The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) is seeking to create a redevelopment project area in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA). The project area would cover most NELA communities that lie alongside the river, including some significant sections of Atwater Village, with no regards to the integrity of long established community boundaries. Atwater Village’s boundaries and land-use development uniformity would be threatened by its inclusion in the proposed NELA River Redevelopment Project Area.
This proposed redevelopment project area could in effect segregate Atwater’s northern industrial area into a separate community referred to as “River Glen” by CRA/LA officials. This newly formed “River Glen” neighborhood (a long-time dream of Councilman Tom LaBonge) would also include a noteworthy section of residential property between Chevy Chase Dr and Goodwin Ave.
In addition, the proposed redevelopment project area would also segregate smaller parcel areas that encompass the residential and commercial properties between Fletcher Dr and Carillon St in Atwater’s southern section. As well as all the industrial and some residential property along the Seneca Ave / Casitas Ave corridors next to Atwater’s eastern boundary. These smaller parcel areas would be “lumped” into the neighboring communities of Glassell Park and Elysian Valley, which could give those communities a greater say in the redevelopment of these areas.
These Atwater parcel areas would be subject to the proposed so-called “NELA River Redevelopment Project Area Plan”, currently in the works. The Plan would essentially usurp existing “village friendly” land-use development guidelines in favor of high-density housing and commercial developments. The Plan could allow and provide incentives for increased housing developments with “density bonuses” given to land developers for constructing housing that mandates a portion of the development have “affordable housing” and less parking. Effectively it could recreate a “Drew & Estara” high-density type neighborhood within Atwater Village.
L.A. City Council approval is required for the creation of the NELA River Redevelopment Project Area and Atwater’s inclusion in it. In particular, it would require the votes and willful support of Council President Eric Garcetti (CD13) and Councilmember Tom Labonge (CD4). Once approved, this project area would be governed by CRA/LA with its own staff and governing board, appointed by the City Council.
About CRA/LA and Redevelopment Project Areas
CRA/LA is a public agency that uses property taxes to fund commercial / residential developments in partnership with private investors within a redevelopment project area. CRA/LA provides no public services other than to administrate redevelopment projects.
All CRA/LA needs to do to justify the creation or expansion of a redevelopment project area is to declare it "blighted", regardless of community input or actual conditions in the area. California State Law, which governs CRA/LA activities, is as vague as to what constitutes “blight” that almost anything can be designated as "blight".
To make a finding of blight a “study” is authorized by the City Council at the request of CRA/LA. The authorization is usually granted and the formation of new redevelopment areas is largely driven by land developers and/or City staff. A paid consultant to “study” the area or areas is approved by the City Council. Most paid consultants know that their job is not to determine if there is blight, but to declare the selected site or sites blighted regardless of what the actual community conditions may be.
Understandably, many property owners within or adjacent to the project area fear an official designation of blight would hurt property values. Furthermore, all private property within an officially designated project area is subject to the use of eminent domain. Also, building or change-of-use permits can be denied if an applicant does not conform precisely to the redevelopment plan.
To eliminate alleged blight CRA/LA has four extraordinary powers held by no other government authority:
1. ) Tax Increment: A redevelopment agency has the exclusive use of all increases in property tax revenues ("tax increment") generated in its designated project areas.
2. ) Bonded Debt: An agency has the power to sell bonds secured against future tax increment, and may do so without voter approval.
3. ) Business Subsidies: An agency has the power to give public money directly to developers and other private businesses in the form of cash grants, tax rebates, free land or public improvements.
4. ) Eminent Domain: An agency has expanded powers to condemn private property, not just for public use, but to transfer to other private owners.
These four powers represent an enormous expansion of government intrusion into our traditional system of private property and free enterprise.
Once a redevelopment project area is created, all property tax increments within it go directly to CRA/LA. This means all increases in property tax revenues are diverted to the redevelopment agency and away from the communities, cities, counties and school districts that would normally receive them.
While inflation naturally forces up expenses for public services such as education and police, the property tax revenues within a redevelopment area are thus frozen. All new revenues beyond the base year can only be spent for redevelopment purposes; thus starving communities of vital tax revenue.
No CRA/LA development is without its issues, whether these projects are beneficial or not to the community. So you ask what now? Educate yourself, attend community meetings, and contact CRA/LA officials, elected representative and your local neighborhood council. Because CRA receives public (taxpayers) funds, ALL meetings and documents fall under the jurisdiction of the Brown Act and California Public Records Request. In other words, all meeting agendas must be posted within 72 of that meeting and all documents must be given to you at your request. The public has the right to know what its government is doing. Every action that this board does must be open and transparent. Visit the website; look at the Planning Process Chart and the maps. The message here, get involved, work to improve your community. Don’t let government agencies decide what’s best for your community.
For more information visit CRA/LA website at: www.crala.org/nela
Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles
Alison Becker, AICP - Associate Planner
6255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 2206
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Other contact information:
Council President Eric Garcetti, Council District 13
email@example.com (Atwater Village Field Deputy)
Councilmember Tom Labonge, Council District 4
Atwater Village Neighborhood Council
firstname.lastname@example.org (general email inbox)