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Tight funding causes second thoughts on city projects

Council continues to grapple with mischief wrought by loss of redevelopment.

May 13, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

With pressure mounting on city resources in the wake of redevelopment’s demise, several Glendale City Council members this week expressed second thoughts about several major downtown area projects that were approved more than a year ago.

The Museum of Neon Art planned for the 200 block of South Brand Boulevard across from the Americana at Brand, and the Laemmle Lofts, a five-screen movie theater below 42 residential units at the corner of Wilson and Maryland, were targeted Tuesday by Councilmen Dave Weaver and Rafi Manoukian as being perhaps a bit more than the city can handle without the power of local redevelopment.

“At this point in time, it’s such a mess,” Manoukian said.

Despite some apparent buyer’s remorse, city officials said decisions to go ahead with the developments can’t be unwound. If they are, the city could be sued for breach of contract, they added, even if parts of the projects are caught in limbo due to a state mandate dissolving redevelopment agencies throughout California.

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Councilman Ara Najarian called the back-and-forth “Monday-morning quarterbacking.”

Redevelopment allowed Glendale officials to shovel incrementally higher property tax revenues that resulted from redevelopment into new development and affordable housing projects for more than three decades. Since the state mandate ending that practice took effect in February, local officials have been grappling with how to salvage previous commitments without spending money meant for public services and other programs.

Last week, the so-called Oversight Board — a group made up of city, school and county representatives who are tasked with winding down Glendale’s redevelopment agency — approved plans to spend about $113 million over the first year of the dissolution on contracts with Walt Disney Co. and other items.

Much of the City Council’s criticism on Tuesday centered on leasing city-owned property to MONA and Laemmle for free or below-market rates.

“I guess Rick Caruso is the only one who gets free land in this city,” said Mayor Frank Quintero in response, referring to a deal brokered with the billionaire developer that brought the Americana at Brand to Glendale.

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