The casually arrogant legalized corruption in Los Angeles City Hall staggers the imagination. Take City Council member Bob Blumenfield. Por favor.
For the record, this newspaper’s editorial board has endorsed businessman Scott Silverstein, who is challenging Blumenfield as runs for a third term. Years ago, Blumenfield ran for office vowing to eliminate the “blight” of mobile billboards, and now the district is increasingly a trash-strewn homeless haven’t defaced with graffiti. Under Blumenfield’s reign, City Hall has continued its longtime habit of underserving the residents of the west San Fernando Valley.
Now Blumenfield is rather shockingly hinting at an intention to extort concessions from the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, Stan Kroenke, who recently bought the Promenade mall site in Woodland Hills. Maybe it’s not shocking. It’s business as usual at Los Angeles City Hall.
Blumenfield’s predecessor cut a deal to give millions of taxpayer dollars to the shopping mall company that wanted to build an outdoor mall called The Village between two indoor malls, one of them the Promenade, which it already owned. Then, as your tax dollars propped up the pricey new property filled with pricier stores and restaurants, the mall company allowed the high-end Promenade to fall into disrepair.
The former site of luxury retailers became “blighted,” according to Blumenfield, who eagerly worked with the mall company to “entitle” the 34-acre property to become a sort of mini-Manhattan. In an area already congested with traffic, the mall was going to be replaced with up to 1,432 multi-family residential units, 244,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 629,000 square feet of office space, up to 572 hotel rooms and a sports arena with 15,000 seats — an all this with only 5,610 on-site parking spaces.
A traffic study found that the project would result in “intersection impacts” and “traffic impacts to neighborhood street segments” as well as cut-through traffic in neighborhoods and “queuing” on freeway off-ramps. Experts cited in environmental reviews also warned that people attending events at the arena might park their cars on the side streets in nearby neighborhoods to avoid paying high parking charges.
None of that mattered to the city, which went ahead and “fully entitled” this gargantuan mega-project. Then something unexpected happened. The mall company sold the property for $150 million. The deal closed in March. Now the buyer has been revealed to be the billionaire owner of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
“Media reports have hinted that the Rams were considering the site for a year-round practice facility,” Daily News journalist Olga Grigoryants reported last week.
City Councilman Blumenfield has three words for that: Not. So. Fast.
“Unless they come to the city to ask for changes of some sort, and we grant them, they still have to do all what’s required in the entitlements,” Blumenfield said.
Here’s some free advice. Never be a billionaire near a Los Angeles politician. The FBI doesn’t have enough handcuffs for all of them.
“Come to the city to ask for changes” means go through the highly arbitrary and generally years-long process of getting plans approved by multiple city offices and departments. “Unless … we grant them” sounds like these officials will hold out for tribute to be paid to them, in one way or another. “Still have to do all what’s required in the entitlements” apparently means the new owner will be expected to pay the tribute that was promised by the previous owner.
Other cities would probably be very happy to have the Rams build a year-round practice facility within their borders. They might even help to get plans approved and construction expedited.
That’s not how it works in Los Angeles. The deal that gave the mall company its taxpayer subsidy for The Village also required it to put $3.325 million into a “Public Benefits Trust Fund” and send $300,000 of it to a special fund in then-Councilman (now convicted criminal) Mitchell Englander’s district. The company had to agree to a long list of demands involving labor and materials, native plants, waterless urinals, renovated bus stops and organic waste shipped to a “worm farm.”
Is this how the Los Angeles Rams will be welcomed to the west San Fernando Valley? If they decide to keep their practical facility in Thousand Oaks, you’ll know why.
Write Susan at Susan@SusanShelley.com and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley.