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The City of Lynwood, California, already embroiled in political controversy with the pending trial of the mayor and one city council member for alleged misuse of public funds, the pending recall of the entire city council, and the dubious appointment of a city attorney with past professional-integrity issues, is facing additional controversy with the proposed Angeles Fields Development Project.
Angeles Fields is a proposed project by Lynwood Promenade, LLC, managed by John McDonald, who has reportedly advanced development projects in the cities of Inglewood and Compton. It is significant to note that the City of Lynwood will not incur any costs associated with the project as all costs incurred for the project’s development shall be the responsibility of the developer.
The project is slated to be a large-scale mixed-use development consisting of the Market Place District with 1,200,000 square feet of big-box retail use and the Las Ramblas District with a 3,500 seat performing arts center, 1,000,000 square feet of retail space, 1,000 residential units and a new civic center and city library.
In addition, the Sportstown District, possibly the most disruptive, according to some residents, but something the city asserts will become the centerpiece of the City of Lynwood, catalyzing additional developments throughout the city, will contain a 70,000 seat major league football/soccer stadium, a 1,000,000 square feet Entertainment Zone, 20,000 square feet conference center, two, 500-room hotel towers and a retail transit center, and a 500-room business hotel, structured parking and 300 residential units.
The controversy involves the existing residential area, schools and other community sites that must be cleared in order for the development to move forward. Some citizens who oppose the development have launched an active campaign to halt the development’s progress and to recall the mayor and city council members who support the development.
“After the successful recall,” one unidentified citizen declared, “we will elect officials that will halt this disruptive development project that is taking our homes and our schools.”
At the present time, the Lynwood Redevelopment Agency is reviewing the recommendations of the Redevelopment Ad Hoc Committee to make certain amendments to the developers Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA). The ENA, among other provisions, allows the developer to complete necessary feasibility studies relative to the project and gives the agency the opportunity to verify the developer’s capabilities before entering into an agreement.
At a recent city council meeting where hundreds of demonstrators marched to the city council chambers and attempted to interrupt the city council meeting with incriminating signs, bullhorns and loud, disruptive shouting, council members were inside, defending the indicted mayor and city council member, asserting and offering proof that the charges filed against them were without merit. They also spoke-out in favor of the proposed development, indicating that revenue it may generate is sorely needed to bolster the city’s revenue stream.
Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, Lynwood City Councilmember said. “The City of Lynwood needs the revenue that will be delivered by the development project.” He also indicated that his support for the project was made because it was in the best interest of all of Lynwood’s citizens noting that he ‘makes decisions on the city council as if it was his own money involved in the transaction,’ suggesting that if all of the elements of the proposed development were not in the best interest of the city it would not have won his support.
The City’s literature indicates that the proposed project will redevelop and revitalize the city neighborhoods, increase the amount of sales tax revenue and property taxes, create more jobs, create additional housing units and ownership opportunities, and provide specific amenities presently lacking in the Lynwood community.
While many citizens oppose the development, there is another well-organized group of citizens who wholeheartedly support the development. The Concerned Citizens of Lynwood Alliance (CCLA) was formed by a group of citizens, business owners, parents, clergy and individuals concerned with the continued use of illegal recalls to terrorize and threaten the city’s elected officials.
Lynwood resident and business owner, Dr. Hanan Islam provided copies of material they have published which forms the basis for a rebuttal to many of what they believe are false accusations directed at the current city leadership and have expressed their support of the Angeles Fields Development by attempting to extinguish many of the myths which do not present an accurate assessment of how the development will impact Lynwood’s citizens.
On the subject of the recall, the CCLA believes that the charges against the mayor and city council member are politically motivated noting that the alleged credit card usage was performed by someone other than those charged and the alleged $100,000 that was taken by city council members improperly was actually approved by the full council in 1998 and allows for payments for their participation in Lynwood Information, Inc and Lynwood Public Finance meetings that are held in conjunction with the regular and redevelopment meetings held on the same days.
With respect to the disruption of schools, the CCLA notes that the developer will be charged with paying the cost of removing the toxic waste material beneath the Marco Firebaugh School. They also assert that the majority of the community wants the proposed development along with the shops, restaurants, theatres, and other amenities it will bring.
The CCLA also points-out that outside studies have estimated that the city of Lynwood is loosing approximately $72 million annually in (tax revenue) ‘leakage’ to surrounding cities.
In addition, they denounce the assertion that the development will take individual’s homes noting that the developer must negotiate with each individual home owner to arrive at a fair market offer and provide relocation funding.
They report that the developer has met with and successfully negotiated with approximately 65 percent of the residents and many, among their survey sample, are willing to sell their homes at market rate. They have also attempted to remind the community that the city council has stated emphatically that eminent domain laws will not force individuals to sell their homes and that the people of Lynwood will benefit through the creation of more than 50,000 jobs, sales tax and property tax revenue to the tune of approximately $100 million, lower taxes, increased public safety through more police and even our own police force, more social benefit programs, paved streets, and other benefits too numerous to mention.
The pending recall election in late September will mark a pivotal point in the City of Lynwood’s history. Both sides appear resolute in their respective positions and of course, the incumbent elected officials are well-equipped to garner additional support to overcome a recall and in support of this controversial project.