A plan to sell part of Los Angeles’ landmark Central Library to a subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris ran into more opposition Wednesday, setting the stage for a close vote Friday in the City Council.
Sitting as the Community Redevelopment and Housing Committee, Councilmen Richard Alarcon and Mark Ridley-Thomas came out against the plan, bringing to four the “no” votes on the 15-member council.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who earlier backed the deal as a way to help solve the city’s budget deficit, said he is now having “second thoughts” and is uncertain how he will vote.
Eight votes are required for approval, and a majority of council members have yet to take a position on the deal, which was put together by the Community Redevelopment Agency during the Administration of Mayor Tom Bradley and has since been blessed by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Deputy Mayor Michael Keeley said, “We’re going to make the rounds to elicit the concerns of each councilperson and see if those concerns can be addressed. If in the council’s judgment the deal is too complicated and too risky, that’s the council’s judgment.”
But Ridley-Thomas, asked about the chances of the deal winning approval from the council, said: “Limited, to say the least.”
The proposal calls for the city to sell the pyramid-topped Goodhue building in Downtown for $71 million, then lease back the building for $5 million a year. The plan has drawn opposition because the $5 million would come from redevelopment funds that help pay for much of the city’s low-income housing construction program.
The Philip Morris subsidiary would reap millions of dollars in tax credits but would have no voice over operations of the library. The city would have the right to buy back the building in 20 years.
Riordan hopes to use $14 million from the sale to help close a $33-million budget deficit.
The four council members who have come out against the deal--Mike Hernandez, Rita Walters, Alarcon and Ridley-Thomas--represent low-income districts that rely heavily on redevelopment funds to pay for new housing.
Council members Richard Alatorre and Ruth Galanter have expressed support for the plan but voted to allocate $10 million of sale proceeds for housing.
“I have carried food to people who live in garages,” Alarcon said Wednesday, expressing concern that the city’s payments to lease back the library would deny housing funds to his northeast San Fernando Valley district.