City looks at new 'infrastructure district' to fund L.A. River plans


Los Angeles leaders are hoping to use a new tax-sharing law to help finance ambitious plans to transform the city's namesake river into a ribbon of recreational areas and vibrant new developments. As of Jan. 1, local officials have the authority to direct a greater share of future property taxes to revitalization efforts, public works projects and environmental cleanup. The law is intended to replace some of the billions of dollars cities lost when Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature shut down more than 400 redevelopment agencies during the recession-driven budget crisis.

L.A. officials wasted no time, taking initial steps last week toward creating what is believed to be the state's first Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District. At a City Hall hearing, council members voiced eagerness to explore the steps needed to form a district and ordered a detailed report, due back in 45 days.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who asked for the analysis, said the city's first infrastructure district would be focused on projects to restore and improve a 31-mile portion of the Los Angeles River.

Revitalizing the river is one of Mayor Eric Garcetti's top initiatives, and the city got a boost last year when the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to a $1-billion restoration plan. But the city has been trying to come up with its share of funding. Retaining more property taxes within the city is one possibility, O'Farrell said this week.

"I've been chomping at the bit for the better part of a decade to identify a permanent source of revenue for improvements along the river,'' he said. "And tax-increment financing can be a very good vehicle for that."