Abstract: Redeveloping Downtown Los Angeles in an Era of Fiscal Austerity

Caitlin Parker


In the early 1970s, mayors seeking to revitalize cities faced new fiscal challenges as global recession, capital flight, and the demise of federal urban renewal programs ushered in an era of austerity. This paper looks at Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's efforts to generate economic growth and fund social services by redeveloping the city?s central business district. This economic strategy allied the insurgent Bradley coalition with local and international corporate elites and helped to transform Los Angeles into a global city. Yet the pressures of fiscal austerity also made redevelopment and social service provision a zero-sum game at the local level. I show how Bradley?s economic strategy mobilized anti-tax conservatives who considered downtown redevelopment an inappropriate and unfair diversion of taxpayer money. Local political contests over redevelopment provoked costly intergovernmental litigation and contributed to the passage of tax-cutting measures such as Proposition 13. Contrary to the aims of the tax revolt, however, this fiscal retrenchment only increased the Bradley administration?s reliance on tax revenues from redevelopment to finance city services in the 1980s.