By Colin Wood
Los Angeles owns so many properties it's lost track of some of them. To change that, city Controller Ron Galperin made two announcements Thursday. The first announcement was a new map-based website — PropertyPanel.LA — that includes data for about 9,000 properties the city owns. Second, the controller called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council to appoint a chief asset manager to implement changes based on the learnings bestowed by the new mapping tool.
“Now everyone can know what we all own a piece of,” Galperin said in a press release. “The extent of the holdings revealed by this map shows that we as a city have the opportunity to engage in widespread economic and community development, as well as to generate revenue for much-needed city services. PropertyPanel.LA is intended as an informational tool, as a resource, and as a call to action for the City to undertake a more organized, professional and strategic approach to our valuable shared public assets."
Leaders reported that the tool helped the city identify properties that are underused, previously misplaced, and that might serve the public via low-income housing, by being repurposed for city use, or otherwise leased, sold, or developed. This is the first comprehensive map the city has had to track its properties, said Deborah Hong, assistant deputy of communications for the city.
"You can zoom in, you can select by council district, which is pretty interesting to see what all the different properties are within each of the 15 district councils," Hong said. "It was designed with the public in mind. It's simple, but it's also fairly comprehensive. Private sector, public sector, just general community members, can really do a deep dive into it."
From practical purposes, like the ones the city is considering, to merely sating the public's curiosity about that unused lot on the corner, the portal will be a powerful tool for the city, she said.
"And then we've also found some other surprising pieces of property, like there's an LA City parking lot with a senior citizens affordable housing complex built on top of it," Hong said.
These realizations are the first step. Galperin is calling for the city to create a chief asset manager to do something about these realizations. He's asking for an official with private sector real estate experience who can drive big change using the new map and a $2.4 million centralized asset system already being developed by the mayor office's Operation and Innovation Team and the City Administrative Officer's office.
Galperin noted that there are several ways to implement such a role and urged the city to imbue the position with the power needed to make the opportunities forecast by this map a reality.
The controller also noted that in addition to what’s mapped, Los Angeles has holdings in other California counties and his office plans to map those in future updates.