Eminent Domain

Los Angeles: Leading the Nation in Vacant Lots

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Faster than you can say "We're from the government; we're here to help," along comes the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles with another expensive boondoggle that a) has already turned productive land fallow, b) has dragged on for decades without progress, c) destroyed a rare successful business in South L.A., and d) will almost certainly end up producing the one thing the CRA is good at producing: empty urban prairieland.

Once this building's gone, we'll have true economic justice.

Fall in love all over again with the Slauson Central Retail Center, a project that has been kicking around since the 1992 riots, and which is up for a new round of approvals and taxpayer soaking. The L.A. Times' Patrick McDonnell tries to tell a tale that—another hallmark of any deal involving the CRA—is about as straightforward as your intestines:

About $7 million in public subsidies are committed to the $15-million project, according to official figures. Advocates say it's worth it. They envision 300 "living-wage" jobs at a 6.5-acre site that is now a fenced-in eyesore at a busy intersection in South Central Los Angeles.

"What the community is going to get here is a wonderful reuse of an industrial site," said Jenny Scanlin, project manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The agency seized the affected parcels through eminent domain from the former owners, including Kramer Metals, a family-run scrap-metal recycling business that has long been a fixture in the industrial zone.

As Ronald Reagan almost said, you can do a whole lot of nothing if everybody gets credit. The drivers of Central/Slauson include some of the greatest destroyers of wealth in California, among them the community group Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles (which has shown itself capable of making millions of dollars disappear [pdf] into a phantom soccer field) and Councilwoman Jan Perry (who has created more urban blight than any American since Col. Paul Tibbets).

But all you really need to know about this project is that the Community Redevelopment Agency is involved. The CRA's post-1992 involvement in South L.A. has produced a nearly unbroken string of million-dollar projects that don't get built. These projects come with big promises of affordable housing, high-end retail, world-class restaurants and private-public achievement. They proceed through costly subsidies and exploratory efforts. They nearly always involve eminent domain seizures of valuable land. They get gorged on by the friends and families of local politicians. And in the end, they produce vacant land.

The CRA maintains a euphemistic log of its failures, so you can see what I'm talking about. The 107-acre Watts Project has become nothing. The Normandie 5 Redevelopment Project has become nothing. The massive and heavily promoted Marlton Square project has become nothing. My personal favorite, the Vermont/Manchester project, has become nothing.

In this company, Central/Slauson has one distinguishing feature. Usually the CRA starves the project to death in two ways: The agency tempts the owner or owners of some unused land with promises of government support for a grandiose, Rick Caruso-style housing and retail project. At the same time, the city prevents the owner from building anything smaller and more sustainable through endless zoning demands, parking-space requirements and other nitpickery. When the CRA tires of tormenting its prey, it then seizes the land and ensures that it will remain empty forever. (That all of this happens in some of the poorest areas in L.A. County is just gravy.)

Here, however, Kramer Metals was an actual functioning business in this distressed neighborhood. It's now been shut down in favor of a hopeless project that makes no financial sense. So Perry, the CRA and the rest seem to have upped their game. They used to be satisfied just to prevent development in distressed areas. Now they're actively destroying stuff that's already there. For the most evil bureaucracy in America, that's a form of progress.

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  4. On the bright side they ain’t creating mass graves. So a good, proper and respectful citizen should be thankful this government is so gentle.

    1. What do you think New Jersey is?

      BA-ZING.

    2. “…They envision 300 “living-wage” jobs…”
      Gentle in that picking the taxpayers’ pockets at gunpoint supports those ‘living wage’ jobs?
      What is “gentle”? Promising to shoot you with a .22 instead of a .38?

  5. the most evil bureaucracy in America

    As one of my minions so famously asked: “Are you serious?”

    * laughs maniacally *

  6. On the bright side they ain’t creating mass graves.

    Step 1: Build train.
    Step 2: Fill it.
    Step 3:

  7. How the hell did they eminent domain a functioning business?!?

    1. Californians are so fucking stupid they voted to keep the Kelo standard.

      1. That’s pretty fucking stupid. Wow.

        1. I was trying to write a thoughtful comment, but virtually every defense of this project and every event in its history are just really fucking stupid.

          I’d be for disenfranchising California voters, but then they’d just live in other states. Maybe it’s for the best they’re all in one place*.

          * Wishful thinking for the residents of AZ, NV, TX, etc.

          1. It’s agreed, then. “Fucking stupid” it is.

          2. They’re coming here (TX), the bastards.

            “Oh, there’s no jobs in California, we’ll just come here and criticize your culture, then try to make your state government just like ours! We don’t even learn our fucking lesson!”

            1. Yeah, they did this to us. It’s like having a bad wife. At first, they’re all “Oh look at these cute little bungalows, and for so CHEAP! Why this’ll make a lovely li’l mini San Francisco!”

              Then they start bitching that your Mexican food isn’t good enough, they’re tired of your polar fleece and sandals with socks, there aren’t enough boutiques selling designer crap, people at the gym aren’t wearing hip enough workout clothing; and the next thing you know, every fucking road has to be ripped up for bicycle lanes that never get used. The public schools should only feed locally-grown organic cud; any school or public building older than 10 years is “totally grody,” unusable and must be replaced; and “you greedy Croesuses need a state income tax.”

              If anybody has any clues about how to make a special bomb or modified version of Roundup that kills only California natives but leaves the rest of us, please let us know.

              1. Off yourself, punk. California was a fine conservative Republican state until your Dust Bowl loser relatives showed up, soon followed by your wartime and post-WWII vermin relatives from the rest of the U.S.

                1. OUCH!

            2. If you secede you can deny them citizenship.

    2. How the hell did they eminent domain a functioning business?!?

      Where there’s a will coupled with government force there’s a way. The city I’m in is trying to take a lot and the adjacent rental property from someone to give it to a developer. A functioning income producing property.

      1. Around here they zone the property out from under you. Not that they’re trying to give the spot to anyone specific, the majority of our city council just thinks certain businesses (in this case, auto mechanic) should be located underground or, ideally, in another muni.

  8. just wait ’til the NELA/Atwater CRA plans get started. They already declared the entire review zone blighted based on decade old census data.

  9. I don’t have anything clever to say to this. What the fuck is wrong with people?

    1. What’s especially great about these “movers and shakers”, is that no matter how hard they fail, no matter how spectacularly they implode, the stupid never stops. It just keeps getting stupiderer.

        1. Thanks for linking. Damn European protectionism.

      1. The difference between genius and stupid is that genius has it’s limits. No so for stupidity.

      2. Is it a case of, given their job description, they’re more or less forced to do the stupid, much of the time?

  10. And they say George Bush hates black people…

  11. To Nick G.,

    That day is coming when you get a call from the California office and the staff ask if you can put up a place in the basement of your Ohio home for them to stay for, oh, forever.

    1. Hey! That’s where we stay! It’s like a humidor only for bitchen’ leather jackets.

  12. I would love to see some of the nearby residents start planting orange trees in the vacant lots.

    They would probably be fully mature before the CRA noticed and the locals could be selling the oranges.

    Then, we could sit back and watch the Greenies and the Eminent Domain Abusers fight it out. Popcorn, anyone?

    1. That’s a wonderful mental image! I fantasize the biker claims of road access drawing a ADL lawsuit….

  13. sounds just like downtown Tucson

  14. Sounds something like this:

    http://www.philly.com/inquirer…..grant.html

    BTW, this article doesn’t tell the whole story. The Mart was siezed at the behest of Democratic power broker George Norcross, whose brother is the president of the local AFL-CIO. The site was originally supposed to be used for a civic center areana for a minor league hockey team that Norcross had part ownership in, but that deal fell through. The Mart storeowners were relocated and compensated for their legal fees by the county, on a judge’s orders.

    1. Social Justice!

      1. Not really. Norcross has never been elected to any office, for one. The taxpayers ended paying the bill for the relocation, not Norcross. The new location is not nearly as good. We still have a rat infested, empty lot that has cost the taxpayers a shitload of money. Norcross’s henchman, Steve Sweeney, is now President of the State Senate.

  15. They envision 300 “living-wage” jobs…

    What is the track record of government entities who envision the creation of living wage jobs?

    Whenever I see the phrase ‘living wage’ in an article, that is usually a big red flag indicating too much government intrusiveness in a project and that the project is doomed to fail.

  16. Pretty scary when you think about it.

    Lou
    http://www.anonweb.at.tc

  17. The CRA through tax-increment financing gets a cut of protperty tax revenues that would normally go through schools and other government agencies.

  18. Nothing like a fenced-in empty concrete building in the middle of an “urban renewal” district to remind one of the efficiency of government planned “urban renewal”.

    Now, hurry up and wait.

    1. Here’s a google map of the street corner in question. See if you can tell which three of the four corners have arguably successful private businesses, and the fourth is the Government owned lot.

      1. I don’t see a CVS at Slauson & S. Central?

      2. So, that’s where South Park is.

  19. Also, how is that a blighted urban strip? I see a lot of people, businesses and cars around there.

    Maybe it’s just not their kind of development — hardware stores, furniture outlets, auto shops and McDonald’s. Don’t they know to hire a carpenter and interior decorator, go by the dealership, then buy local, organic produce?

  20. Anyone who says Ayn Rand is a hack and the characters in Atlas Shrugged are unrealistic needs to STFU.

    1. Regrettably, such lackwits don’t feel the need…

  21. . Usually the CRA starves the project to death in two ways: The agency tempts the owner or owners of some unused land with promises of government support for a grandiose, Rick Caruso-style housing and retail project. At the same time, the city prevents the owner from building anything smaller and more sustainable through endless zoning demands, parking-space requirements and other nitpickery. When the CRA tires of tormenting its prey, it then seizes the land and ensures that it will remain empty forever. (That all of this happens in some of the poorest areas in L.A. County is just gravy.)

    Progressives like to call this kind of government activity “social justice”.

  22. Funny how Tony, Chad, Chony, Chode, Maxward, and all the other assholes are absent from threads like this.

    1. Why don’t you just move to Somalia, huh?

      1. They shoot dogs in Somalia and eat them.

  23. Next time you hear anyone suggest more government as a solution to any problem more complicated than which dog to catch, I suggest you use this example of the inevitable outcome when government is granted the power to do such a thing as this.
    People are getting rich through government exercising powers it ought not have in the first place.

  24. I hope the American government will be more transparent and honest to their people about the financial condition and job creation. I can still see hyper-inflation in a couple more months. Vacant lots and vacant heads.

    We help Americans move to Asia for jobs and prosperity. Learn more at http://www.pathtoasia.com

    1. Will I be able to drink there? What about funny hats? Will there be funny hats?

    1. Does your service come with a money-back guarantee?

  25. Hey, I think we should give CRA the credit for having the foresight to provide the vacant space where the Hoovervilles will go once LA drives the last productive citizen out of business.

  26. See, this shows where that eco-nut guy who invaded the Discovery building went wrong. If he really hated people as much as he said, he should have gotten a government job with an outfit like the CRA. Then he could screw over people in great big batches rather than 3 or 4 at a time.

  27. Better alt-text: Stop the car. Get out. Cut off your slasuon.

    1. Er, slauson. I need to check my spelling. 🙁

  28. Boy, this is just filled with all kinds of stupid. No – make that “evil” – this isn’t stupid, it’s malicious and intentional. Therefore evil.

    Fuckers…

  29. Everyday I am reminded more and more why the Founders decided it was time to take up arms and clean some fucking house.

  30. (who has created more urban blight than any American since Col. Paul Tibbets).

    Wow.

    Most excellent.

    1. I grinned too, ’til I remembered that the New York City rent control goons are still way, way ahead in the urban blight game and are now closing fast on the Tibbets record.

  31. “Los Angeles: Leading the Nation in Vacant Lots”

    But if we checked the registration lists, we’d probably find that tens of thousands of Democratic “voters” gave these vacant lots as their primary addresses.

  32. California the breakfast state; full of nuts, flakes, and fruits.

  33. What CRA does is dumb, old, inefficient and ugly. Look at what they’re trying to do to NoHo. Leave us alone. We don’t need your ugly, monsterous public art from the 80s, stupid sidewalk stripes that look like the zebra gum or your nasty and lazy workers who think they own the place. Our tax $$ went to their new building and to subsidize big developers who give us crap. Look at NoHo Commons’ design…have to walk around and can’t see what stores are even there. Not to mention that horrible electro sign that promotes everything else but the great stuff that’s happening in our arts district. What about the small businesses that make NoHo the fun neighborhood I know? Where are CRA funds in “redeveloping” these businesses? No where. They don’t even know what businesses are in the neighborhood unless they are attached to huge developers. If you need other examples, look at poor Laurel Canyon Blvd. all boarded up. What for? another nasty mini mall poorly designed that costs millions of OUR $$? Just.Go.Away. You’re useless.

  34. I really liked this post. Especially this para -The CRA maintains a euphemistic log of its failures, so you can see what I’m talking about. The 107-acre Watts Project has become nothing. The Normandie 5 Redevelopment Project has become nothing. The massive and heavily promoted Marlton Square project has become nothing. My personal favorite, the Vermont/Manchester project, has become nothing.”

  35. Interesting post and thanks for sharing. Some things in here I have not thought about before. Thanks for that important information, its really helpful.

  36. The economy of the country is down the hill and everywhere in the US its the same story. What people need right now is jobs, after that they can afford any of those houses or make payments to their own ones that were mortgaged.

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