Who Is Going To Be Liable?

Events connected with the Chavez Ravine land deal have been moving in quick succession recently with the Mayor and his henchmen apparently bent on getting as much of the transaction completed as possible before the Supreme Court acts on the appeal now pending before it.

These actions include closing and abandonment of streets, access roads, preparations to grade the property at city expense, transfer of park land, rezoning of the entire parcel to C-2, or commercial use, and lifting of the "public use" covenant in the deed from the Federal government.

The Planning Commission itself instituted the rezoning move and has been conducting unusual porceedings, to say the least, with its own staff members arguing the case for the change. In effect we have this quasi-judicial body conducting a proceedings before itself and going through the motion of making the necessary findings.

Many who have been amazed at the whole Chavez Ravine deal, and who have been wondering what is behind all the strenuous efforts to rush it through, are wondering now whether the commerical zoning is not the big plum in the bag. What was to be a baseball enterprise now could ultimately evolve as a large close-in business center of fabulous value.

Perhaps of equal interest is the request of the Mayor to the City Council that that body hold members of the City Housing Commission harmless from any liability resulting from their action in altering the deed to the property by removing therefrom the restriction that it be limited to "public use only."

It will be recalled that the Federal government, through the local housing agency, acquired the Chavez Ravine property for a public housing project at a cost of $5,562,239. When this project was abandoned the city made a deal to purchase the property at a price of $1,279,204.

The only reason for this low price, under which the Federal government sustained a loss of $4,263,035, and the reason it was approved by Congress, was that the City of Los Angeles agreed that the land would be restricted to "public use only" for a minimum period of 25 years. A covenant to this effect was written into the deed which the city received.

It is this covenant which the local housing commissioners now have removed, and perhaps under the fear that they might be held to account for their action they now are asking protection against any liability for having done so.

They probably have good reason to be concerned because it would not be surprising if some Congressman or Congressional committee didn't start something to recover the loss which the Federal Treasury suffered in this transaction, now that the use of the land is to be changed from public to private profit making purposes.

It will be interesting to see whether our City Council will cave in under this newest demand and accept this liability for our city taxpayers—or for itself.