Mayor oversells land deal Just $12 million of $80 million raised would defray deficit

first_imgMayor Antonio Villaraigosa failed to emphasize one critical fact when he touted selling surplus city land to ease Los Angeles’ $250 million structural deficit: City rules require most of the money go to council members’ districts or other special funds, the Daily News has learned. In fact, only $12 million of the estimated $80 million that could be raised from selling the 300 surplus properties would help bail out the $6.78 billion city budget. The result is that the Mayor’s Office has quietly backed away from talk of using property sales as a means of deficit reduction, emphasizing fiscal responsibility instead. “The real issue for us is to manage our assets better to create the greatest value for taxpayers,” Marcus Allen, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said. “A lot of the land we’re planning to sell won’t net a significant amount to the general fund because the city doesn’t typically acquire property with general fund money,” said David Paschal, Department of General Services assistant general manager of property management. Of those properties that were purchased with general funds, Allen said the mayor hasn’t taken a position yet on the city rule that requires proceeds be split with council districts. “As a former councilman he’s very aware of it, and will look at it over time,” Allen said. City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka said council members can spend the money at their own discretion, but typically in the past have used it for community projects such as swimming pools and recreation centers. “The basic philosophy is because the property is located in that district, the proceeds should go back to benefit that district,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.” Factoring in the split with council districts, city officials have scaled back their initial projection of $5 million being returned to the general fund this fiscal year to about $3 million. Reginald Jones-Sawyer, director of real estate in the Department of General Services, said new appraisals for the properties could bump that figure up. And Jones-Sawyer said the department is in the process of discussing with council members the feasibility of selling off surplus property within their districts. Still, some on the City Council are wary. Councilman Bernard Parks, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said all city departments should have a chance to claim city land before it is declared surplus. And he said any money that goes back into the general fund should be spent carefully. “True deficit reduction is not necessarily cash coming into the budget. The deficit is going to be resolved by how the money is allocated.” Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the city needs to review closely all properties before declaring them surplus. “Things considered surplus today might not be tomorrow,” he said. But Fujioka said it’s appropriate to sell off property the city no longer needs and Villaraigosa is being “more aggressive in trying to properly use resources” than previous administrations. As part of asset-management efforts, Allen said Villaraigosa has instructed general managers of the departments of Recreation and Parks and Housing to review potential surplus properties for city uses. Allen said the mayor has also asked the DWP to evaluate its properties. The DWP owns more than 315,000 acres throughout the Southwest. Allen said the mayor also is exploring creation of an “Own a Piece of L.A.” program in which slivers of city-owned land could be taken over by adjacent landowners. “The focus has always been on how to best use surplus property,” he said. [email protected] (818) 713-3731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Excluding approximately 7,000 sites owned by the harbor, airports and Department of Water and Power, the city owns about 2,190 properties. About 850 of those are office buildings – such as police stations, libraries and city halls – and hundreds of other sites are relatively small or are already reserved for future developments such as street widening. Also, some of the land is tied up amid legal concerns, including residential properties on the bluffs of Potrero Canyon in Pacific Palisades that were acquired by the city as part of litigation over landslides. Of the 320 sites the city has identified for possible sale, city rules mandate any proceeds be returned to the accounts originally used to purchase the properties. That means most of it will go to accounts such as the police and fire bond fund, library trust fund, zoo enterprise trust fund and gas tax fund. last_img

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