The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency has "grossly inflated" statistics on the amount of low-rent housing it has built by counting homeless shelter cots and men-only rehabilitation center beds as "family housing," a Legal Aid Foundation study said Tuesday.
The study was introduced at a Los Angeles City Council Finance and Revenue Committee hearing as part of an effort to block a plan by Mayor Tom Bradley to vastly increase the agency's tax revenues from development of downtown real estate. The increased revenue would be used by the CRA to build new low-cost housing, street improvements and other downtown facilities and to begin a child care program.
In the months since the plan was announced, controversy has centered on whether it would provide enough housing for growing numbers of homeless street people and families living in overcrowded slums.
Charles F. Elsesser Jr., a lawyer for the Legal Aid Foundation, told the committee that the redevelopment agency has submitted statistics on its low-income housing construction that "are inaccurate and grossly inflated."
In an analysis of CRA figures submitted to the City Council in 1987, Legal Aid denounced as "not true" claims that the agency has built or rehabilitated 12,500 family units--housing suitable for families. The foundation charged:
- The CRA counted as family housing 138 cots at a temporary homeless shelter at 6th and San Pedro Streets on Skid Row. Also counted in that category were 450 beds at the Weingart Center, a Skid Row facility that treats, among others, alcoholics and drug addicts.
- Rooms in single-room occupancy hotels from which families are excluded were counted as family housing by the agency.
- In the city's 9th Council District, which includes the high-rises of downtown, Skid Row and some of the poorest areas of South Los Angeles, the CRA has built or rehabilitated just 744 family units, of which no more than 395 are for the very poor. The agency, Legal Aid said, had inflated its figure to 3,429 units.
John Maguire, deputy CRA administrator for housing, said there was no attempt at subterfuge in compiling the statistics.
John Tuite, CRA administrator, told the committee that the agency has spent 25% of its tax revenues--$78 million--on low- and moderate-income housing in the last 13 years.
He cited the rehabilitation of the Van Nuys Building for 299 units of downtown housing for the elderly and handicapped; the Downtown Women's Center, and the Lamp Center for the mentally ill. A fact sheet released by the CRA at the hearing said "CRA produces more housing for seniors and low-income people in Los Angeles than any other city agency and its record surpasses that of any redevelopment agency in the nation."
Under the Bradley plan, the limit would be raised on the amount of property taxes the CRA can obtain from downtown redevelopment. It is now $750 million, money that comes in when the CRA condemns under-used land and sells it to developers for high-rises and other buildings. The additional tax dollars from the redeveloped land goes to the CRA.
Bradley proposed raising the limit to $5 billion.
Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky praised downtown redevelopment. The CRA, he said, "has transformed downtown from a lifeless, practically defunct business district into a vibrant city center. It has funded many worthwhile social service agencies. It has built good quality units downtown and in areas throughout the city."
But he questioned whether the CRA should undertake solving the housing problem. "Frankly, I question the priorities of the CRA when it loaned the Stock Exchange nightclub $1.5 million so yuppies can dance on Spring Street," he said, referring to financial aid to the trendy club.
"The CRA has funded many worthwhile social service groups, but I and many others question whether the CRA is the best agency to distribute social service dollars," he said. "The CRA's housing record could certainly be improved."
In a move that appeared to be designed to counter criticism of the CRA, agency administrator Tuite told the committee that he had agreed to a suggestion by Bradley that an advisory committee be formed to give the public more of a voice in downtown redevelopment.