Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday chose a row of vacant storefronts at North Hollywood’s Valley Plaza mall as the backdrop for an address in which he criticized President Obama’s handling of the nation's economy.
"As a president, you can’t control everything, but you sure can control your use of time and what you focus your energy on," Romney told a sparse crowd of supporters and media. "If I’m president, there will be something done in places across the country to put people back to work.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Eric C. Bauman were on hand to counter Romney’s remarks.
See the accompanying video of Romney’s speech and Krekorian’s and Bauman’s rebuttals.
Also, see a Patch video series on the history of the troubled malls and attempts to redevelop the area.
Krekorian, who represents the area, objected to the mall being used as an example of a failed economy.
"I think it’s really unfair and misleading for him to come here and use this as a backdrop to make arguments against the policies of the current administration," Krekorian said. "Many of us are working every single day to bring this property back to its prior state.”
Krekorian, a San Fernando Valley native who frequented the Valley Plaza and Laurel Plaza shopping centers while growing up, called revitalizing the area one of his top priorities.
In 2009 a majority owner of the property, developer J.H. Snyder, proposed a $560-million renovation to create a mixed-use retail area with a multiplex movie theater, a Target store, apartments and townhouses. However, the developer pulled out and development was put on hold.
Krekorian said the property has recently come under the sole ownership of the iStar Financial company, which has been meeting with him and other city officials on a plan to restore the area as a retail center.
Steve Magee, iStar’s executive vice president, said in a statement that the company is in the process of designing and building a new project that will be an "economic engine" for North Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
"These are people investing their own money on the future of North Hollywood," Krekorian said. "The future in this area is, in fact, bright and is not the dismal picture that [Mitt Romney] tried to paint today."
When asked about a state Assembly bill that could potentially dissolve the city's community redevelopment agency, Krekorian said that it is a concern, but a problem that the property owners can work around if CRA funds are not available for the project.
"The loss of the tools that are available for redevelopment is a significant concern," he said. "But that is the reality that we’re going to have to just deal with, and the private owners of the property understand that."
Krekorian said the new retail project "will have an economically transforming effect on the community and the whole region.”
Romney, in his address, said his 25 years of experience in the private sector gave him the qualifications to create jobs for Americans. While conceding that the Obama administration inherited the recession, he said the president has made the economy worse.
Last month, Romney made a similar campaign stop, criticizing Obama’s economic policies in front of boarded-up windows in Allentown, PA.