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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dystopia Now

Enormously important editorial in today's Daily News, the kind of editorial you don't see in newspapers too beholden* to real estate ads (hey---it's like they've been reading along!)

LOS Angeles' politicians want to Manhattanize downtown by relaxing rules on tall buildings and allowing super-small living spaces. They're ready to commit billions of dollars to a subway to the sea that won't be operational for decades. And they are gearing up to lift size-restriction limits on new residential buildings citywide, provided that the buildings include some affordable housing.

Hold on a moment.

All this speeding toward densifying L.A. with little preparation and mitigation should have the city's residents worried sick...

And why doesn't it?

I think in large part it's been because of what an abomination the Bush presidency has been. People in Hollywood, downtown, even on the westside can understand that abomination. They'll go to a protest rally every three months, see the right film, and feel like they're politically engaged.

But these same people will walk down their own block and see houses they can't afford, a homeless guy with a shopping cart, a couple of stray dogs and feral cats, and a forty-unit condo going up, and not even wonder about how the hell all that has happened to their own block.

The truth is: at this point, what goes on in your local City Council affects you more directly than the abstract, distant happenings in Washington DC. We need to support the troops and we need to solve the problem of the ill-advised war. But if you think signing on for Barack or Hillary or Rudy here in 2007 is going to make a difference in 2017---well, it won't make one bit of difference over what happens on your own damn block over the next decade, at least compared to what Antonio, Eric, Tom, Wendy, Janice, and their crew do today.

The readers here don't need this message; they already know it. But they do need to spread the word: all politics is not local anymore, and that's the problem. Our City's political focus should be far more local than it is.

Our City is being sold out to big out-of-town developers daily. Because of decisions being made today, in a decade Los Angeles will be just another overcrowded, dystopic Pacific rim city, like Shanghai or Seoul. And the irony is, it's not going to be the fault of immigration, which is even becoming a bit of a red herring at this point. It's going to be the fault of out-of-city developers, the developers who act as mere agents for larger development companies, which build units upon units for people who don't even live here; and it's going to be the fault of the pols who let them run the table on the City of Los Angeles in the late zeroes.

*ed. courtesy Mr. Hoff.

Labels:

27 Comments:

Blogger Jack Hoff said:

"Behelden?"

When did that become a word?

Mr. M! Did you also sleep through high school English class?

August 28, 2007 11:05 AM  

Blogger joseph mailander said:

I know you'd rather do anything than talk substantive issues, Mr. Hoff; that's why you're Mr. Hoff. Nonetheless, edited as per your comment.

August 28, 2007 11:12 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

It will NOT be the fault of out-of-town developers. It is their job to make money developing.

The fault rests with the City Council, and especially PLUM members. They happily accept developer contributions, provide disproportionate access to developer lobbyists and then approve their projects.

All the while, they simply look the other way on the perpetual impact those projects will have. Of course, they know they will be long gone to their next "public service" job by the time the traffic hits the fan.

The fault will also rest with the Mayor, who seeks out developers for big-money "donations" to little projects like taking over the school board.

August 28, 2007 11:35 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The L A Times Steve Hymon, among others, has had a number of features and opinions an the pros and cons of Manhattanization. But when you'd rather smear them as the "fishwrap of record" (a designation most feel is suited to the L A Weekly), L A Slimes, and other clever handles that this blog likes to hand out, you just might miss an article or two. That the Daily News picked up. Kerry Kavanaugh is actually way behind the curve on this one and the take is funny.

August 28, 2007 12:11 PM  

Blogger Joseph Mailander said:

Antonio, I agree that immigration is a problem. But I also think when it comes to growth it's being used as a red herring to excuse the building of the kind of units that all but very privileged immigrants can move into. And what's worse, this kind of growth is not being controlled, it's being actively courted.

Pols like Antonio will typically start off any discussion on planning as will a developer: "Growth is a fact of life," they say. And they are winking to developers as they say it, because their solution is to build not for the kind of people who come here for baseline economic opportunity, but who come here to live in luxury condos. You can still get between two points in LA in under two hours---but you can't in Seoul, or Shanghai, or Orange County.

The L A Times Steve Hymon, among others, has had a number of features and opinions an the pros and cons of Manhattanization. But when you'd rather smear them as the "fishwrap of record" (a designation most feel is suited to the L A Weekly), L A Slimes, and other clever handles that this blog likes to hand out, you just might miss an article or two.

12:11, I do miss some Hymon articles, and usually by choice. If you have something serious to add to the debate on whether Asian-styled density is going to be good for Los Angeles, email me a link and your own opinions at aguyinla@gmail.com and let me see what you have, and let's talk about it. I'll respect your anonymity as I do all our readers who request as much.

August 28, 2007 12:27 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Joe, that issue, comparing L A to Asian cities, is a red herring. Our population is so much more used to cars than say in China, where few ever had cars. And if they object to government planning, they'll just raze their homes anyway. Hong Kong has the ferries and good light rail, buts relies a lot on buses. It's also much more densely populated, not suburban sprawl. People push and shove without a second thought, not a desirable model if you ask me. The rich in the hills use cars or taxis which are as prevalent as in NYC.

Tokyo is maybe the closest, but not exactly a model if you look at how hard it is to park a car there, and how mobbed and slow their highways are. They were in literal gridlock before they built their bullet trains which are great and always on time, immaculate and safe. But they have a very orderly population which wouldn't dream of dropping a gum wrapper and can deal with being packed like sardines on buses and subways.

Even the rich take subways to the airport and any distance, traffic is so bad and trains so superior. If we start building now, we can't get anything that extensive in 20 years. We have wider boulevards that are much less densely builtup than any of these cities or Manhattan, and need to use those too, with light rails along side, kind of what current pols are thinking about. Clustering big developments around the city will leave some space for low density housing which we will always need for breathing room and choice.

Steve's best idea by the way was to combine retail/living in smaller walking villages lined by rails.

August 28, 2007 12:54 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Two Alaska Airlines planes bumped yesterday, only one was inhabited and the passengers had to be removed from the plane. This is the third incident at LAX this week. One was human error from air traffic control, but if the planes weren't so crowded together, pilots might have had more discretion there -- came 40 feet from colliding. Another between two big 747's was on the controversial North Runway, barely avoided a big crash.

This is one of the most serious issues that the Times and D N have features on today. It's been treated as a local LAX expansion issue for too long. The FAA, LAWA and Airlines all want more distance between the north runways, locals object.

Cal officials and opinion writers say, move more traffic to Palmdale, Ontario but airlines resist. Seems sensible to get some commuters out to those airports, especially from far valleys and the O C. But how?

August 28, 2007 1:05 PM  

Blogger Jack Hoff said:

Whew, thanks!

Now I can reed the wrest.

August 28, 2007 1:35 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

C'mon guys we all knew once Antonio got into office he would hire all the crooks available, behave like a dictator and have everyone afraid of him like the clowncil members. LA has gone down the toliet with the Mecha Boy, gang banging, cholo mayor we have. Local media has also gone down the toliet with kiss asses like Steve Hymon, Jim Newton, I have hope for David Z but LA Slimes is nothing more then a spin piece for AV. BOYCOTT AND BUY DAILY NEWS. We have no real men in city council anymore. They are all babies with no guts. I would be ashamed to call any of them my parent.

August 28, 2007 1:37 PM  

Blogger Joseph Mailander said:

Joe, that issue, comparing L A to Asian cities, is a red herring. Our population is so much more used to cars than say in China, where few ever had cars. And if they object to government planning, they'll just raze their homes anyway. Hong Kong has the ferries and good light rail, buts relies a lot on buses. It's also much more densely populated, not suburban sprawl. People push and shove without a second thought, not a desirable model if you ask me. The rich in the hills use cars or taxis which are as prevalent as in NYC.

Well, I would agree on some points. HK has natural geographical constraints, as do Manhattan and SF, surrounded largely by water. And we have natural constraints too---we have magnificent natural boundaries that echo in the memory of any longtime inhabitant---the Santa Monica Mountains with Sepulveda Pass, the Arroyo, the Ballona wetlands, etc. You could go along one of these fairly natural routes and feel that you were transitioning to another place; that's a great part of our cultural heritage.

But with regards to grafting density onto Los Angeles for the sake of attracting out-of-towners here, that's just an absurd route.

The City and County were already overbuilt fifty years ago. The idea that we need higher density to make our transit system work is absurd on two counts: one, it already works, it's just that Anglos don't know it; and two, increasing density to make transit better is like clogging arteries for the benefit of an exercise program after the heart attack comes.

August 28, 2007 1:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

We may not want to attract more residents, but they will come. The poor as well as the rich, who'll be more likely to come for the culture, shopping and "sophisticated" life people put up with all the crap in Manhattan for. But many moving downtown are and will be empty nesters or never had kids, bored in the burbs types.

Many will prefer the more suburban, low-density areas like the westside valleys and hills., the R1 areas.

As for claiming we already have mass transit that works but people just don't know it, that's just not true unless you live in the busy flats and use those routes. All of the studies and common sense comps with other cities show that where mass transit it used by other than the poor in congested areas, it's extensive enough a network to get you around the city and with train lines to the burbs -- like Tokyo.

August 28, 2007 2:29 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

And they are gearing up to lift size-restriction limits on new residential buildings citywide, provided that the buildings include some affordable housing.

Hold on a moment.

It is all about Affordable Housing. Isn’t it?

provided that the buildings include some affordable housing.

If ZD has not been telling us or warning us enough about the very profitable and expensive Affordable Housing, the flushing sound of the $2,500 Affordable toilet should have waken up the whole city.

Maybe they have.

August 28, 2007 2:35 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The truth is: at this point, what goes on in your local City Council affects you more directly than the abstract, distant happenings in Washington DC. We need to support the troops and we need to solve the problem of the ill-advised war. But if you think signing on for Barack or Hillary or Rudy here in 2007 is going to make a difference in 2017---well, it won't make one bit of difference over what happens on your own damn block over the next decade, at least compared to what Antonio, Eric, Tom, Wendy, Janice, and their crew do today.

You are so right. The City action can affect each individual the most even though the total power or budget of the City is much less than the Federal government.

We have to wake up and pay attention to the $2,500 affordable toilet, mayor office’s 26 cars, planting one million more trees while existing ones don’t get trimmed, having higher density housing with far lacking and trailing infrastructure, requiring affordable housing to block legitimate development, and waiving affordable housing requirement to encourage “shady” development (so long as the development have some tress to provide the shade?) …..

August 28, 2007 2:53 PM  

Blogger Jack Hoff said:

Okay, Mr. M., I will try to expand my pea-sized brain to that of a walnut by offering something of substance. (And thanks for the editorial fix!)

First, Smart Growth is regulated growth. Are Mayor Sam's "There's Too Much Government Regulation" Bloggers ready for that? Really now, we can't complain about unchecked growth/development on one hand while bitching about gov't growth/development regulations on the other...

Secondly, SB 375 (Steinberg) is the best planning and land use bill to come out of the State Senate ever, requiring that each regional transportation agency have a "sustainable communities strategy" amongst many other traffic-mitigating and infrastructure cost-saving measures.

Sound like a familiar need?

It's currently in Assembly Appropriations held on suspense.

Okay, I'm exhausted. Must go back to being silly and irrelevant!

August 28, 2007 4:55 PM  

Anonymous unanimous anonymous insidious said:

^ "... go back to being silly and irrelevant."?

Jack, you are there already! One cannot travel to a space he or she currently occupies (such as in a chair), it violates the laws of physics!

August 28, 2007 6:01 PM  

Blogger Jack Hoff said:

...but not the Law of Psychics!

August 28, 2007 6:06 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

6:01: If that's Jack, what does that make zuma, someone who's smaller than a flea on jack's right ear?

August 28, 2007 6:08 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Why isn't anyone commenting on the fact that most of the "growth" comes from people who live here and have babies?

August 28, 2007 8:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Let's be honest. When Mayor Bradley and his downtown cronies ran this town, there was no talk about much of anything in the way of Manhattanizing the city.

So what changed? Lots and lots and lots of illegal immigrants, officially welcomed by Mayor Tony, and big business including Univision and so on.

Absent this explosive growth you would not see the investment in the downtown area and Manhattanization of the city as a whole because there would not be enough people to make it work. Instead people would chase cheap land where also, it's safer, and commute on freeways in their own private car.

It's the illegal immigrants stupid to paraphrase Bill Clinton. Illegals make up nearly all the population growth.

As a practical matter, bus lines or light rail that runs along street level are a waste of dollars, given the traffic already here at most times. People will just sit there.

It's ugly, but cheap and effective and avoids the methane risk: elevated trains that move fairly rapidly could be built fast. Far cheaper than subways too.

The downside is that any transit system requires something LA Liberals will not countenance: zero tolerance enforcement by police on every train. Otherwise it's a criminal free range hunting ground. And sensible people will simply go by car.

Liberals love the NYC of Taxi Driver and Death Wish and the Bronx is Burning. But for most people who live and work in the city it's a nightmare. One they won't put up with.

There's a reason people will prefer private cars: it's safer.

Yeah big surprise Mayor Tony watches the Blade Runner Director's cut and thinks the place is paradise. And that every developer has their hooks in Mayor Tony. But so what? Absent the explosive population growth caused by illegal immigrants from Mexico the town would still be the way it was with Tom Bradley.

Who was just like Mayor Tony in his dealings with developers, btw.

August 28, 2007 9:43 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

It looks like the Sunland-Tujunga defeat of a Home Depot may have
ignited a turn around in how building permits are handled in LA. Let's hope the rest of the LA community can
get their act together before it's too late!

August 28, 2007 10:16 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

A pretty good LA Times Opinion:

Alarcon Avenue
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-alarcon28aug28,1,5960457.story

“No wonder Richard Alarcon enjoys running for public offices (state senator, assemblyman, city councilman, mayor, etc.): The private sector just doesn't offer as many opportunities to boost the property values of a guy's fiancee.”

You can replace Richard Alarcon's name with any other LA Politician’s name, such as Tony Villar.

Replace “to boost the property values of a guy’s fiancee” with “to help relatives and friends”

“Stories like these are why people develop cynicism about the purposes and practices of City Hall “

Yes

“But ethics regulations can only go so far in preventing abuse by politicians who love zoning as much as their wives.”

Replace “their wives” with “themselves”.

Highway dedication is just like Affordable Housing. They are being required to block legitimate development, but the requirements can be waived to encourage “shady” development.

Now, you can go back to the top and change the title of “Alarcon Avenue” to “Villar Housing”, and you will have another good opinion.

August 28, 2007 10:38 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The person who said L A City and County "were already overbuilt 50 years ago" is out to lunch. When I first saw the place 20 years ago, it was all ugly mini-malls, a joke of a city in terms of ugly architecture.
The few nice buildings left downtown and around had been built before the 40's, then a vacuum. So much for Mayor Bradley and his cronies, more concerned with ethnic politics than with urban architecture or ability to attract the kind of money it takes to get put on the map.

London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo, all have historical city centers and significant sites all over. Or they have created new architectural attractions, like the fanciful ones in Barcelona. Finally, we've got people with the connections and will to drag L A out of the backwater doldrums and create something new and uniquely L A.

Since it's a fairly new concept to even try to think of a unifying concept for L A., the city Dorothy Parker so famously wrote off as, "There's no there there," it's slow going and feels pretty clumsy. But it's moving finally and that's good.

August 28, 2007 11:58 PM  

Blogger bgfa said:

"L A., the city Dorothy Parker so famously wrote off as, 'There's no there there.' "

Um, that's not right. It was Gertrude Stein who said that, and she was referring to Oakland, CA, not Los Angeles.

August 29, 2007 2:40 AM  

Blogger Scott said:

In abstract terms, I'd love to be like Shanghai.

At least they're building a massive subway system.

I could do without the totalitarian Communist Party government though.

August 29, 2007 9:56 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

9:56: The totalitarian Communist Party and building the Shanghai subway in a jiffy go hand in hand, though, no separating them. You think they worry about NIMBYs, or give much of a s't about private property issues? Private property is a new concept anyway, as is private land ownership. Few there have cars anyway, so getting them out of cars isn't a big issue, either. (The ones that do drive like maniacs, don't even stop at signs or red lights, actually regard pedestrians as target practice. If you want to see locals up in arms over bad drivers, the Chinese in San Marino or Persians in Beverly Hills are worse than any of these Mexicans. Except they usually have insurance)

August 29, 2007 1:59 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Joe:

**Antonio is right--liberals hate GWB no matter what he does

**you are also right--the Clowncil affects your life more than the clowns in DC

**showbiz and Westside liberals have ignored downtown for a long time

Lillian Disney donated money for the downtown Walt Disney Concert Hall in 1987. It took another decade plus until Eli Broad jump- started the campaign to finish funding the project.

During that time, did any movie mogul or westside liberal donate money to the project? No.

In Buff Chandler's time, the westside showbiz jews and the wasps who controlled downtown would come together (sometimes) for an important project like the Music Center.

Now the wasps have left LA, and the liberals stay on the westside and focus their energies there.

Thank God for Eli Broad--the only civic-minded person left in LA (outside this blog).

August 29, 2007 11:44 PM  

Blogger Jack Hoff said:

Quick follow-up; SB 375 (Steinberg) died this week in suspense in Assembly Appropriations.

September 01, 2007 4:57 PM  

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