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They Don't "Know the Facts or Are Ignoring Them' : Mayor Raps Critics of Mall Project

November 26, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Responding to criticism that blacks are not playing a major role in the construction and operation of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Mayor Tom Bradley, Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and several community leaders have voiced support for the $120-million rehabilitation of the shopping center in the predominantly black community.

Bradley, who returned this week from a trip to the Far East to promote trade for the city, said during a press conference on Tuesday that he wanted to lay out the facts about black participation in the Crenshaw mall, a project his office has nurtured for six years.

"Various people have alleged that blacks have not shared in the contracts awarded for the mall's construction," Bradley said, "that black union trade workers don't have enough jobs on the project site and that not enough black-owned businesses will be inside the mall when it opens in the fall, 1988.

"Well, I am here today to say that the facts speak for themselves. And the facts show that there is significant participation by blacks, women and other minorities in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw project."

Guarantees Sought

In recent weeks, critics have said that the city and the developer, Alexander Haagen Co., have failed to assure blacks of a larger share of the jobs, store leases and investment opportunities in the project.

A black businessmen's group last week filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking guarantees of greater black participation in the 800,000-square-foot complex. Others have threatened to boycott the mall if changes are not forthcoming.

Bradley said that critics do "not know the facts or choose to ignore the facts."

To date, he said, minorities have received $4.1 million, or 43.5%, of construction contracts awarded on the project. And 36 of the 57 construction workers on the site are black, a city official said.

Expanding Numbers

"We have expanded the number of minorities who will get a paycheck from their skilled trade work on the project," Bradley said.

In addition, city officials announced last week that the Community Development Department will lend $2 million at low interest and consultants will be hired to assist black-owned businesses seeking assistance to locate in the mall. Alexander Haagen is negotiating with 22 black-owned stores for space in the mall.

Bradley said, however, that the project has failed to find a group of black investors to purchase up to 50% of the developer's interest in the mall.

"I regret that despite many negotiations, many in which I personally participated, an agreement has not been consummated," Bradley said.

The failure to reach an agreement with black investors is a key issue, said Stanley Stain, a member of the African Collective, the businessmen's group that filed suit last week.

'Out of Touch'

"They are out of touch with the community," he said. "The real issue remains the absence of economic participation in the ownership, management and income in the project.

"A plantation mentality seems to permeate the project. They seem to think that all we are interested in is jobs."

Galanter, whose district includes the shopping center, said that critics have "shaken the confidence (in the mall) in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw community."

"I and others involved with the mall have been working to ensure that this project will be the catalyst for economic development that the area needs," she said.

Appearing with Bradley and Galanter were Pastor Thomas Kilgore, a board member for the Community Redevelopment Agency, Mark Ridley-Thomas, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Raymond Johnson Jr., president of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, and John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League.

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