Several Los Angeles City Council members on Wednesday roundly criticized a controversial plan by the city Housing Authority to sell the dilapidated Jordan Downs public housing project in Watts to a private developer.
“There is no way for the city of Los Angeles . . . to create any kind of a profit for a developer of public housing,” said Councilwoman Gloria Molina. “It’s impossible. Consequently, on its face (the plan) doesn’t make any sense.”
Another of several members who publicly criticized the proposed sale, Councilman Marvin Braude, said: “My bewilderment about the irrationality of this proposal is identical with Miss Molina’s.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, the council postponed acting on a motion to oppose the plan until a public hearing is held next month and Housing Authority Executive Director Leila Gonzalez-Correa is given a chance to explain it. But several council members angrily objected to the council’s not being told that federal housing officials--after learning last September about the proposed sale--had canceled federal funding for $5 million in improvements planned at Jordan Downs.
Review Panel’s Report
Wednesday’s discussion followed the release of a report by a city independent review panel that suggests ways to improve substandard living conditions at the city’s 21 housing projects.
The Housing Authority has come under fire over the last year for slum conditions at Jordan Downs and other inner-city housing projects. Last month, The Times reported that Gonzalez-Correa had devised a plan to sell Jordan Downs to a private developer for at least $10 million and require at least $14 million in physical improvements. The proposal has been criticized by tenants who fear the Housing Authority is trying to dump one of its worst projects.
Gonzalez-Correa is being investigated by city officials after another Times report that she disregarded contracting regulations on at least six occasions while awarding more than $200,000 in contracts to her acquaintances and to political supporters of Mayor Tom Bradley. In addition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has assigned 17 investigators to conduct a review of the agency’s operations.
Since early 1987, HUD officials have considered the city Housing Authority “operationally troubled"--a designation that has not been used for any of the other 66 public housing agencies in Southern California during the last decade, HUD spokesman Scott Reed said Wednesday.
The 30-page report issued Wednesday by the independent review panel recommends a long-awaited face lift for many of the city’s public housing projects.
“All of them were built in the 1930s and 1940s,” said Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who organized the panel, made up of federal housing officials, city officials and members of private industry. “They have deteriorated and they are in desperate need of repair.”
Because more than two-thirds of the Housing Authority’s tenants are children, the report suggested launching on-site social services in the projects such as child care centers, job training programs and after-school activities.
“Renovation of the projects is not going to make any difference if we don’t pay close attention to the needs of the people who live in the projects,” Flores said. “The study shows that residents feel socially isolated and that they lack human services that are necessary to combat the everyday problems that they have.”
Flores was among several city officials who applauded the Housing Authority for its willingness to work with others to improve housing conditions.
But no one from the Housing Authority appeared at Wednesday’s press conference to release the study or at the council Grants, Housing and Community Development Committee hearing that followed to discuss the report. Also, Gonzalez-Correa had refused the panel’s request for a copy of the agency’s budget, Flores said in a recent interview.
Gonzalez-Correa could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
At the grants committee meeting, Councilman Richard Alatorre defended Gonzalez-Correa’s management of the Housing Authority and said it was unfair to blame her for poor housing conditions.
“We can put all of the blame on the director for all of the ills, but . . . these ills have been around for a long time,” Alatorre said.