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L.A. financial crisis deepens as bidders shun proposed parking garage deal

February 11, 2011 |  1:07 pm


Dealing a fresh setback on the city budget, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan for leasing out nine parking garages is on the brink of collapse, with an array of private companies showing no interest in the deal, a city official said Friday.

Firms that have been in talks with the city for the last year were unwilling to bid on the proposed concession agreement, which was supposed to generate $53 million for the city’s general fund budget in the middle of a deep financial crisis.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official at City Hall, had no comment Friday. But another high-level official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, confirmed that the city was unable to lure bidders to its parking deal.

The City Council redesigned the parking concession agreement last month after its members received a barrage of complaints from business leaders in Hollywood, Westwood and elsewhere. Those changes, which were designed to keep parking rates from spiking dramatically, may also have made the deal unpalatable to potential bidders.

The news eliminates the last flicker of hope that the city will secure an influx of parking revenue in time to erase a $49-million shortfall. And it leaves Villaraigosa and the City Council with a diminishing number of strategies for closing the budget hole eight months into the fiscal year.

City officials had hoped the deal would generate between $200 million and $300 million, enough to wipe out the debt on the various garages and still provide some money for basic services, such as public safety and parks.

Santana warned last month that the parking plan was in jeopardy -– and said any changes to keep parking rates low would potentially kill the deal. He recommended that the council pursue other strategies for addressing the financial crisis, including the addition of 10 furlough days for certain employees.

The council killed that idea. Santana then came back and proposed five furlough days. The council took a pass on that idea as well. Although council members did approve $33.7 million in other cuts, they rejected key proposals, including a 50% cut in graffiti removal and furlough days for the security force that protects municipal buildings.

Villaraigosa is expected to propose a fresh round of cuts next month, one that begins to address a $350-million shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The parking deal had been expected to cover 50 years. Opponents of the concept had argued that it amounted to a sale of the city’s assets in a down economy. Critics also argued that the proceeds would only buy the city’s elected officials a few months of budget relief before more cuts would be needed.
Santana, in turn, said that taxpayers are subsidizing parking garages for customers at Hollywood & Highland, Westwood Village and other locations. He said the city’s practice of leasing public parking spaces is “broken.”

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Credit: L.A. Times