The community and elected officials came out for a packed Town Hall Meeting on September 13, held by Mayor James Butts at The Living Room, Faithful Central Bible Church, in Inglewood. There was definitely a buzz of excitement among Inglewood residents, many of whom arrived early and started filling the room well before the event began. As Councilman Alex Padilla stated, “This is a chance to hear about all the positive things happening in Inglewood.”
The agenda was pretty ambitious—City finances, public safety, education, residential sound insulation, street construction, and a myriad of development projects, including Hollywood Park, a new community center, a 340-unit condominium project and renovation of the Inglewood Playhouse.
Mayor Butts, City department heads, and community partners kept the audience engaged, and at hour three, with no air conditioning, the room was still full. Whether you came to hear the latest on all the City’s economic development projects, to see the people’s champion, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, or to find out if Inglewood is going to get an NFL team, Butts delivered. The meeting was covered by CBS News.
Mayor Butts opened the meeting with a reminder of how far the City has come in such a short period of time. “It was 1988. The Lakers were NBA world champions and that was the last time we were of international prominence in the City of Inglewood. The Lakers left in 1999 for the Staples Center and we have not been on the radar since.”
“But in the last three years, we’ve been on the international scene four times,” Butts continued, “When First Lady Michelle Obama came to Northgate Market (a place where residents can buy fresh produce and healthy food) in February of 2012. Next, Shuttle Endeavor came through our City (in October of 2012). The Dalai Lama came to town in February of this year and then last week, we had the VMAs (MTV Video Music Awards) at the Forum.”
He went on, with the help of his executive team, to fill in the gap between post-Lakers Inglewood and the vibrant, business-friendly Inglewood of today. “When I came to office on February 1, 2011, the City had an $18.4 million structural deficit. To put that in more basic terms, it was like spending $50,000 a day more than you took into revenues,” Butts explained.
To avert financial collapse by 2017, the Mayor and City Council took aggressive action to build up reserves and increase revenue. But the biggest savings to the City was a decrease of unfunded liabilities by almost half, thanks to an unprecedented deal. The Mayor and leadership were able to negotiate with all six unions to eliminate lifetime medical, uncapped benefits for all current employees.
“Revenue projections didn’t happen by just cutting expenses. Anybody that depends on cutting expenses only to balance a budget doesn’t plan on delivering a product. And our product is service: safety, sanitation, development. So you have to focus on the economic development side.”
The Mayor and his leadership team provided updates on several of the current and upcoming developments around the city:
At 238 acres, this is the largest urban infill project in Los Angeles County. The first phase of this $2 billion investment will be in the Arbor Vitae area and consist of 146 homes and retail spaces. The development will also include a boutique and regular-sized hotel.
- Centinela Hospital Reconstruction Project
Centinela has recently been named one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation. The facility is undergoing a $30 million reconstruction. It is the only hospital in the immediate area for Inglewood residents and the surrounding communities.
- Market Street Redevelopment Project
The mayor’s vision for this $100-$150 million redevelopment is a multi-layered, second-floor residential, first-floor retail and entertainment project. It will be a live/work/play type of development with an anchor of either a boutique hotel, condominiums or some type of mixed-use on the transit-oriented development side, across from the Metro link stop. The goal is to create a natural draw for people to cross the street into that sight, then transition on into Market Street, Inglewood’s version of Old Town Pasadena. This is a big change for the City of Inglewood to run a project of this size with no city subsidies.
- Thrifty Gas Station-Community Center Project.
This is another public-private partnership and classic win-win for the community. The new community center will be a gathering space for civic members, police and the public. The City will receive an annual guaranteed minimum return from billboard proceeds for the next 22 years, be able to use the community center rent free and post public service announcements on the billboard at no charge!
- Condominium Project – 333 North Prairie.
This project sits on 18 acres of land, and is the former site of Daniel Freeman Hospital. It is essentially a neighborhood that will consist of 340 two- and three-story townhomes with direct access garages for sale. Great care is being taken to develop around the large anchor trees and to design the dwellings with modern touches while preserving character. The walkable community will also have a recreation/fitness center.
“We’re very excited and impressed with the city, staff and mayor,” said Ashish Khatana, EVP, Shopoff Group (developers). “We work in a lot of cities. We’ve been based in Southern California for two decades and I wasn’t expecting to be this impressed, but we’ve been very impressed. There’s a lot of heart and soul in this city and were excited to be a part of the re-emergence and the next chapter in Inglewood.”
In addition to these new developments, additional renovations and upgrades are planned for the Inglewood Unified School District as well as improvements to the Departments of Public Works, Public Safety and Parks & Recreation.
The highlight of the morning was an appearance by Congresswoman Maxine Waters who was welcomed with a standing ovation and enthusiastically shared with the crowd, “I’m proud to announce that the City of Inglewood has just been awarded a new $10 million residential noise mitigation grant for the Sound Insulation Program!”
Waters went on to inform the audience of just how diligent their mayor has been since his first visit to Washington two years ago to get Federal funds for this program. With funds from Los Angeles World Airport (LAWA) and the FAA, Mayor Butts’ challenge last year of 1,000 residential units complete was met and the current goal to complete 1,098 units by March, 2015 is on track. The program is scheduled to shut down at the end of 2015.
The Congresswoman went on to thank the audience for coming out to the Town hall and participating in this special part of our democracy. After a brief legislative update, Waters expressed how proud she is of Mayor Butts:
“I think that in the final analysis, this city and this mayor will be rewarded in so many ways for the leadership, for the economic development that is being done. So thank you Inglewood, you’re looking good!”
Congresswoman Waters is a hard act to follow, but Mayor Butts was able to keep the momentum going, as he closed out the Town Hall with straight talk on the question of the NFL in Inglewood:
Comparing Inglewood to other cities that have expressed interest in having a football team, Butts touted Inglewood’s merits: “We are at the center of four freeways, we’re about a mile and a half from Los Angeles International Airport, we have ocean climate and we have the largest single contiguous lot of open land in Southern California. That being said, Gerard (Hollywood Park) is already doing a project there. Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams has purchased 60 acres and he has interest in a development of some type…”
Butts continued, “Here’s what it’s going to take for football to come anywhere in Southern California: First, there has to be an owner who is capitalized enough to build a stadium. It costs about $1.6 billion to build a dome stadium. Then you need concurrence of 75% of the owners in the League to allow the team to move.
“So let’s look at the situation. We’re the only city that has an owner who owns their own land. Although, 60 acres is not enough for a football stadium but who knows, if they negotiate something with Hollywood Park Land Development, who knows what could happen. We are very well situated for that to happen if it would happen. With that said, there is no deal until there is a deal.”
Mayor Butts concluded by thanking everyone for coming out and shared his motto, “I am living the Nike slogan, ‘Just Do It.’ No excuses, just do it!”