More than 800 community leaders and neighborhood activists on Sunday assailed the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, Mayor Tom Bradley and the City Council for pursuing policies they say are turning Los Angeles into an increasingly polarized city of "haves and have-nots."
The activists, representing scores of groups ranging from Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles to the Westwood-based Not Yet New York, put forth a platform of proposals to take power away from the CRA, begin economic rebuilding in depressed areas, reform city land-use policies and limit elected officials to two terms in office.
"If you want to remake this city, you are certainly not going to do it with the present set-up downtown," Barbara Blinderman, an attorney and member of Not Yet New York, told a cheering crowd at UCLA.
Participants at the two-day gathering organized by the L.A. Weekly newspaper and the Minority Assn. of Planners and Architects, were told by Deputy Mayor Mike Gage on Saturday that the city will sponsor a three-day conference to continue the discussions begun by the activists over the weekend.
However, Gage proposed that it be held after the mayoral election April 11.
Failings in South-Central
Dozens of speakers on Sunday decried the city's failure--and Bradley's low profile--in bringing economic development, new jobs and affordable housing to South-Central Los Angeles and other depressed areas that were hit hard by plant closures and a citywide move away from heavy manufacturing in the 1970s.
Robin Cannon, president of Concerned Citizens of South Central, said that while the media focuses almost exclusively on gang troubles in the black community, there are far more destructive forces at work.
"Besides facing the eminent domain powers of the school district, which wants to tear down an entire neighborhood for a school, we are under siege by the CRA and by the University of Southern California, both of whom want to expand at our expense," Cannon said. "Banks have accepted our savings deposits but refuse to make us home improvement loans, and invest the money elsewhere. The city has done nothing to stop it."
Gage, who spoke on Saturday along with officials invited from Boston and Toronto, defended Bradley's policies and said elected leaders have "done a good job" responding to the city's vast challenges of homelessness, growth and downtown revitalization.
However, Gage conceded that far more intensive efforts are required if the city is to follow more innovative cities--notably Boston and Toronto--that are well ahead in tackling urban crises.
However, many who heard comments from Gage on Saturday, and from CRA Board Chairman James Wood on Sunday, said the city has already proved it is on the wrong track.
Bob Erlenbusch, of a group known as the Campaign for Critical Needs, noted that Los Angeles has one of the worst housing affordability problems in the country, a sewage-polluted bay, intractable smog and growing traffic ills.
"What we really need is a new mayor," Erlenbusch said. "He and other elected officials are hopelessly out of touch with what is happening in this city, and that is part of the reason 1,000 people showed up here this weekend."