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Thursday, February 28, 2008

LA Out of Town

A reader observes:


What the heck is your beef with development and planning lately. Planning is a science, but like Medicine, its not exact. Growth happens, just like continental drift. Suburban growth outwards is no better than urban infill. both increase traffic, both strain civic and physical resources. But the planning department has to offer proactive solutions that to the best of their knowledge will create a healthy balance.

Here are a few of my problems:

Gail Goldberg's Planning Department does not address growth and density, it creates them. Look at the condos being built in Koreatown; they're for people who don't currently live here. Look at the eighty-unit "smart growth" job on the corner of your nearest bus-stop; that's the one for people who are already here, and the people who move in will leave behind an empty apartment to be filled by someone from out of town who formerly would have simply moved to Hollywood, a community that has been absorbing transitional residents of every point of origin for years. Making every community the out-of-town gateway, rather than a handful of communities, is working to congest LA everywhere, as ever-higher percentages of renters pour in from elsewhere into many neighborhoods rather than a few.

Look at all the projects downtown that were obliged to flip from owner-occupied to leased; they're now contributing to the worst planning problem LA has, which is too few home-owners. Our homeowner-renter ratio is completely out-of-whack compared to other cities, and the top priority should be in addressing that.

Look at the Planning Department's Preservation office's latest idea: protected status for the City's bridges. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time a bridge was demolished by the City. Public Works and Street Lighting were already doing a great job with the bridges, and were proud of the job they did; the measure is merely a costly slap to rank and file in these departments who were already doing a great job. The status may land a few more dollars from elsewhere, but that's just laziness and fluff: maintaining bridges adequately is already very popular with voters in quakey California, who are only anxious to give State and Municipality alike all the money for bridges they need.

A news conference for protection for bridges? You know, they really don't issue too many demo permits for bridges that thousands of people drive across every day. It took an office of six to come up with that proposal, even though the City only has two planners working on Master Plans. For the past decade, Ken Bernstein, first at the Conservancy and now in Planning, has misallocated resources on quixotic, failed projects like the Ambassador and HPOZs, and that's the kind of person Gail Goldberg rewards with a big new department, even though the City already has a Cultural Heritage Commission.

Look at all the projects at the CRA now stalled because the developers know to hold out for more money.

And look at this article this morning in the former fishwrap of record on the way growth is straining the City everywhere. The Master Plans are supposed to integrate the will of the community; but the will of the community is being thwarted everywhere. (Amazingly, it's Yaroslavski, sounding more like a mayoral candidate every day, who touts himself as a slow-growth guy from the eighties, and the Times scribe bought it; I guess none of the Times scribes or eds were around when the Westside Pavilion was developed).

San Diegan Gail Goldberg is here not because she's strong, but because, like Gloria Jeffs was, she's weak, a pushover for developers and for Council alike. She's beholden to the developer-dependent Mayor, and Antonio's narrow and further narrowing political ambitions have sold out this City to out-of-town interests at the expense of the people who have lived here for decades. Out-of-town Department heads like Ed Boks, Goldberg, and Jeffs were calculatedly weak appointments who guaranteed giving the Mayor's office and Council, rather than the experts, the strongest hand in Planning, Animal Reg, and Traffic.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Walter Moore said:

"Failed projects like HPOZs"?
Huh?
HPOZ's -- Historic Preservation Overlay Zones -- are a terrific way to fight increases in density and preserve the City's historic, low-rise architecture, with a park-like strip of front lawns connecting homes.

HPOZ's are one of the City's few successes when it comes to urban planning.

February 28, 2008 6:43 AM  

Anonymous One Who Knows said:

Get over it - Zev's not running.

He loves to pick fights and Antonio loves to rise to the bait, but in the end, he will, like all other politicians, endorse Antonio because despite what these pages may say, Antonio remains popular with the voting public and his endorsement is meaningful to their own elections.

The last thing that Zev wants to do is run and lose and have Antonio endorse someone to beat Zev for reelection. Zev's at the tail end of his career; he could have been Mayor if he had stayed in against Bradley, he could have been Congressman if he wanted to risk it.

But now, he can still be one of the five Kings (or Queens) and end his career with a couple of more terms unchallenged, unless, of course, he overcomes his "risk averse" history and risks all to run.

He won't.

February 28, 2008 7:43 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Damn Archie Bunker really does live!

February 28, 2008 9:04 AM  

Blogger westchesterkids.org said:

>>does not address growth and density, it creates them

It sure does. Westchesterparents.org has a long list of downtown growth and density projects at www.westchesterparents.org/?p=406

February 28, 2008 9:04 AM  

Anonymous a planner said:

Planning is not a science like medicine or engineering or anything of the sort. Planning is, at best, a social science with a record of mixed outcomes and unintended consequences. When it comes to getting things built, the political process and the free market will always be more important.

Joe, your beef with planning is understandable but your constant attacks on Goldberg seem quixotic because she's only been around for 2 years and much of what is going on today predates her reign. Last year you were on a public TV program with Con Howe, who bears far more responsibility. For all your tough talk on this blog, you really gave him a free pass on that program, coming off as excessively soft-spoken and non-confrontational.

Why don't you acknowledge that Goldberg has, in fact, gone against "the system" and the City Council in particular? Witness the debate over industrial land use in Downtown, she is advocating a position completely contrary to the political estbalishment.

Joe, what's missing from all your posts are recommendations. Criticism is easy. At that same public TV program last year, you acknowledged that the cost of land was the main factor preventing the "missing rungs" in the homeownership ladder, and we all know what has happened to construction material costs. How exactly do you propose that planning and zoning overcome these market obstacles? As a planner, I would like to know.

February 28, 2008 9:13 AM  

Anonymous a planner said:

Also, Joe, don't know if you've ever read "The Reluctant Metropolis," but Bill Fulton believes Zev's support of the Westside Pavilion is what dashed his Mayoral hopes in the late '80's. He pulled out after Tom Bradley held a press conference to announce he was vetoing the expansion on the basis of Zev's own Prop U.

February 28, 2008 9:16 AM  

Blogger Joseph Mailander said:

WALTER MOORE said:

Failed projects like HPOZs"?
Huh?
HPOZ's -- Historic Preservation Overlay Zones -- are a terrific way to fight increases in density and preserve the City's historic, low-rise architecture, with a park-like strip of front lawns connecting homes.


Walter, I sort of agree, but we'll just disagree on the big picture. To me, HPOZs are small cordoned off neighborhoods. Much of the City should be cordoned off from new residential development, not just the parts 50 years old or older. HPOZs are mere pinpricks on the City map; they are just a way to ensure that the entire City at large remains vulnerable to bulldozing.

A PLANNER said:
Why don't you acknowledge that Goldberg has, in fact, gone against "the system" and the City Council in particular? Witness the debate over industrial land use in Downtown, she is advocating a position completely contrary to the political estbalishment.

Joe, what's missing from all your posts are recommendations. Criticism is easy.


I make recommendations all the time. One is that we punish flippers with a heavy tax on re-selling a property you've owned for under two years. Another is to cut the CRA in half so that the Mayor and Council can't just use it as their personal slush fund. Another is to do every Master Plan at once, not just twelve at a time. Another is to prevent the Council field offices from helping developers and owners with zoning changes---that's like giving a dog a boost onto a sofa you don't want him to sit on. Another is to designate a single region---say, NoHo--for growth, rather than let it fester all over the City. Another is to make Alvarado the N/S Wilshire. Another is...

Joe, your beef with planning is understandable but your constant attacks on Goldberg seem quixotic because she's only been around for 2 years and much of what is going on today predates her reign. Last year you were on a public TV program with Con Howe, who bears far more responsibility. For all your tough talk on this blog, you really gave him a free pass on that program, coming off as excessively soft-spoken and non-confrontational.

I may have in your opinion, but the best thing that's happened to this City in the past decade has been the Adaptive Re-Use Housing Ordinance downtown. And Gail Goldberg will never in this lifetime put the kind of deal together that Catellus/Union Station warranted. Con Howe also quietly pocketed some of the loonier ideas coming out of Rebuild LA in the early '90s, and blocked a couple of other things that would have been really nasty. I like Con Howe as a planning chief way better than Gail Goldberg.

February 28, 2008 11:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Joe did offer a solution to housing: a yurt city. Only problem is, that in a city where you need permits to add a deck to your own house, that's not terribly likely to happen.

Zev did give the green light to the Westside Pavilion, and if it's true that caused him to pull out in favor of Bradley, we see how that turned out in hingsight: masses of cheap buildings shoved up by Bradley's administration all over, looking like Communist Russia.

Kind of what the black and Hispanic Councilmembers want now: pushing high-density "affordable housing" with no parking into "nice" areas of town. Finally, some attention to this from the L A Weekly, but most people have no idea what's in store for them if these are built.

February 28, 2008 11:37 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I suggest every citizen in the city of Los Angeles take these EXCELLENT suggestions and just keep sending them to the department, the commissioners, the mayor, his staff, etc.

Those who care should memorize Joe's suggestions.
Try selling these ideas to the ludicrous group of losers who are working on the planning MOU with the biggest offenders of all - the Lamishaw's!

My favorite? The council staff shouldn't be HELPING developers. I agree, but how would they get their payback for the campaign contributions.


***JM's recommendations

I make recommendations all the time. One is that we punish flippers with a heavy tax on re-selling a property you've owned for under two years. Another is to cut the CRA in half so that the Mayor and Council can't just use it as their personal slush fund. Another is to do every Master Plan at once, not just twelve at a time. Another is to prevent the Council field offices from helping developers and owners with zoning changes---that's like giving a dog a boost onto a sofa you don't want him to sit on. Another is to designate a single region---say, NoHo--for growth, rather than let it fester all over the City. Another is to make Alvarado the N/S Wilshire.

February 28, 2008 2:10 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Joe did offer a solution to housing: a yurt city. Only problem is, that in a city where you need permits to add a deck to your own house, that's not terribly likely to happen.

That's not a solution to housing, that's a solution to homelessness, nowhere near the same thing.

And if you think you need a permit for a deck, you probably have already spayed and neutered your indoor kitties too.

February 28, 2008 3:11 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

What?? I've certainly never thought one would need a permit for a deck, but I most definitely have my indoor kittens spayed.

What is the analogy here? I don't get it.

February 29, 2008 12:58 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

3:11: You're not much of a spokesman for Building and Safety, so don't try. For that matter, not for the Spay and Neuter, either. Or for...

I'm talking about a deck on a hillside, dummy. You can't put in a deck without very deep pylongs down to bedrock, not even a pre-fab spa... You know-it-all tone from an obvious know- nothing keeps popping up here and doesn't reflect well on whatever hack you're working for.

Unless of course you're putting in a huge new house, then you can play all kinds of games, since you're offering the desperate city new revenue.

As for "tent cities being a recipe for homelessness" that's not true, either. There was a tent city for the homeless until recently, and if it could be duplicated out of town, it would be better than nothing. These people developed a sense of community, looked out for each other, had an address, shared bathrooms. and kitchen. The tents had a door and a window, and residents claimed there was little robbery or crime.

The building codes are one reason groups like Habitat built more in Mexico and Central America: you can slap up a mud-brick house for a few thousand dollars in a week. They're just as earthquake prone as we are, and that form of house is actually safe in an earthquake and provides natural insulation. Joe is right about thinking outside the box, but unless you're a developer, the boxes are very tight indeed.

February 29, 2008 12:59 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

3:11, you even need a permit to redo your driveway, dum-dum.

must live in one of those high- rise "affordable housing" slums in the making, with no parking, so of course they don't have driveways or decks.

just wait, 50 people in a small apt., and in a couple of years, the building will look like the slums they came from.

Like those charming buildings in Glassell Park, maybe Drew Street, where Maria Leon raised her 13 gangbanger kids in cinderblock housing put up in the 60's -- to serve as "affordable housing" for these poor, needy gangbangers.

March 01, 2008 2:00 PM  

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