Sun, Jun

Garcetti's Promise Zone Pride is LA's Shame


MAILANDER’S LA-It was a day from just last week: it was January 9, 2014.

I can't remember a more embarrassing day for the City of Los Angeles since April 29, 1992.  I hung my head in shame.  I could not believe this was happening to the city in which I grew up.

It was the day that Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was "proud" of the fact that his own hand-selected neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles had been designated by President Obama as belonging to an economic "Promise Zone." 


Parts of Garcetti's LA: a "Promise Zone."  A Federal bailout area, like a flood zone.

LA's designation came alongside similar grants for the long repressed Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the hardscrabble hills of southeastern Kentucky, two of the other four proud standard bearers of sustained economic failure. 

Garcetti saying that he was "proud" of the fact that LA would be receiving this aid was like your dad saying he was "proud" of you for making a successful welfare grant application.  It's understandable in luckless, hardscrabble places like southeastern Kentucky and prairie Oklahoma.  But all along Western, and crossing Wilshire? 

The Promise Zone designation meant that some of the neighborhoods Garcetti represented before he became Mayor, including Thai Town, Little Armenia, Koreatown, East Hollywood, and Pico-Union, qualified for up to $500 million dollars of Federal bailout money over the next ten years. 

The northeast corner of the Promise Zone is Vermont and Franklin, within a quarter mile of million dollar homes.  At the very corner is fabled House of Pies, where I watched a crazy guy who turned out to be Quentin Tarentino smoke a bunch of cigarettes and piss off the management for not eating enough pie but draining the coffee urns while working on the script to True Romance a hundred years ago. 

Probably to the public, $500 million sounds like a lot of money.  Well, it is--it's the aggregate value of half a census tract worth of homes in Los Feliz.  But this area is far larger than a half a census tract, and it's a matter of scale, isn't it?

Five hundred million I'm sure in some math-challenged circles sounds like it's even worth more than a billion, the amount Garcetti had hoped to bilk property owners for in his failed billion-dollar affordable housing boondoggle bond in 2006.

But the truth is that $500 million over ten years is about what Eli Broad will spend constructing his vast monument to the self: the coming museum on Grand Avenue downtown. 

It's comparable to what LA resident Arianna Huffington and some friends got paid to sell the Huffington Post. 

It's a lot less than what the LAUSD spent on its school complex at the site of former Ambassador Hotel--which is already inside the "Promise Zone."

It's about exactly what Hollywood theatrical box office receipts total in a given month.

It's less than half of what Skyfall made worldwide.

It's about 1/84th of the net worth of LA's 21 billionaires. 

Yes, LA has more than one billionaire.  It has more than twenty billionaires, in fact.  But it needs Federal bailout money anyway. 

It needs Federal bailout money worse than bankrupt Detroit, obviously--because Detroit was not selected as a Promise Zone, and LA was. 

By now it should be becoming obvious to those who didn't already know him that Eric Garcetti has a very limited view of what business can do and a very expansive view of what government can do. He didn't state that he was "proud," for instance, of LA's role in launching a successful spy satellite from Vandenberg the first week of last September.  The engines for the Delta IV rockets were made by Rocketdyne in Canoga Park; 5,000 good LA jobs were behind the launch, and LA was well-poised to win 1,000's more if it had expressed any interest in aerospace.

But LA still doesn't have an aerospace czar, although it has a team of government sharks in Washington hopeful to land large grants to develop the flood-prone LA River. 

Garcetti and his City Attorney Mike Feuer think it's a better idea to sue banks than to court private investment.  They think it's a better idea to work K Street for money than Main Street for money. 

The subway stop at Hollywood and Western is exemplary.  Units of units of transit hub development, pushed by Garcetti when he was Councilman there, a failed icon of a "promising" community as much in of a bailout now as it thought it was receiving from the CRA all those years ago. 

It's sad to think that this formerly great City, which before the Garcetti and Villaraigosa years built so many monuments to the future--from the LA Aqueduct to the theme building at LAX to the Disney Hall--is now stuck on holding its hat out on Washington street corners.  

This is Garcetti's LA: hopeful to reap kindness from political strangers, developing pricey rentals and pleading with its own citizens to support more falsely shiny affordable housing boondoggles, while LA's own billionaires and multimillionaires keep raking their boffo cash, and living the good life a scant few blocks north of the "Promise Zone."


(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.







Vol 12 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 14, 2014



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