This study evaluates the commercial development activities during the 1990’s of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the city of Los Angeles (CRA), the oldest and best-known economic development agency in the city. Although we focused our evaluation on the CRA’s commercial development activities, agency activities have varied widely, ranging from affordable housing to childcare provision to transportation and infrastructure development. In particular, until the recent budget squeeze forced a drastic reduction, the CRA devoted significant resources to low and moderate income housing development in areas of the city that have seen little private housing construction.
We focused on CRA commercial development because we wanted to evaluate the actual “return” that the city — including both taxpayers and community residents — has received on its investment in private commercial real estate activities. From 1990 to 1997, the CRA spent a total of $193 million dollars on commercial development — about 14 percent of city economic development spending. Yet, there has been little evaluation
of how that money was invested or what taxpayers and communities actually received in “return.”