By Ben Bergman
The city of Los Angeles lacks the expertise and accountability to manage its multibillion-dollar real estate portfolio, according to City Controller Ron Galperin, who called on city leaders Thursday to hire a Chief Asset Manager to manage city properties.
Galperin also unveiled a website that maps the nearly 9,000 properties owned by the city. He estimates some 500 of those properties are underutilized and could be developed into affordable housing or sold for enormous profit, generating a windfall for taxpayers.
"It is now more vital than ever that the City maximize the value and opportunity of our real property assets," Galperin wrote in a letter to city leaders.
Galperin also pointed to a report released this week from the McKinsey Global Institute that estimates Los Angeles County has between 5,600 to 8,900 vacant parcels zoned for multifamily development. Galperin says the city owns some of those parcels and could develop them to help solve the city's affordability crisis.
"We talk a lot about the need for housing," he said. “It’s time for not just another report, but to actually do something about it.”
Here are three examples examples Galperin provided of properties that might be put to better use. Want to nominate your own? Check the city's new interactive map of properties it owns and let us know in the comments section below.
One of the city's last remaining orange groves sits on prime real estate in Franklin Canyon. Although the fruit has provided food for local food banks, Galperin thinks taxpayers could be better served by the land. "The property itself is probably worth tens of millions of dollars," Galperin said.
One of city's largest lot sits on 17,500 acres in Palmdale. The city first started buying up the land 1969 using eminent domain. Officials had ambitious plans for an international airport with capacity for 100 million passengers a year that could even handle supersonic jets. But the airport never got built, and the land has largely gone unused.
The Washington Irving Library opened in 1926 and closed in 1990 when a newer library opened nearby. The old one was has been abandoned ever since and has fallen into disrepair. "I've personally been by it many times when there's been a lot of trash and overgrown weeds," said Galperin. "It's been a real eye sore in many ways for the community, but it has beautiful architecture and so much potential."