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Los Angeles County, CA April 7, 2009 Election
Smart Voter

Proactively attract businesses related to arts, culture, and the entertainment industry.

By Laura Friedman

Candidate for Council Member; City of Glendale

This information is provided by the candidate
The importance of arts and culture. Glendale must proactively seek to attract businesses and investment into Glendale and place more emphasis on those related to the arts, culture, and the entertainment industry.
As A Noise Within Theatre Group prepares to leave for Pasadena, and the Arts and Culture Commission admits to having failed in its mission, the people of Glendale wonder how our city can attract and commit to the Arts.

I believe it is possible to have a dynamic Arts and Culture presence. Currently, the Arts and Culture Commission operates under the purview of the Parks and Recreation Department. This is a missed opportunity. As a City, we need a paradigm change. Instead of considering Arts & Culture non-essential extracurricular activities - services facilitated by the City - we should consider them a genre of industry to be lured to Glendale.

We must view the arts as a way to draw creative industries, enterprise, and people to the area. Cultivation of arts related businesses capitalizes on our geographical proximity to the entertainment industry, develops economic opportunities for residents and revenue sources for the city, and at the same time, can revitalize overlooked areas of the City.

Incredibly, Glendale already has the tools and financing to make this vision a reality. The Redevelopment Agency has the responsibility of fostering development, nurturing struggling areas of the City, and encouraging business. Redevelopment funding is mostly self-generated through State and Federal programs. When a blighted area is classified as a Redevelopment area, reassessments on property whose value is increased by Redevelopment investment results in those increased taxes staying with the City rather than going to the county or state. Simply put, when the City invests in Redevelopment areas, it stands to recover not only its investment, but also tax revenue far beyond what it can collect from projects in which it has no participation.

Glendale currently has two Redevelopment Areas: Downtown and the San Fernando Corridor. Although Downtown would certainly benefit from more Arts related activities, it is hard to imagine that Brand Boulevard has the space or flavor to function as a true center for the Arts. The Alex Theatre is a paragon of Glendale Arts activities, and yet even with incentives offered through the Downtown Specific Plan, the Arts have failed to take root.

Anyone who attends the packed open-gallery nights at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station knows that art galleries, and the ancillary businesses they support, do best in groups. While a single gallery can be successful, it's when enough arts related businesses congregate that something really exciting happens: a district is formed and an identity is created. Many small and large entertainment-related businesses have set up shop close to these venues.

Only a few years ago, the intersection of Washington and LaCienega Boulevards were sleepy stretches of road lined with struggling shops and neglected old buildings. Then the Culver Arts Commission was created, and empowered by Culver City's Redevelopment Agency to help identify property owners interested in developing to suit various cultural activities. Once those properties and uses were identified, the Redevelopment Agency provided the financing for renovation and rebuilding. Today, the streets leading off this intersection are home to approximately 28 art galleries, several architects' offices, and of course trendy cafes and boutiques eager to capture the young, hip customers who work in the area.

Austin Texas is considered a nucleus of art and culture. This is no accident - it's been Austin's plan for years. Their website spells out how critical they consider this approach to the health of their city: "The Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office provides leadership and management for the City's cultural arts programs and for the development of arts and culture industries as an economic development strategy on behalf of the City."

The strategy works. In 2006 Austin was selected as the top Best Big City in "Best Places to Live" by Money Magazine, and second on CNN Headline News' list of cities, ranked by the personality of its citizens.

And Austin doesn't have Dreamworks, Disney, or a geographically blessed proximity to film studios and downtown Los Angeles. Imagine what Glendale could do.

This brings me to Glendale's second Redevelopment Area: the San Fernando Corridor. This overlooked and underutilized mix of light industry and retail space is perfectly positioned to be converted into Glendale's first true Arts and Design District.

Instead of operating under the umbrella of Parks & Recreation, the Arts & Culture Commission should be reconvened as advisory to the Redevelopment Agency. The Commission should develop a target list of Arts, Design and Culturally related businesses to attract to the new district. It should help create incentives to attract these businesses, such as renovating buildings to order, providing low cost space to fledgling artists and designers, subsidizing gallery leases, building artist housing, and investing a portion of permitting fees in arts related non-profits.

It's an incredible opportunity. The San Fernando Corridor is already targeted for Redevelopment Agency financing, it's just up to the City Council to decide how to invest that money. It has mixed use zoning allowing for live/work artist lofts. It has small retail spaces perfect for art galleries. It has funky old buildings correctly zoned for film production, photography studios, rehearsal and performance space, recording studios, decorative arts manufacturing, and other Arts related business and industry. It has under-developed parcels, and unfortunately, manufacturing businesses that will not survive the current economy. It has mixed use zoning allowing for live/work artists lofts. It has small retails spaces perfect for art galleries. The City has declared the San Fernando Corridor "blighted", yet little has been done in terms of strategic planning for its revitalization.

I am proposing the designation of the San Fernando Corridor as an Arts and Design district, backed by the financial and administrative support of the Redevelopment Agency. In this scenario, the Arts & Culture Commission will act as an advisory and steering committee, drawing its commissioners from representatives of the communities surrounding the district, as well as from citizens experienced with business development, entertainment, and the arts. This new focus will bring new business, attract consumer dollars, revitalize a neglected zone, and permanently weave arts and culture into the fabric of Glendale.

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