LA council confirms new head of redevelopment agency

The Los Angeles City Council approved a former Paramount Pictures executive today as head of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The City Council unanimously confirmed the appointment of Christine Essel to the CEO post, eight months after she lost an election to represent the council's 2nd District.

"I came to this as the former chair of the CRA,'' Essel said. "I'm bringing 30 years of business and executive experience to the job, and I look forward to putting that to use to have the agency move forward, not only in the bricks-and-mortar world that it has done so well in, but... on a job creation and and economic development agenda.''

When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Essel's nomination earlier this month, he said she would help "lead the CRA's efforts to create more jobs for Los Angeles.''

Essel was formerly Paramount Pictures' senior vice president of government and community affairs.

She has also worked as vice chair on the California Workforce Investment Board; chaired the California Film Commission and the Central City Association; and served on the Board of Airport Commissioners.

Last September, Essel was defeated by Paul Krekorian in a special election to fill the 2nd District council seat vacated by Wendy Greuel, who is now city controller.

The CRA has an annual budget of about $700 million for 32 communities designated by the council as redevelopment project areas.

Funding comes primarily through tax increment revenue which, according to the CRA Web site, are "additional funds generated by the increased assessed value of properties in a redevelopment project area.''

More than 90 percent of the CRA's active redevelopment projects involve housing.

The cash-strapped state of California has tried to take a portion of the city's redevelopment funds to help close its budget deficit, a move that has been challenged in a lawsuit.

The CRA's last chief executive officer, Cecilia Estolano, stepped down last November to join a national organization that promotes ``green'' jobs in under-served communities.