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CRA Audit Finds Other Cities Look Worse than LA

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Fore! Development funds were used to fix up Desert Willow Golf Course in Palm Desert
Amid the proposed shut-down of the state’s 400 redevelopment agencies, today State Controller John Chiang released his office’s audit of 18 agencies, including Los Angeles, during fiscal years 2009-2010. While the state Community Redevelopment Agency representative told the Associated Press the audit---done in just five weeks—was politically motivated, the audit exposed some embarrassing uses of redevelopment funds, according to Chiang, including an instance in which funds paid for the renovation of a golf course in Palm Desert.
“The lack of accountability and transparency is a breeding ground for waste, abuse, and impropriety,” said Controller Chiang in a press release. “In whatever form local redevelopment takes in the future, the level of oversight and openness must be consistent with the amount of public dollars entrusted to their care.”

But in comparison to other cities, Los Angeles doesn’t look so bad in the audit. Los Angeles had reporting defincies, while it also inappropriately charged 20 percent of its redevelopment administration costs to the fund, a figure amounting to $833,000.

David Bloom, spokesman for the Community Redevelopment Agency-Los Angeles said these errors amount to administrative procedural missteps which will now be corrected. "We think we look great in the report," he added.

Not looking as good is the city of Palm Desert, which used redevelopment dollars--all redevelopment money is supposed to be used in "blighted areas"---to renovate the Desert Willow golf course. And in the city of Coronado, redevelopment areas include pockets of beachfront, million-dollar homes, according to a press release from Chiang's office. Via KPSP2: "The fact that the (redevelopment agency) continues to insist that a 4 1/2 star golf course to be blighted further illustrates our point that virtually any condition could be construed to be blighted," Chiang said in his report issued Monday."

The audit, called for earlier this years, comes as Governor Jerry Brown looks to help close the budget gap by closing the state's redevelopment funds, and diverting the property tax increment monies to pay for core services like schools. Critics have called Brown's proposal a violation of Prop 22, which protects redevelopment funds from being seized by the state, and questioned the legality of the Brown's actions.

The reports also come before tomorrow's joint City Council/CRA-LA meeting to discuss more than $1 billion in redevelopment funds and deals. That meeting following another hastily-called CRA-LA meeting, which took place this morning. At the 8 am meeting, the CRA board voted to protect funds slated for developments ranging from affordable housing to the Midtown Crossing project.

The notice of the meeting wasn’t posted on the CRA’s web site within 24 hours because the agency couldn’t find the appropriate employee early Sunday morning to post the item, according to Bloom. (Per the Brown Act, all notices must require public announcement at least 24 hours before a meeting.)But Bloom insists the agenda was posted on the city’s web site 24 hours before the event.
· CRA DeathWatch Archives [Curbed LA]