The COVID-19 global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the lives of residents around the nation. The Inglewood city council has created a Debit Card and Rent Relief program, with CARES Act funds to assist distressed renters while homeowners and small businesses received no assistance. Despite the city facing a $9.8 million revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, the city has pledged a total of $10 million of the city’s reserves to developer Thomas Safran while a long time Inglewood restaurant is facing the permanent closure of her family business.
On March 4, 2020, the city held a special meeting to enter into a Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA) with Thomas Safran & Associates (TSA) pledging $6,318,000 towards an affordable housing project at 716-720 W. Beach Blvd. According to the staff report “there is no other impact to the general fund to the DDA”. The staff report also states they expect to receive former redevelopment agency housing bonds to reimburse the general fund.
On August 25, 2020, the council made a first Amendment to the DDA with Thomas Safran & Associates with no impact to the general fund. On the same council agenda, the city was expected to advance TSA $27,500 for an electronic billboard at 205 N. Market Street which was pulled from the council agenda.
Finally, on December 8, during a special council meeting, the city awarded an additional $3.5 million out of the city’s reserves towards this same project, despite the March 4 staff report stating no further impact to the general fund would take place. The staff report states they expect to be reimbursed by the former redevelopment housing bonds for this.
In total, the city has spent $1 million on two houses for 1st time homebuyers in July 2019, $10 million to shore up the deficit in the 2019-2020 budget, $10 million towards the 2020-2021 shortfall, and $10 million for Thomas Safran & Associates for a total of $31 million out of the city’s reserves with no definitive decision from the Department of Finance as to whether the bonds will be approved.
“Keep in mind it sounds good to say the city will be reimbursed these funds,” said Wanda Brown, city treasurer. “There is NO guarantee the money will be awarded by the Department of Finance and the money will have already been spent.”
Longtime Inglewood business owners, are forced to resort to GoFundMe campaigns, to keep their bills paid during the pandemic because the city isn’t providing COVID programs to assist them.
“I’ve been crying all morning,” said Angela Johnson, owner of the Serving Spoon, who made a public plea to save her restaurant during the pandemic.
The impacts of COVID-19 has businesses struggling to stay open, particularly restaurants, who are now restricted from outdoor dining to continue to make money to pay their bills.
Meanwhile certain city employees, and Mayor Butts’ campaign donors, receive millions of dollars of taxpayers funds without council batting an eye.