The collapse of a public works bond proposal in Sacramento this week could deliver a serious blow to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plans for building affordable housing, expanding parks and extending a subway line to the Westside -- all key elements in his ambitious blueprint for Los Angeles.
And it could spoil an opportunity for the Democratic mayor and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, two of the state's most dynamic political personalities, to work in concert advancing their separate agendas.
Villaraigosa was counting on tens of millions of dollars from the bonds and had even boasted privately in recent days that Los Angeles would reap a bonanza from the public works package.
Now, several of his pet projects, and his vision for Los Angeles, could face uncertain prospects.
But Villaraigosa said he remained "eternally optimistic," predicting, like others in Los Angeles and Sacramento, that state leaders would agree to place a public works bond on the November ballot. The bond missed its opportunity to make the June ballot when the state Senate refused this week to take action on it after the Assembly approved only portions of Schwarzenegger's proposal.
A November measure could provide crucial backing for Villaraigosa's initiatives, even if the dollars roll in later than originally anticipated.
"I'm deeply disappointed that we weren't able to take advantage of the opportunity to invest in California's infrastructure," Villaraigosa said in an interview. "I believe that we can't allow this opportunity to be denied by partisanship. It is just too important to the future prosperity of our city and our state."
Villaraigosa -- who once served as Assembly speaker -- had negotiated with lawmakers and Schwarzenegger's office to secure what he called Los Angeles' "fair share" of the anticipated public works money.
He traveled to Sacramento last month with City Council President Eric Garcetti and other officials to lobby for money to build affordable housing. He also spoke publicly in Los Angeles about the need for the bond to include funding for urban parks.
He called state leaders hourly at various points to weigh in on the complicated package.
Without the state dollars, the city would probably struggle to meet the agenda Villaraigosa set out during his first months in office.
The mayor this week announced that the city would spend nearly $51 million from its affordable housing trust fund to build 14 apartment complexes around L.A. for low-income residents. Every dollar spent by the city, he pointed out, would attract an additional $3 in public and private money.
Some of the funds for these projects will come from a 2002 state housing bond. But that revenue stream is expected to dry up next year, leaving the city without one of its key funding sources for new housing unless a new bond is passed.
Housing advocates said they hoped state leaders would provide the crucial funding in a November bond. Otherwise, they said, the effect could be devastating -- not only for efforts to help the working poor but also for housing programs aimed at getting the homeless off the streets.
"There is going to be more and more overcrowding, more and more people living in garages," said Lisa Payne of the Southern California Assn. of Non-Profit Housing. "That raises public health issues."
Los Angeles also could face fallout in the areas of public transportation and parks.
Villaraigosa had sought help in paying for several mass transit initiatives intended to ease traffic congestion on city streets. His priorities include a north-south busway in the San Fernando Valley, traffic-light synchronization in the city and an extension of the Red Line subway down Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to Fairfax Avenue, part of his "subway-to-the-sea" plan.
The mayor's vision of more parks greening Los Angeles also would have to wait.
He said a November bond might delay these projects but would not block his dream of the city as an oasis where parks flourish and traffic moves efficiently.
The delay of the bond, he said, "obviously makes all of those things more difficult. I continue to believe that we can work across partisan lines in the best interests of our city and our state."
Villaraigosa appeared with Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles in January to promote proposed transportation projects that would have been funded by the bond.
The unusual pairing of the Democratic mayor and the Republican governor offered them an opportunity to seize the mantle of bipartisanship in the name of the public good.
This week's failed negotiations on the bond will probably forestall any further collaboration, as Schwarzenegger turns his attention to salvaging his proposal and Villaraigosa continues his own lobbying campaign to stake a claim for Los Angeles in any future plan.
But political strategists from both parties said that Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger's mutual interests will probably trump party affiliations as the November election draws closer.
"It's about getting something done for the state," said Democratic political consultant Parke Skelton. "Both of them have enough savvy to put aside differences when they are pursuing common objectives."