CRA Backs Downtown Hotel Financing

The Community Redevelopment Agency on Thursday recommended approval of a $16 million loan for a planned 56-story hotel adjacent to the city's Convention Center, despite concerns that the project could hurt existing downtown hotels. Commissioners said they believe the private sector is taking most of the financial risk in the hotel and a massive entertainment complex that they said is expected to help revitalize downtown and turn around the Convention Center. But opponents said they will go to court to fight the loan as well as a preliminary package of $66 million in breaks on paying the city's hotel-room tax for 25 years and on some fee waivers, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. They said it's unfair to provide a single hotel owner with a loan of public funds.

Getty Kept Items to Itself in Probe
The J. Paul Getty Trust, which has said it was fully cooperating with an Italian investigation into the antiquities trade, did not disclose a series of letters and photographs showing its chief antiquities curator maintained relationships with dealers suspected of selling looted art. The Getty's antiquities curator, Marion True, is facing trial in Rome this fall on charges that she conspired to traffic in ancient artifacts stolen from Italian ruins and smuggled out of the country. Italian authorities have identified 42 objects as stolen and have demanded their return. According to a confidential memo written in 2001 by the Getty's criminal defense lawyer to Chief Executive Barry Munitz, and obtained by the Los Angeles Times, an internal review of Getty files turned up letters from the suspect dealers and True, as well as Polaroid photographs of artifacts.

Southland Once Again Smog Capital of U.S.
Despite a mild smog season so far, and continuing efforts to cut pollution, L.A. is likely to take back the title of smog capital of America from Houston and the San Joaquin Valley. So far, the Southland has logged 76 smoggy days under the nation's more stringent ozone standards nearly double Houston's 41 dirty days and more than the San Joaquin Valley's 61 smog days, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The region's smog level has remained flat for the past several years after two decades of pollution-reduction efforts that cut the number of smog days from nearly 200 to the current level. Most of the bad-air violations occurred in Santa Clarita, San Bernardino and Riverside.

Hermosa Beach Vows to Fight Oil Firm as Far as Supreme Court
Hermosa Beach will fight a $500 million breach-of-contract claim brought against the city by Macpherson Oil Co. all the way to the state Supreme Court, if necessary, the City Council decided Thursday. Last week, a California appellate court overturned a trial court decision and ruled the case should go to a jury trial. In 1998, Macpherson Oil filed a lawsuit after Hermosa Beach denied the company drilling permits granted earlier at two sites. Voters later approved Measure E, banning oil and gas operations in the city. In 2002, a judge decided the city did not breach the oil company's contract when it denied the permits, the Daily Breeze reported. The appellate court recently ruled Proposition E is no shield against contractual liability.

LAUSD to Leave Offices in Wells Fargo Center
The Los Angeles Unified School District will leave offices on downtown's Bunker Hill next year for space in a 33-story high-rise at 7th and Bixel streets, the Los Angeles Times reported. LAUSD officials agreed to lease 117,000 square feet for 10 years at 1055 W. 7th St. in a deal valued at more than $25 million. The district will move administrative offices out of about 255,000 square feet in Wells Fargo Center on Grand Avenue that it leased from Maguire Properties Inc. in 1995. Employees leaving that property next July will go to the 7th Street building or to nearby Beaudry Center, which the district purchased in 2003.

Allstate to Settle Overtime Claims
Allstate Corp. said Thursday that it would pay as much as $120 million to settle claims that some of its white-collar employees in California were required to work long hours without overtime pay. Adjusters alleged that the company refused to pay overtime but routinely assigned them so many claims that they were forced to work nights and weekends. Almost 3,000 California-based adjusters are eligible to receive payments that could range from $1,000 to $100,000, depending on each employee's tenure with Allstate and amount of overtime worked. The typical payout would be $50,000 or $60,000. Adjusters make about $50,000 a year, without overtime. The proposed settlement is subject to approval by an L.A. County Superior Court judge, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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