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Financing for Donor's Project Is Approved

June 28, 2003|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved the financing of a controversial redevelopment project in the Crenshaw district that is being built by a developer with close ties to several elected officials.

The $123-million Marlton Square project, which will turn the aging Santa Barbara Plaza into a 140,000-square-foot retail center and 140 single-family homes, is being hailed by supporters as key to the revitalization of southwest Los Angeles.

"It's the biggest and most important economic development project for the 8th District," said Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who represents the area. "It's a blighted area that continues to go under without that redevelopment."

Mayor James K. Hahn, whose office helped broker the deal, said the council's action was something to celebrate. The project "will transform the area into a vibrant, mixed-use community," he said in a statement.

But critics have questioned the amount of public money being devoted to it -- $43.4 million in bonds, property tax revenue, federal anti-poverty grants and other funds.

Parks said the council will monitor the progress of the development. He added that the subsidy is large because the project is so big.

The developer is Chris Hammond, whose wife is a manager in the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which approved the project. Hammond has said his wife did not influence the deal.

He, his family and employees of his firm, Capitol Vision Equities, have contributed thousands of dollars to Hahn and former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who backed the project before leaving his seat for the state Assembly last winter. Hammond and his wife have also given donations to many council members, including Nick Pacheco and Alex Padilla.

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