I never thought I’d say this, but I think I want to live in a blighted neighborhood. Well, actually, a community redevelopment area (CRA). They used to be one and the same, but no longer. Apparently you have to live or do business in a redevelopment area to get any “love” in Los Angeles … love being when the government takes your tax dollars and gives them to someone else no more needy.
Let me explain.
The City Council of Los Angeles just approved a program to loan CRA money to businesses in the Hollywood redevelopment area, which extends from Franklin Avenue south to Santa Monica Boulevard. If borrowers meet certain conditions, loans for storefront improvements never have to be paid back … wow, free money!
As a card-carrying member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, I certainly don’t begrudge businesses financial support to help improve their prospects, including the streetscape, when the whole community benefits.
But let’s be real: Many parts of the Hollywood redevelopment area, which includes the Hollywood & Highland complex, Sunset + Vine and the Roosevelt Hotel, are no more blighted than any other part of the city.
That includes my neighborhood council district, which lies south of the designated redevelopment area and encompasses Melrose Avenue, West Third Street and Wilshire Boulevard on the Miracle Mile. But there’s no money for our businesses. Or businesses on West Pico Boulevard. Or businesses on Van Nuys Boulevard. We are chopped liver.
There is a place for redevelopment, to be sure, but this program illustrates exactly why the CRA has so many critics. In this case, the problem isn’t the program — storefront improvement loans are a great idea. The problem is in the execution. This should be a citywide program, with funds shared among all Council districts in Los Angeles and doled out based on objective criteria.
It’s time to rethink redevelopment.
Cary Brazeman, a former executive with CB Richard Ellis in Los Angeles, is a neighborhood council member and founder of LA Neighbors United. Contact him through www.LAneighbors.org