Billions to Spend

How a $5.7 billion program to rebuild L.A. community colleges went astray.


How a $5.7 billion program to rebuild L.A. community colleges went astray.

How a $5.7 billion program to rebuild L.A. community colleges went astray.

Classrooms were overcrowded. Athletic facilities were decrepit. Seismic protections were outdated. Leaders of the Los Angeles Community College District decided to remake the nine campuses for the 21st century. They promised rigorous oversight of costs and quality. But a Times investigation found that tens of millions have gone to waste.

Part 1

The price of poor planning, weak oversight

A pattern of chaotic management, costly blunders and hiring of relatives emerges from interviews and thousands of pages of internal e-mails.

Part 2

A failing grade for a new science complex

Crooked cabinet doors, faulty plumbing and a lack of temperature controls mar Valley College's health and science complex. Newly opened, it needed extensive repairs.

Times reporters Gale Holland and Michael Finnegan discuss their 18-month investigation of the construction program.

Allied Health and Science Center

Where builders went wrong.

An explanation of construction problems at the Valley College complex.

City College track and field

A look at design and construction problems that sidelined a new athletic venue.

Part 3

Needless layers add millions to staffing costs

Some contractors have been paid generously to serve as "body shops" for staffers supervised by others. The resulting markups have doubled, even tripled, taxpayers' costs.

Part 4

New track and field can't get to the finish line

City College, with a legacy of excellence in sports, spent millions to replace aging athletic venues. Yet students are still waiting for a new physical education center, track and field.

Part 5

A family firm gets its share

A Mission College vice president helped oversee the construction program. Among the subcontractors on her campus was a company she owned with her husband.

Part 6

A costly lesson in the limits of green energy

The college system would generate all its own electricity through solar panels and other green technology. It was an alluring vision, but gravely flawed.


About this Series

Times reporters Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland spent 18 months investigating the $5.7-billion program to rebuild L.A.'s community colleges. They interviewed more than 200 people, visited construction sites at all nine colleges and examined thousands of documents obtained through the California Public Records Act. The documents include contracts, payrolls, inspection reports and extensive e-mail correspondence between college officials, contractors, safety inspectors, consultants and others.

Also contributing were Paul Pringle, a Times investigative reporter, and Doug Smith, Ben Welsh and Sandra Poindexter of the Times data team, who analyzed contracting costs and political fundraising by college trustees.

More Coverage


Times community college investigation unearths shameful waste

Revelations about abuses in Los Angeles Community College District's $5.7-billion building program show the importance of voting in March 8 trustees' races.

College official faces conflict-of-interest probe

Former Mission College vice president Karen Hoefel was overseeing a multimillion-dollar campus construction program in which her family's company was hired as a subcontractor.

College district chief promises to 'take action'

Chancellor Daniel LaVista says he'll work with the board to review the district's ethics code, conflict-of-interest standards, system for awarding contracts, and planning and oversight of the $5.7-billion construction program.

Construction chief at L.A. colleges fired

Larry Eisenberg has led the $5.7-billion bond-financed project since 2003. A Times investigation found that poor planning, shoddy workmanship and other factors cost tens of millions of dollars.


Community campus follies

After the L.A. district repairs the shoddy construction, it should fix its management flaws.

Colleges' building project targeted

The committee will examine costs and the system of checks and balances in the $5.7-billion bond-funded project. Critics say the new effort does not go far enough.

Ousted college exec to be paid

Unanimous decision by college trustees avoids cost and delay of trying to dismiss Larry Eisenberg without pay, a board member says.

Kelly C. Candaele

56, Brentwood

Documentary film-maker, consultant to labor groups

Background: Former policy director for the L.A. County Federation of Labor

Trustee since: 1997

Mona Field

57, Eagle Rock

Retired political science professor Glendale Community College

Background: Close ally of faculty unions

Trustee since: 1999

Georgia Mercer

69, Beverly Hills

Board president. Former Planned Parenthood public affairs director

Background: West San Fernando Valley deputy for then-Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan

Trustee since: 1998

Tina Park

35, Koreatown

Former N.Y. Stock Exchange auditor

Background: Only trustee who has not collected campaign contributions from contractors working on the bond program

Trustee since: May 2009

Nancy Pearlman

62, Pico/Robertson

Environmental advocate, producer and host of educational programming for TV and radio

Background: Former Green Party activist

Trustee since: 2001

Miguel Santiago

37, Winnetka

Consultant, state Assembly Democratic caucus

Background: Managed the 2009 congressional campaign of Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park)

Trustee since: 2008

Sylvia Scott-Hayes

59, Highland Park

Former Cal State L.A. administrator and executive recruiter for colleges

Background: Long active in Eastside politics

Trustee since: 1999