Author: Michael

Why the city is reluctant to sell the land to the private owners

Why the city is reluctant to sell the land to the private owners

Abcarian: Almost no one was spared in that racist conversation among top L.A. Latino officials: a city clerk who has a daughter with Down syndrome, an assistant director of the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

After a recent meeting with L.A. Commissioner of Public Works Manuel Diaz, I asked a few Latino leaders if they were upset at the city’s handling of a proposal to sell a 30-acre chunk of the city around El Monte. They said they were not.

If they were, they were not saying, and the comment left me puzzled. What seemed clear to me was that city officials were uncomfortable letting a discussion of the sale of a public park proceed in public, because of fears of public dissent, a public-funding process or a public hearing.

The question I ask is why the department of public works and the department of housing and community development would be so worried about the consequences of being too critical of private deals?

Why would they want to keep such a debate from being public and out of the way? It’s not because they like the proposed El Monte park owners, one of whom was the former president of a large Latino civil rights group called the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute of California.

“I don’t think they’re at all concerned,” said the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute’s former president, Jose Luis Rodriguez, who was recently elected to the Los Angeles city council.

That, I thought, made perfect sense.

But my guess was that the city’s reluctance to sell the land was really about something else, something far more important to its officials: the specter of a public-funding controversy.

The city has agreed to provide an estimated $18.5 million in public money to the proposed buyers of the El Monte property in exchange for a 90-year lease on the land, including a five-year extension. Under the terms of the tentative agreement, the city will not make its own financial plans for the land until October 2013, when the city council is to decide on the deal.

I am still looking for the explanation of the fear of a public-funding controversy that has made the city so nervous about selling the land to the private owners. But it seems a very strange reason for the city’s nervousness and, at the same time, its willingness to provide as much public money to the people who want

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