The Los Angeles County Grand Jury released a report Monday finding that a massive reorganization at the Los Angeles Housing Authority is generally working well but has created employee morale problems and has not improved security in the crime-ridden projects.
The report said the authority's efforts to centralize management at the historically troubled agency were "a positive direction" that will help desegregate the 21 projects and improve maintenance. It also gave the agency high marks for a so-called "work-out plan" submitted to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department that lists every problem being addressed by management.
Leila Gonzalez-Correa, the executive director of the Housing Authority, said she was "just terribly excited and grateful" over the findings by the grand jury and the consulting firm of Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, which the jury hired to audit the agency's management.
She said she hopes the report will provide leverage next week, when a HUD official visits Los Angeles to consider the authority's request for $28 million in improvement funds for the rundown and long-neglected projects.
"I hope the fact that the grand jury is pleased with many of our efforts will have some impact on our argument for funds . . .," Gonzalez-Correa said. "I think it will be a great help to us that these outside groups with tremendous credibility think we can do the job."
In the past, the authority has been awarded about $5 million per year to upgrade the projects, which are sprinkled across the city from San Pedro to San Fernando and house 31,000 of the city's poorest residents. As a result, badly needed maintenance has been put off for years, prompting angry tenants to dub the city the "biggest slumlord in Los Angeles."
Among its key recommendations, the grand jury said the Housing Authority should address persistent internal problems--including confusion over the powers of the executive director--by limiting the scope of issues overseen by its Board of Commissioners, which plays a hands-on role in day to day management of the projects. Members of the board could not be reached Monday for comment.
In addition, the grand jury recommended that the Housing Authority begin holding regular monthly meetings with managers of all the projects to improve communications in the agency, which has been dominated in recent months by rumors that have lowered staff morale and angered tenant activists. It also recommended that the tenant groups, which are in two unrelated organizations, be merged.
On one issue of great concern to tenants--that of security--Gonzalez-Correa said talks are under way with the Los Angeles Police Department to determine whether the city can assist the Housing Authority in improving safety.