The City Council on Friday approved the transfer of nearly $8 million from the Department of Water and Power and Bureau of Sanitation to fund a children's museum in the San Fernando Valley.
In persuading his colleagues to vote for the plan, City Councilman Richard Alarcón called the funding a "critical piece" of financing for the center.
Without approval of the funds - $3.9 million from the DWP and $3.6 million from the Bureau of Sanitation - the city would miss a year-end deadline to obtain an additional $3 million in federal funds.
Additionally, city officials must open the long-stalled center by 2015, or pay back $16 million in grant money already allocated for the center.
"It would be pennywise and pound foolish not to do this," Alarcón said.
The funds will be used to build and design an exhibit focused on water conservation, recycling and solar power. The exhibit, which will take up one-third of the center's entire exhibit space, will last for 30 years.
Additionally, the DWP logo will be displayed on signs on the exhibit and on promotional materials at the center.
Critics have expressed skepticism about the funding plan, saying no independent cost analysis was done by the DWP on the exhibit cost. Nor are funds coming from monies earmarked for education.
The City Council's approval of the funds also comes as the DWP increases electricity rates, and plans to ask for a water rate hike next year.
Both City Councilmen Dennis Zine and Mitch Englander voted against the proposal amid concerns about the funding mechanism.
"I support the museum, but my the concern is that we're taking money from the DWP and Sanitation," Zine said. "What troubles me is that we increase rates and then give this money to the museum. It's not a loan, it's giving."
The new Children's Museum of Los Angeles was first proposed in 2000 as a $10 million public-private partnership. The city took ownership of the project in 2009 after the nonprofit museum filed for bankruptcy.
Earlier this year, city officials signed a deal with Orange County-based Discovery Science Center to operate the facility.
With the funding in place, Joe Adams, president of the Discovery Science Center, said Friday he hoped the center would open by the end of 2014.