Efforts to redevelop a blighted commercial plaza in South Los Angeles have proved fruitless -- angering residents who say the city has ignored them and allowed taxpayer money to be wasted. Questions remain about the developer's financial dealings.
"It was supposed to have been a model of urban renewal -- a mix of housing and classy stores to replace a decaying 20-acre shopping center at the foot of the affluent Baldwin Hills.
Instead, more than a year after the project was to be completed, Santa Barbara Plaza is a collection of dead or dying businesses surrounding a vast parking lot with weeds pushing through large cracks. Most of the housing was never built; none of the retailers ever came. The largely middle-class, African American area is stuck with a mostly deserted commercial slum.
Los Angeles leaders gambled on a check-bouncing, politically connected developer to shepherd the project. And after $15 million in government subsidies and more than $30 million in private investment, taxpayers -- and the community -- have lost.
"It's disgraceful," said Karen Ceasar, secretary for the neighborhood council at a recent meeting packed with angry residents. She accused elected officials of a "failure to care.""