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Urban Acupuncture: How the Economic Stimulus Could Turn Out in LA

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Photo by Tom Andrews/LAist

Photo by Tom Andrews/LAist
"Let's not forget the local perspective when talking national policies," LA City Council President Eric Garcetti said last night in a telephone press conference about the federal stimulus package going through Washington D.C. right now. "The economic recovery isn't going to happen in Washington, it's going to happen on our streets."Garcetti, a progressive democrat who served as Barack Obama's Co-Chair for California, is running for reelection to City Council on March 3rd. Although he's seen as a shoe-in, last night's campaign phone call, mostly with bloggers with state and nationally focused websites, let him describe the situation and what is hopefully to come.

"We've seen a full scale abandonent in cities during Bush era," he said. "It left our cities decimated in tougher areas... Our cities have to be the engines of economic recovery."

Garcetti, who fears that the number of foreclosures could double overnight, is concerned because cities are at the front lines when it comes to unemployment. For example, it's not about the big picture, but what effects one foreclosure can do to one street: banks may try to evict tenants leaving them homeless, blight ensues and crime can go up. "Everyone collectively so much loses so much more," he said.

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Los Angeles could receive one half to one billion dollars for shovel-ready projects. Earlier this year, the city found $13.6 billion worth of those projects and submitted $8 billion to Washington.

But when and if that money arrives to Los Angeles, what projects will be the priority? "We haven't ranked them yet," Garcetti explained. "I think this is the healthy part of the conversation at the local level."

It will be likely there will be two sides of the issue, he explained. Should Los Angeles put the money, which will not go to fixing the city's budget, towards meat and potatoes projects such as repairing the 80 year back log on sidewalks and streets or go attractive sounding ideas like green construction and solar power?

One thing is for sure: if fluffy and non-job producing projects are funded--say zoos, balancing the city's budget--conservatives will take those examples and call them waste, decreasing the chances for future funding to cities. To put it simply, the city must fund things that are accountable.

For Garcetti, projects he would like to see go forward will be projects that can bring jobs, but also spur the local economy in years to come by choosing specific site locations. In Chinatown, a stalled live/work/retail project directly next to the Gold Line station could use a boost to get it off the ground. It's not just construction jobs that it would bring, it's also good urban planning that has long-term effects. He calls this "performing urban acupuncture" where we some needles in to our urban centers.