PUBLIC INFORMATION -- A Los Angeles garment industry trade newspaper has been rebuffed without explanation in seeking a copy of the grant application submitted by the city as part of a $6.6 million plan to purchase a parcel of land and turn it into a park, reports the Los Angeles Garment & Citizen. The report says some citizens want to know how much of the grant would go to the actual purchase, and how much would be spent on improvements.

Officials
of the California Department of Parks cited Section 6255 of the state’s
Government Code in turning down the Garment & Citizen’s
request. Section 6255 is titled “Justification for Withholding Records”
and states that documents such as the city’s grant application will be
available to the public “unless otherwise prohibited by law” or in cases
where the information is “exempt from disclosure pursuant to this
chapter…”

State
officials had not responded, as of press time, to the Garment &
Citizen
’s follow-up inquiry seeking an explanation of any specific
law or exemption—or any other circumstance—that supports their decision
to cite Section 6255 as the basis for denying the request for the
information on the park deal at 9th and Hill streets.

*****

Details
of the proposal to purchase the land at 9th and Hills streets—a
location currently used as a parking lot—are currently sealed away from
the public. State officials have said that some price or estimated price
for the land was included in the application for the $5 million grant
from the state’s Department of Parks to help pay for the project, which
has been spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar,
who represents the 14th District.

Yet the
refusals by both city and state officials to disclose details that
would indicate how much of the $6.6 million would go to purchase the
parcel of land at 9th and Hill streets—and how much would be used to pay
for amenities such as a performance stage, a play area, “fitness
stations” and other features on the site—has raised concerns among some
community members.

Critics say the lack of specifics leaves them with
insufficient information to judge whether the plan is feasible or
desirable.
The
lack of information and clarity also leaves some observers on alert
because the proposal at 9th and Hill streets comes approximately one
year after city officials agreed to pay $5.6 million for a similarly
sized parcel of land intended to be turned into a park on the 400 block
of S. Spring Street.

The price tag for the parcel on Spring Street—also a
parking lot—included only the cost of the land. City officials
eventually cut their offer to $5.1 million after a series of reports in
the Garment & Citizen shed light on a number of
irregularities and inconsistencies in methods used to determine the
land’s value.
Meanwhile,
the real estate market has yet to see a significant recovery in the
Downtown area over the past year.

The parcel of land at 9th and Hill
streets has recently been listed for sale at $8 million, although it’s
found no takers after several years on the market. Some real estate
industry professionals have said they believe that the parcel could be
purchased for significantly less, although it remains a matter of
guesswork to determine what sort of savings the city could realize amid
the ongoing downturn.
(See related story, “Did
Move to Deny Us Defy Schwarzenegger?
”