Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Friday nominated local attorney Cecilia Estolano as the chief executive for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

Estolano, 39, replaces Bud Ovrom, the former Burbank city manager who was tapped by Villaraigosa last summer to serve as his deputy mayor for economic development. Since then, Richard Benbow has served as interim chief executive.

"For far too long, neighborhoods in need all across Los Angeles have been left behind," Villaraigosa said at a Friday afternoon press conference at City Hall. "Cecilia Estolano is a driven leader who will bring private and public sector experience to the CRA to move important projects forward, so we can revitalize our neighborhoods, boost economic development, jobs and housing."

For the last year, Estolano has been an environmental and land use attorney at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Prior to that, Estolano served as Special Assistant City Attorney under Rocky Delgadillo, in charge of economic development and real estate. In that capacity, Estolano supervised attorneys who served as counsel to the CRA. She was also the top negotiator for the city in a landmark settlement involving cleanup of pollution in Santa Monica Bay.

Previously, Estolano was an associate at Gibson Dunn. Prior to that, she served as senior policy advisor with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its air and radiation section. She also served as a state Coastal Commission member. She began her public sector career as environmental policy advisor to former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley.

The CRA, which was established in 1948 to revitalize blighted portions of the city, now operates 32 redevelopment project areas covering 21,000 acres. The oldest redevelopment project is Bunker Hill; the newest are the Westlake and Adelante-Eastside projects, both adopted in 1999.

Besides focusing on boosting the area's stock of affordable housing and on turning around poorly performing areas with mixed-use development, Estolano will have to contend with a statewide ballot challenge to the eminent domain powers of redevelopment agencies. As a reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, at least one measure sharply curtailing eminent domain is expected to qualify for the November ballot.

Estolano's appointment is subject to approval by the CRA Board of Commissioners and the City Council.

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