What Do Community Benefits Agreements Deliver? Evidence from Los Angeles
Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 81, No.4, 2015, pp.251-267
46 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2015
Date Written: November 24, 2015
Problem, research strategy, and findings: Advocates of community benefits agreements (CBAs) between coalitions of nongovernmental organizations and real estate developers contend that CBAs promote public accountability and responsiveness to community concerns. This study assesses the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District CBA, which scholars and practitioners have described as a model for such agreements. I assess compliance with key provisions of the agreement related to jobs, affordable housing, and parks and recreational facilities. I also assess whether compliance with these provisions has yielded benefits beyond those required under existing laws and regulations. I find that the parties to the agreement have technically complied with many, although arguably not all, of its provisions. But some of the provisions in the CBA are not legally binding, other provisions overlap with requirements that the developer would have had to satisfy even without the CBA, and some reports required by the CBA are unavailable. As a result, outcomes such as living wage jobs and funding for affordable housing units are not clearly attributable to the CBA; other outcomes, such as targeted hiring, are unknown due to a lack of relevant information.
Takeaway for practice: Although CBAs may not fulfill all the claims that advocates make on their behalf, they can play important roles in community development by directing public and private spending to under-served neighborhoods. But collecting and verifying the relevant data may be challenging, even if reporting requirements are clearly spelled out in the CBA. As the complexity of a CBA increases, so do the challenges of assessing outcomes and assigning responsibility for those outcomes.
Keywords: community benefits agreements, redevelopment, public–private projects
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