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Los Angeles is turning developer fees into emergency arts grants

In Brief

Los Angeles is turning developer fees into emergency arts grants

A mural in Little Tokyo, Maneki-Neko by p82 of UTI Crew (Chris Christian/Flickr)

While cities across America grapple with the blow the novel coronavirus pandemic has dealt to their budgets, each has tried to figure out what to cut. In New York, that’s lifeguards, public design, and the parks budget; in Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed cutting funding for arts and culture to $0.

Los Angeles is taking a different approach. In two separate votes on Wednesday, May 13, the Los Angeles City Council approved measures to move money raised from developer fees into small-dollar grants for suffering artists and cultural organizations.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the first measure, introduced by L.A. District 4’s Councilman David Ryu, would allow the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to convert $368,810 already allocated to the district into direct grants. The District 4 funding will go towards funding artists and nonprofit arts organizations living and operating in the district. This money was originally raised through L.A.’s Private Arts Development Fee Program, which charges private developers who are building projects appraised at over $500,000 based on square footage; developers can either worth with the DCA to install public art at their project or pay them a fee to disburse as the department chooses.

The second measure was put forward by District 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian, who was seeking a transfer of $200,000 to support his district’s live theaters and performing arts venues, specifically those with less than 50 employees. Grants of up to $8,000 will be given out to individual venues in District 2, whereas in District 4, individual artists facing particular “hardship” can apply to grants tiered between $500 and $2,000, while nonprofit arts organizations in the district with budgets of under $800,000 a year can apply for tiered grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000.

Both requests were unanimously approved by the City Council.