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L.A. lawmakers vote to discard redevelopment agency

January 11, 2012 |  1:09 pm

Los Angeles Councilman Herb Wesson
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to relinquish control of its redevelopment agency, leaving the task of shutting down hundreds of millions of dollars in activities to some other branch of government.

On a 9-3 vote, the council decided to in effect walk away from the agency and 192 employees.

The vote came one day after the city’s financial analysts warned that the budget, which is already in dire shape, could face more than $109 million in costs if it took responsibility for redevelopment, which is being eliminated statewide. “The reality of the situation is the CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] as we know it is dead,” said Council President Herb Wesson. “And I think it’s time for us to take it off of the machine.”

The vote took place despite opposition from union officials, affordable housing advocates and lobbyists for real estate interests. Councilman Richard Alarcon voted against the move, saying the council should use “every minute” of the next two days reviewing the legal issues.

“We should fight for these employees. We should fight for these projects. We should fight in court if necessary,” he said.

Under the state law that killed redevelopment, each local government must decide whether to become a so-called “successor” to its redevelopment agency. With L.A. no longer in play, the County Board of Supervisors could decide to do so.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city’s top budget analyst and a former county employee, doubted that that would happen. That means that oversight of the city’s redevelopment agency could fall to an entity headed by three appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed to kill redevelopment as a way to generate more money for basic state and local government services. 

The deadline for a decision was Friday. Cities up and down the state must take similar votes before then.

Budget officials had warned that the city would risk taking on sizable personnel and pension costs by taking responsibility for the redevelopment agency. But Councilman Eric Garcetti said he believed the true danger to the city was much smaller than Santana suggested at around $30 million.

Garcetti also said the city should have taken more time to consider the report, which came out late Tuesday afternoon. “It is difficult to make these decisions in 24 hours,” he said.

Wesson said he now wants his colleagues to continue talks with Sacramento lawmakers about reducing the financial cost of winding down its redevelopment agency, one of 400 slated to be eliminated.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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