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The Challenge of Occupying the LA Mall

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, at 12:13PM
L.A. Mall Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

A shopper walks through the Los Angeles Mall early on the morning of November 23, 2011.

City Hall's love-hate relationship with the Occupy LA encampment took another turn this week as reports surfaced that the Mayor's office may have offered the movement office space across the street in the L.A. Mall if it would pack up its tents on the lawn outside.

The 37-year-old underground structure has long been a puzzle for the city, which has struggled to find both tenants and shoppers to occupy the shopping complex and its 117,000 square feet of commercial retail space.

According to notes on the Occupy Los Angeles website, the 10,000 square foot space that the movement was offered is a space vacated by B. Dalton Booksellers, which closed its doors more than a year ago.

When it opened in 1974, the Los Angeles Mall was reported to be the nation's first municipally-owned shopping center. The city projected that when fully leased, the structure would generate $3,000 per day in lease revenue off of retailers who would be generating gross daily receipts of $50,000.

Over the years, leasing the complex has proved a challenge, and its operation has been a puzzle to at least two members of the City Council.

A 2003 outside audit of General Services' asset management division found that the department had no separate budget for the operation or maintenance of the mall property, and that leasing decisions had historically prioritized space for city offices over retail revenue.

In 2005, Councilwoman Janice Hahn filed a motion asking the city's General Services Department to report on its strategic plan for the facility, which her motion described as "fragmented, dilapidated, and uninviting."

Last year, Councilwoman Jan Perry filed a motion asking General Services to see an accounting of the complex's income and expenses.

Neither motion received a report or moved out of committee.

This morning, the LA Times reported that it is unclear whether the city's offer is still on the table. Talks are ongoing, and given the center's history, it's unlikely the space is going anywhere quickly.

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