million [budgeted for this program] would barely make a visible difference along a several-block stretch. So he asks a sensible question: why reward neglectful owners’ resistance to proper maintenance with a handout even if it would create a few jobs? Why indeed?

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