(LOS ANGELES) — A vacant lot in Los Angeles is about to become a $400 million money pit, one lawmaker says, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“I think we should save $400 million and then actually sell the property,” Rep. Jeff Denham, R.-Calif., told ABC News. “Both parties need to come together and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
The U.S. government is building a massive, new federal courthouse on the site, even though there are two current courthouses nearby — Spring Street and the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building — that work just fine. Denham said it was “a blatant waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Denham, who chairs the subcommittee overseeing public buildings, has asked the Obama administration to halt the construction of the Los Angeles site and sell the property.
Despite Denham’s protests, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., said the courthouse is needed in her district. Roybal-Allard said the Spring Street building wasn’t secure enough.
“Right now, the way the situation is, you have dangerous criminals having to go into public elevators and go down public corridors in order to get to the courtroom,” she said. “We don’t have enough courtrooms. We have to bring in visiting judges — [there are] not enough judges to handle all the cases. It’s a dangerous situation which was to be addressed.”
In Los Angeles and elsewhere in the U.S., the federal government has been on a courthouse-building spending spree. A brand-new courthouse was just built in Miami for about $163 million. The old one now sits padlocked and abandoned down the road.
And in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from the Capitol building, the federal government spent $105 million on a shiny, new courthouse that has left the old site open and operating but for the most part empty.
In November 2011, the Government Accountability Office released a report saying that the federal government had spent $835 million on unneeded courthouse space and an estimated $51 million a year in rent, operation and maintenance fees.
The report also said that there was nearly four million square feet of excess space in the 33 courthouses built since 2000. The GAO report attributed the extra space to “courthouses exceeding the congressionally authorized size, the number of judges in the courthouses being overestimated and not planning for judges to share courtrooms.”
Denham said that a private developer should be allowed to buy the L.A. lot from the federal government.
And Wednesday, the U.S. government announced that Donald Trump had been selected to transform its Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — into a luxury hotel.
“You could have a private developer come in and develop that area … creating thousands of jobs in L.A. and actually putting the property back on the tax rolls,” he said. “Here, you want more revenue. … L.A. is one of those areas. There’s a huge shortage of space. [There are] plenty of industries that could build there.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Lisa France, CNN
Tom LoBianco, CNN
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News
Brian Stelter, CNN