Despite protests, the Los Angeles City Council last week extended the life of the North Hollywood Redevelopment Area another decade and agreed to a sixfold increase in the project's spending cap--bringing the total to a whopping $535 million. The project faces serious obstacles as it tries to revive a perpetually shabby part of the San Fernando Valley, but the council was right to keep it alive.
At their best, redevelopment projects give cities unparalleled power to move in and, over many carefully coordinated years, put a declining neighborhood back on track. Look at the success of Burbank's downtown shopping district--a busy and popular cluster of shops, restaurants and movie theaters that took years of creative and aggressive action by city officials to create. Redevelopment areas work because government helps pave the way for private enterprise by minimizing some of the risk. Sadly, though, too many cities treat redevelopment agencies as cash cows that divert municipal money but fail to accomplish their true goal of restoring the housing and infrastructure. These changes are necessary to attract the private investment that makes a neighborhood self-sustaining.
That's the rap on the North Hollywood redevelopment project, which critics contend does more harm than good in the 75 acres centered roughly around Lankershim and Magnolia boulevards. It's tough not to sympathize with their complaint. Although the project area was created 18 years ago, many parts of it look as shabby as ever. Vacant lots await development. Showpiece projects have noticeable vacancies. Despite all the talk of a North Hollywood arts and entertainment district, its most popular and tangible element remains its catchy name: "NoHo."