It seems like it was just the day before yesterday I pointed out that multimillion-dollar redevelopment projects only happen where multimillionaires can get the benefit. But the Grand Avenue Project in downtown Los Angeles is a gift that keeps on giving for a billionaire – beloved patron of the arts Eli Broad.
Last year we reported that L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency had given Broad a full city block atop a hill in downtown L.A., at a cost of one dollar a year, to house his personal art collection. 60 Minutes says Broad "sets the standard for philanthropy." That's one way of putting it.
Now, the CRA is giving Broad another incentive to keep imposing his vision of a West Coast New York onto a part of town that doesn't need the help: a grant of $52 million to build a parking lot for The Broad Museum's hypothetical visitors. LA Weekly's Dennis Romero gives some background:
Gov. Jerry Brown has been attempting to seize CRA money across the state for precisely this reason—that it's being misused.
Broad is building a museum as part of downtown's Grand Avenue redevelopment project. His venue would house his multimillion-dollar art collection. [Added]: Actually we're told a large segment of the building will be used for Broad's private foundation—only a portion of it will be open to the public. (Even better)…
Downtown city Councilwoman Jan Perry, who appears to us to be quite adept at giving public money to rich guys, was, of course, all for it, saying the 370-space garage would be paid for out of Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project funds.
The Grand Avenue Project is the kind broad-daylight swindle that can only happen when all the forces of evil line up. It's cheered on by the L.A. Times. It got unanimous approval from the City Council. The CRA is behind the whole thing, as are downtown neighborhood associations. International investors have cycled in and out of the development, many getting back on the bus as the project's total economic hopelessness becomes clear. It is based on the pipe dream of Eli Broad, who may or may not make frequent use of public transportation but is convinced that what L.A. really needs is "millions of people navigating a cleaner, denser and more pedestrian-friendly urban fabric via bicycle, light rail, streetcar, subway and bus."
In this context, the Broad Museum will just be one more ugly building. But it's especially irksome for the civic inferiority complex it embodies.
According to 60 Minutes, Broad "wants to transform that sprawling monster of a city Los Angeles into a cultural capital." Just to be clear: L.A., even in this period of severe decline, generates almost all of the movies, television and music made in this country. It is second only to the Bay Area as a home to video game developers. It is second only to New York in the volume of its live theater market. Yet somehow Los Angeles can't be a cultural capital until it has the artworks of Jeff Koons in a stupid-looking building? Of all the legitimate things L.A. could feel inferior about, it picks "culture"?