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Neon museum could get switched off amid redevelopment wind-down

October 04, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
(Los Angeles Times )

The wind-down of local redevelopment threatens to undo an agreement to bring the Museum of Neon Art from downtown Los Angeles to Glendale, which could leave the venerable curator of all things neon without a home.

MONA had shut down its Los Angeles space last year after the Glendale City Council, acting in its dual role as the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency, approved spending $5.2 million to move the museum into a renovated property across from the Americana at Brand.

But that could all be undone as officials decide which past agreements to drop, and which ones to keep, a process that has unnerved museum officials.

“We put all our eggs in this basket,” Kim Koga, MONA’s executive director, said.

Under the deal inked in 2011, MONA would get two years worth of free rent. After that, the museum’s monthly rent would increase over time from $2,500 to $5,000, plus a portion of revenues more than $600,000.

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About $2.7 million has already been spent on acquisition and design, but the project could fall victim to the unraveling of redevelopment obligations to comply with a state mandate to redirect redevelopment project property tax revenues to Sacramento to help plug a massive budget hole.

[For the Record 5:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the $2.7 million spent so far included construction when it should been acquisition.]

If that happens, Koga said there is no Plan B and the museum will be left without a home.

An oversight board composed of officials from Glendale Unified, Los Angeles County and Glendale that has the power to kill or amend deals made by the former redevelopment agency met behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the MONA contract, but no decision was made.

The oversight board must decide if the museum deal is the best way to use redevelopment money, which would otherwise go to the agencies they represent.

“The city’s interests and this board’s interests are not always in alignment,” said Charles Green, the board’s attorney.

The outcome could put Glendale in a tough spot, since the museum could sue over a breach of contract. The oversight board, which was set up by the state but consists of local representatives, is immune from litigation, leaving Glendale exposed to any legal costs.

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