Your Dec. 8 issue contained a letter from Christopher L. Stewart, president of the Central City Assn., denying that his post as vice-chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency involves a conflict of interest. Stewart writes that the CRA's counsel and the city attorney both stated that his membership on the CRA was not such a conflict. Stewart also points to CRA's Pershing Square "revitalization" as an example of work in the public interest.
With regard to Pershing Square "revitalization," a walk there shows no evidence of blight. Stewart does not mention that this $300-million project involves a 540-room hotel and a 700,000-square-foot office tower, all subsidized via tax-exempt bonds.
Hotels in Los Angeles are now heavily overbuilt, forcing them to reduce room rates. Stewart does not mention that the Urban Land Institute reported to CRA that offices are also heavily overbuilt. And Stewart says nothing about the fact that the Pershing Square project will reduce the park to a green postage stamp at the bottom of a concrete well.
CRA commissioners supposedly operate as fiduciaries in the public interest. Only the courts can decide whether Stewart's board vice-chair violates conflict-of-interest laws. Nevertheless, his acts on the CRA Board show a primary concern for downtown landlords rather than for the people of Los Angeles.