My only qualification for the job of deciphering L.A. Times stories that do their best to obscure the truth about what the hell is going on in this town might be the two years I studied Sanskrit in college, a dead language much like that often used by the city’s dominant news source.
“L.A. generosity flows in Mid-City..City puts up millions to see real estate group CIM finish Midtown Crossing development”
Those are the headlines above a story today at the bottom of the California section. The story backs in softy to an account of how CIM Group, a well-connected Westside developer that has flourished in the last 15 years often with the help of its City Hall connections.It isn’t mentioned on the front page of latimes.com and can only be found two clicks later well down on the website’s local news page.
Eventually, we learn CIM has projects, some in serious trouble, that the city and city employee pension funds have been throwing good money after bad at, particularly the Midtown Crossing project at Pico and San Vicente.
Despite misgivings of its members, the Community Redevelopment Agency recently called for the city to up its subsidy from $5 million to $14 million in the project. You can bet the mayor along with Councilman Herb Wesson who has been very helpful to CIM twisted a few arms to get that vote.
What’s astonishing about this story is that near the end of it we learn why we the taxpayers are giving away our money to rich developers.
“Redevelopment officials argue that without the subsidy CIM Group would achieve a financial return of only 7 % on its project — lower than typical developments. Still unclear is how much advertising revenue the company would obtain by winning approval of the special sign district.”
The sign district, being sought by CIM pal Herb Wesson, would allow the company to make a lot of money because the site could have signage that “display ‘supergraphics’ — vinyl advertisements permitted by city law only in special cases.”
So there you have it: They’re going to give away our money to fat-cat developers who aren’t satisfied by a 7 % return on their investment in order for them to make 20 % on a project that will create a lot of low-paying retail jobs and poison the visual environment with hideous signage that encourages materialistic obsession.
Of course, that’s just the interpretation of a failed Sanskrit scholar whose headline across the top of the paper’s front page might have read:
“CITY HALL GIVEAWAY…Taxpayer money goes to boost developer’s profits”
One of the interesting aspects of the story overlooked by the Times is how CIM Group has used its money to influence CIty Hall.
For several years, the company showed its “generosity” to the pols by giving to their campaigns but that appears to have stopped two years ago. Since 2006, CIM has been using lobbyists to tap into the city treasury — to the tune of $1 million in lobbyist fees during that time, according to the City Ethics reports (which truly are as indecipherable as Sanskrit).
Here’s the lobbyists listed in the reports: Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP; Brown/Meshul Inc; Armbruster & Goldsmith LLP – that’s a lot of heavy arm-twisting, the kind that has the clout to get results at City Hall.
So there’s your Sanskit lesson for today: If you want a streetlight in your neighborhood so kids don’t get run down or other modest improvements, hire lobbyists.
Or you can join hands with other woebegone taxpayers all over the city and form a concerned citizens coalition that will give you the clout you need to stop these outreagous giveaways and get City Hall to serve you, and not the special interests.