The CRA/LA is Dead, But Corruption is Alive and Well

by Richard Lee Abrams, Published in CityWatchLA.com, Friday, February 3, 2012

Date line: February 1, 2012 Today shall be a wonderful day for all of Los Angeles; in fact the entire state should rejoice.  The vilely corrupt CRA/LA is dead.

Rejoice quickly as corruption is alive.

This morning (Wed 2-1-12) Miki Jackson wanted to show to the City Council a nice poster that she had made to celebrate the death of the CRA/LA, but the city council said, “No, no poster.”  Although Ms. Jackson reminded the city council about the first amendment, they were un-moved.  Speech, of which they disapproved, would not be allowed.

The city attorney advised the city council that the United States Constitution protects free speech and the council could not censor Ms. Jackson’s sign.  Astounded and aghast to learn that there was such a law which allowed a citizen to show a sign, the council finally allowed Ms. Jackson to display her sign.  Is it true that some councilmembers covered their eyes with their hands lest they be blinded by such blasphemy?

On the very day that the Corrupt Redevelopment Agency finally died, the council persisted in its arrogant hubris of trampling people’s fundamental rights.

This impingement on the fundamental right of free speech exemplifies how the council views our basic liberties.  It whimsically ignores them.

Right now councilmember La Bonge is continuing to wage his war against the constitutional right of free travel.  Despite the US Constitution, the California Constitution and state statutes and cases which say it is unlawful to gate a public street so that only a few people have access, LaBonge presses ahead with his efforts to gate various cul de sacs in the Hollywood Hills.  There is Solar Drive, and there is Ledgewood-Mulholland, and there is Deronda Drive.

The City has been sued, CCLA and HELP v City of Los Angeles, Case # BS 130-014, but LaBonge presses onward in his quixotic quest.

Let’s take a peek at the statute Labonge ignores:

Vehicle Code, § 21101.6.  Notwithstanding Section 21101, local authorities may not place gates or other selective devices on any street which deny or restrict the access of certain members of the public to the street, while permitting others unrestricted access to the street.

Some laws are incomprehensible, but this law is clear.  The city may not put a gate across a street and then allow selective access to only some residents.  The City lost a landmark lawsuit on its prior violation of this constitutional right of free travel. See Citizens Against Gated Enclaves v. Whitley Heights Civic Assn. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 812

Let’s see what LaBonge’s Motions say.  Council Motion # 11-1222:

*  Gates to be installed to effectuate the closure of the area

*  Keys to the gates be provided to all adjoining property owners . . . Council Motion # 10-1039 commits the same transgression.

*  That the gates to be installed to effectuate the closure of the area . . .

*  That keys to the gates to be installed be provided to all adjoining property owners . . .

From reading the vehicle code and from reading LaBonge’s motions, it looks as if LaBonge quoted the language about what is unlawful and made that the basis of his motions.  Although a city may not selectively gate a street, LaBonge does not care and the City Attorney squanders precious resources defending LaBonge’s unconstitutional behavior!  According to the City Attorney, the city ordinances take precedence over state statutes and the state constitution.  No wonder the city council wants to muzzle Nikki Jackson.   I thinks a city council motion can trump the Constitution!

The same arrogant hubris which allowed Garcetti and LaBonge to down size the 2 acre Regional fire station 82 to only ½ acre on the grounds that a full fire station was too expensive and which allowed them to sanction giving $52 Million to Billionaire Eli Broad while not allowing the children in Hollywood to have a community park is the same corrupt approach to governance which tries to silence Miki Jackson and tries to give away public streets to the friends of Tom LaBonge.

While we can all celebrate the death of the CRA/LA, that epitome of crony capitalism, let’s remember, the council is still inherently a lawless body which will do anything it pleases without regard to state law or the constitution.

(Richard Lee Abrams is an attorney in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com ) –cw

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Tags: City Council, First Amendment, First Amendment Rights, CRA, Tom LaBonge

 

CityWatch

Vol 10 Issue 10

Pub: Feb 3, 2012

Now It’s the Public’s Turn to Kill Off the CRA


01.16.2012

Richard Lee Abram

by Richard Lee Abrams

MY TAKE – “No system can survive corruption and incompetence.”  Too bad that statement is false. The Corrupt Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) has survived since 1948 until the California Supreme Court killed it on December 12, 2011. That’s 63 years of harm.

This was the first chance the Supreme Court had in the last 63 years to kill the CRA’s, since no Governor had the guts to sign a bill terminating this essence of Crony Capitalism. In 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 26 which abolished the CRA’s statewide, but he could get AB 26 through the legislature only by making a Faustian bargain. He had to also sign AB 27 which would allow certain CRA’s, like the one in Los Angeles, to return from the grave like a zombie feeding on tax dollars.

After AB 26 was law, the billionaires ran to the Supreme Court crying “Save us. Save us,” but in a move no one anticipated, the California Supreme Court redeemed its last 25 years of championing the 1% over the 99% and it killed off the old CRA’s and it aborted the new CRA’s by declaring AB 27 unconstitutional.

Now, it’s the voter’s turn to act to make certain that the corrupt Legislature does not once again bring back the CRA’s, but first to recap why the CRA’s epitomize crony capitalism.

During its long life, the CRA/LA did many horrible things. The worst thing was the siphoning of billions of property tax dollars away from the general fund into the CRA/LA’s own bank accounts.

Until Prop 22, which the voters passed in November 2010, the City Council had the power to dip into these CRA funds for the benefit of the public, but the corrupt City Council refused to touch the CRA funds. Instead, all councilmembers lied to everyone saying that the city had no money, when in fact the City had hundreds of millions of dollars in its CRA bank accounts. These funds were set aside to coddle millionaires and billionaires like CIM Group and Eli Broad.

Currently, the CRA/LA owes over $3 Billion ($3,028,921,563.93). That means, the Los Angeles taxpayers owe this much money for all the gifts that the CRA/LA has given to millionaires and billionaires over the years. In 2011 alone, we paid $422,272,560.01 on that $3 Billion debt. The CRA is why the City is broke.

Let’s see how much harm the CRA has caused us Angelenos. Because so much cash went into the CRA, we were unable to keep up our infrastructure. As we know, “a stitch in time saves nine.”

For example, in 1980, the City agreed to take care of the trees and sidewalks but it soon it ran out of money the funds to do so. Now the backlog is $1.5 Billion just to repair those sidewalks. If the CRA had not taken the tax revenues all these years, then the sidewalks would have been repaired before a condition became serious. It takes a lot more money to correct a 15 year old problem than a 2 year old defect.

But wait, it gets worse. The City now proposes not only to dump the $1.5 Billion repair costs on to property owners, but also to charge owners a 40% surcharge on the repairs.

Here’s another nefarious way CRA has seriously hurt Angelenos, and you’ll hear a lot more about this in the coming months – ending Prop 13. There will be lies, large lies and humongous lies about need to end Prop 13. Prop 13 operates in reverse to CRA. While the CRA was taking more and more taxes away from city government, Prop 13 has been giving more and more money to city government. Prop 13, however, placed California on a diet by restricting how fast the property taxes would increase, but in return it gave us something extremely valuable – stability.

The reward of Prop 13 is that owners who stay put in their local communities have low property taxes. Society benefits when people stay 20, 30, 40 50 years and identify with their community. When property does change hands, the buyer makes an open-eyed decision whether to buy this retail store or this home with the re-assessed property tax.

Thus, under Prop 13, property taxes increased in a reasonable fashion based upon the individual decisions of each new property owner. With the CRA, however, the city’s tax base shrunk each year and no one had a say in the disappearing tax revenues. The CRA with its Kelo eminent domain could take any property within its area and remove it from the tax rolls, leaving everyone else to shoulder the burden of the infrastructure.

Societies hold together when each part does its share. With property taxes, all the owners agree to dump thousands of dollars into the “tax pot” and in return, the city will maintain the services we need for a decent life; police, fire, roads, sewer, parks, libraries, etc. When certain huge landowners do not contribute, the social compact is broken. It is worse than their getting a free ride. Their huge projects over-burden the infrastructure leaving us to pick up the tab or forgo upgrades.

Bunker Hill, for example, will have evaded about $1 Billion in property taxes when it expires in 2022. Yet, this foolish project is perhaps the greatest cause of clogged freeways and bad air in the city.

Before Bunker Hill, Los Angeles was decentralizing itself. It takes but a moment’s reflection to realize that only a fool or a crook would reverse the natural trend and construct a huge urban core so that thousands upon thousands of workers from a 5,000 sq. mile area would be converging on one point!

The only people who would develop a super high density urban core would be people who owned property at the core. Everyone else is the loser!  But, that is exactly what the CRA forced upon Los Angeles. Almost one hundred years ago in its 1915 Traffic Study, the City explicitly warned about the greed of property owners who will demand extreme density to make money for themselves while degrading the entire city. Hence, we have Bunker Hill and the recent CRA Hollywood disasters and a city that cannot provide basic services.

The CRA is a ‘government owned construction company’ with no need to heed market forces nor to give any thought to quality of life. It builds on one principle – whatever makes the most money for the developers who fund the city councilmembers. That means super high density within a very limited space. And, the profits come mostly from gifts of taxpayer’s dollars, while the projects are free market fiascos.

Without the CRA, developers would have had to build where people wanted to go, and for most people that means – ease of access. Sitting in a car for an hour is not ease of access. Riding a bus or subway is not ease of access. Without the CRA, commercial centers would have been dispersed throughout the basin. It is the free enterprise principle of Supply and Demand.

We have known for decades that Angelenos flee density. Hollywood is a perfect example how its excessively dense CRA projects caused an exodus so that Hollywood lost 6% in one decade while the less dense parts of the City gained population.

Did anyone have the foresight way back in the 1950’s not to concentrate in one area?  Yes. The county court system. It did not locate all the courthouses downtown. Instead, it spread them throughout the county. From Pomona to Santa Monica from San Pedro to Newhall and all places in between, we have courthouses.

The CRA builds according to how much loot it can make for a developer, which means super high density in a centralized location. The Courts evenly distributed their facilities so they were accessible to the people.

The Governor did his part, the Supreme Court did its part and now we come to The Voter. Now is the time for the public to contact their assembly members and senators and tell them not to extend the CRA and not to revive it under a different name. 

INFO: Contact the Governor’s Office here.
Look up your State Representatives here.

(Richard Lee Abrams is an attorney in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com ) –cw
CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 5
Pub: Jan 17, 2012

 

Rejoice, Rejoice, the Wicked CRA is Dead!

by George Abrahams

For years the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) has been imposing ugly, soulless monstrosities upon our community using a command and control central planning model. They use their power over the objections of the residents.

The court upheld the enactment of Assembly Bill 1X 26, dissolving redevelopment agencies and redirecting their property tax revenues.

Assembly Bill 1X 27 was unconstitutional because it conditioned the ability of redevelopment agencies to conduct new business on agreeing to an annual payment plan based on a portion of property tax revenues allocated to redevelopment agencies.

Angelenos are already on the hook for over $3 BILLION in CRA debt.

The projects over the Subway Stations are huge financial failures:

(1)  Hollywood-Highland lost $454 Million Dollars, that’s almost $ 1/2 Billion.

(2) The W Hotel has most of its condos vacant and hotel rates are in the basement.

(3) Hollywood-Western cannot rent 1/2 of its retail space after 8 years!

Redevelopment Agencies Sitting on $10 to $20 Billion in Reserve Funds
by Bob Blue

As the State and local municipalities continue furloughing employees, closing fire stations “brown outs,” cutting Educational funding, and reducing local services please use your collective influence to prevent any more precious tax dollars being diverted away from critical local services by preventing any legislation that attempts to bring back Redevelopment agencies.

State Controller John Chiang and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer understands the waste and fraud involved in Redevelopment agencies and most importantly the fact that Redevelopment siphons away Property Tax dollars from schools, fire, health, and other local government services and directs these public funds to subsidize wealthy private developers and their private projects that in the long run hurt communities.

BRIEF BACKGROUND:

Here is a link to a good Editorial from the Press Enterprise: http://www.pe.com/opinion/editorials-headlines/20120108-state-redevelopment-ii.ece

As you may know, the California Supreme Court decided to keep a bill that would end Redevelopment in California and throw out another bill that would allow Redevelopment Agencies partially survive. (Throwing out AB1X-27 and upholding AB1X-26). Politically connected developers that benefit financially from this form of Corporate welfare are lobbying the State to save their source of taxpayer handouts.

PROBLEMS WITH REDEVELOPMENT:

Redevelopment takes any increase in property taxes due to valuation increases since the establishment of a Redevelopment regardless of what causes property values to increase. All of that money (the Tax Increment) goes to the Redevelopment agency to fund private projects and their politically connected developers and repay bond indebtedness).

In some areas such as Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles, kept all of the property tax increases since 1959 (over 50 years!). Just imagine how much the property values and taxes increased in 50 years and all of those funds were diverted away from local services for the people of Los Angeles.

And all of the taxpayers in the State have to make up the budget shortfalls.

Allowing Redevelopment agencies to survive, will just make matters worse for all Californians. Our budget and economic problems will drag on if Redevelopment comes back. Instead let’s start the road to economic recovery by returning Property Taxes back to the way the voters originally intended for them to be used.

Please make sure that our State representatives understand this. (See “How You Can Help” link for access info)

CRA Meeting 5-15-2008

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4sXzOKh8yw

CalWatchDog.com
Supreme Court Rebukes Crony Capitalism

http://www.calwatchdog.com/2012/01/06/supreme-court-rebukes-crony-capitalism/

CapitolWeekly.net
Redevelopment agencies’ new bill targets Feb. 1 deadline

http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?_c=109i7r6n5mw10m9&1=1&xid=109d7v8a6b19gz9&done=.109ercminotrbqw&_credir=1325871311&_c=109i7r6n5mw10m9

California Planning & Development Report
City, County, State Play Hot Potato with Los Angeles RDA | California Planning & Development Report

http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3092

The City Maven
End of Community Redevelopment Agency Could Mean More Money for LAFD

http://www.thecitymaven.com/2012/01/13/end-of-community-redevelopment-agency-could-mean-more-money-for-lafd/