Monday, May 31, 2010


by Gale Holland | LA Times LA Now blog

May 26, 2010 |  8:04 pm --The Los Angeles Community College District agreed Wednesday to lease just under half of the renovated Van de Kamp bakery building to the city of Los Angeles to operate job training and placement classes and offices.

The decision came over raucous protest from the community group that fought to turn the historic Glassell Park building into a satellite campus of Los Angeles City College, a plan the district has said it had to abandon because of state budget cuts. Members of the Van de Kamp Coalition accused the seven trustees of making a backroom deal to get revenue from the city, which will pay $400,000 rent over four years.

"You have turned this site into a profit-seeking site," coalition member Laura Gutierrez said.

Trustees, who approved the lease on a 7-0 vote, said there was no way they could afford to run a satellite campus. "The district had to cut 6,000 classes this year," trustee Georgia Mercer said. "We could not predict the whole world economy could be so impacted."

Another building constructed as part of the $72-million project, funded with voter-approved bond money, was rented to a charter school last year. Part of the rent money will go to cover $150,000 in tenant improvements made to the Van de Kamp building to accommodate the city. The district's legal counsel ruled earlier that state law prohibited spending bond money on tenant improvements.

●●smf's 2¢:

  • The voters voted – twice – for bonds to build a satellite community college campus in Northeast L.A., indebting the taxpayers for $72 million – plus debt service/interest on the bonds = taxpayers on the hook for approximately $144 million.
  • The trustees of the LACCD held public meetings and promised the community a satellite community college campus.
  • No public meetings were held at all to discuss this change of plans – and the desires of the community …or the will of the voters ...or the indebtedness of the taxpayers.
  • No discussion or finding of fact has been made that “no way [the LACCD] could afford to run a satellite campus”.
  • The city – which has no money - had already negotiated subleases of the property to other entities – who will be paying the rent from federal ARAS (stimulus) grants. This has become a real estate deal – robbing Peter to pay Paul – with the taxpayers being both Peter and Paul.
  • Applying a portion of previously negotiated rent as a workaround of the legal prohibition of using bond funds for tenant improvements is a shell game played with the taxpayers’ money.
  • What will it cost the College District to operate the facility as landlord for the term of the leases to the charter school and the city sublease tenants? It’s hard to imagine that the discounted rents will cover maintenance and operations and wear and tear.
  • There never was an environmental study for this ‘repurposing’ of the VdK property. That failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is currently in litigation; the cost of defending that suit alone could well exceed the income from the leases.
  • Where was the Request for Proposal and open bidding process on the awarding of these leases, both by LACCD and the City of LA?
  • Meanwhile, the Community College District continues to discuss purchasing more land on the VdK site.
  • It’s doubtful many folks voted for Mayor Tony + his crew for their ethical integrity; it’s fairly common knowledge that the LA Times is sitting on an a series of  investigative articles on this scandal brouhaha. While 4LAKids wishes everyone a Pulitzer Prize – and wrongdoers their ultimate comeuppance – the Northeast Los Angeles community deserves their promised community college more. Better students in classrooms than politicos in court.
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