Unclassified Info: The Golden Key is not blighted

While most of you are reading this, Ray Patel is probably standing in front of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, otherwise known as the City Council, pleading for the life of his business. He will either be followed or preceded by the Caruso Mega-Machine and his never-ending plans to resurrect and deliver Glendale to the financial promised land with his expanded Americana.

And with the City Council fawning eternally over Rick Caruso's quips and quotes, I must ask: Why are we always turning to Caruso to rebuild Glendale? And what is our definition of blight and redevelopment?

Nothing against the existing Americana — I like it just fine. But for the Redevelopment Agency to stick a fork in Ray Patel and tell him to put up or get out smells fishy, and not in the delicious Katsuya way. It's a very cowardly position and frankly goes against what a redevelopment agency should be doing, which is revitalizing blighted areas of the city.

Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency Commissioner Madeline Janis was recently quoted as saying that "the theory behind redevelopment is to take a blighted area, invest some money in it and make a dramatic difference in the lives of the people there."

In fact, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency was created in 1972 reportedly for the purpose of improving, upgrading and revitalizing areas within the city that had become blighted because of deterioration, disuse and unproductive economic conditions.

Patel's property is not blighted by any definition. Ironically, by its proximity to the Americana, one could easily argue that it sits in one of the most vital business areas in all of Glendale, thus it should be allowed the opportunity to continue operating. It may not be as polished as the Americana, but it's not a rundown tenement.

Patel has a renovation plan, which from my untrained eye would blend in nicely with his mega-neighbor. His business currently employs people, so there can't really be a claim that he's not contributing to the surrounding economy.

So what exactly is motivating the Redevelopment Agency? How does the City Council actually expect to say they are removing blight by pushing Patel out? They can't. And this is exactly how Patel could fight them and win.

Perhaps it is this kind of curiously ambiguous decision making that has caused Gov. Jerry Brown to want all California redevelopment agencies eliminated. That would, of course, include the one in Glendale.

Of redevelopment agencies in general, there is much statewide debate as to their efficacy in actually improving the economy of areas they serve. There are many who say the agencies keep money away from our schools and public services. Not to mention the overhead of each agency can be quite large. It was recently reported that L.A.'s Redevelopment Agency pays its chief executive nearly $250,000 a year.

Personally, I don't think the Glendale Redevelopment Agency is acting in the best interests of the city. I think they are acting upon their own self-serving behalf. We all know that Caruso is a known quantity with deep pockets. But why should that be a prerequisite for owning and maintaining a business in Glendale?

What kind of city government are we running if we only allow the rich the opportunity to get richer? And isn't that just degrading and destroying the American dream we've all been told we can achieve?

City Council may huff and puff a good game, but I'm not buying it. Forcing Patel to jump through a series of hoops and break out the dog and pony show only to have the rug pulled out from under him would be a tasteless misuse of power.

Once in a while, someone needs to stand up and say the emperor is wearing no clothes. This is one of those times. Flexing the muscle of eminent domain on an area that is truly blighted is one thing. But choking a man out of his livelihood simply to satisfy the City Council's own whims of what it thinks is aesthetically pleasing is wrong.

It also sends an incredibly bad message to businesses looking to open their doors in Glendale — unless, of course, that marketing firm in Tennessee is considering using this message as our long-awaited and over-promised rebranding of the city. I can see it now on signs and banners everywhere: "Glendale. The city where you can have your business — until we can rationalize taking it away!"

Seriously, there is no real reason for Patel to lose his business in the name of bettering this city. There are a great many other areas of blight within Glendale where the Redevelopment Agency could actually do something of real value.

I would love to see them focus their attention on that instead of the bright shiny trinkets Caruso keeps waving in our faces. And if they can't find the real blight in Glendale, then I would encourage Brown to shut down the Redevelopment Agency and give the money to our schools and public services, where it can do more good.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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