Last updateWed, 25 Nov 2015 5pm

LOS ANGELES Sunday, November 29th 2015 7:24

Still Critical in 2013: Economy, Environment and Quality of Life

ALPERN AT LARGE - My family and I are still in mourning:  Junior’s Deli on Westwood Blvd., after over half a century in business, is closing. Needless to say, my family raced over there to eat before it closed, but while its demise might be caused by local problems, its closure also reminds us of the greater challenges of living in LA:  
Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life!
First, the Economy:  no matter what the political spinners and partisan chuckleheads are trying to sell, the Economy still stinks.  Inflation and unemployment have been hideously underreported, and a combination of factors has made food, rent and the American Dream appear elusive to all but a few.
Part of why Junior’s, Barnes and Noble and other iconic Westside businesses are closing can be blamed on local management issues, Internet sales, shopping trends and the like, but the cost of food (agricultural, transportation and especially the cost of fuel) and materials has been zooming up since before the turn of the century.  Families are increasingly struggling to put food on the table, let alone more expensive options of healthy, low-fat and nutritious food.
Ditto for unemployment—when one factors in “underemployment”, that state of being where one has employment but insufficiently so for career and income goals, the numbers could easily be 20% or more.  This horrible trend lends itself to worker abuse (even among white collar workers) because they’ve nowhere to go should they lose their job.
Ditto also for rent and mortgage costs, which—as with food, fuel, inflation and un/underemployment, the news is very bad other than for those who are extremely wealthy, extremely connected, or both.  Developers might rightfully focus on Downtown L.A. development (which is great for urban planning and for our regional economy), but the question of whether it’ll benefit only the wealthy or include the middle class is a timely question, indeed.
To make matters worse, as Joel Kotkin opines in CityWatch and elsewhere, while the Republican minority continues to be divided and distracted, the emerging Democratic majority appears to be focused more on the connected than on the ordinary American, who cares less about social issues than about financial survival and being able to feed his/her family.
Urban planners and developers talk about “affordable housing,” which ends up being merely “market-based housing” or a token effort that enables overdevelopment, rather than the student housing, senior housing and commercial housing that establishes LOW-COST housing to encourage people to live near where they attend school, go to work, and shop.
Which brings us to the “Green Economy” of California, an economy that certainly has considerable upside potential but which has yet to have the moral fortitude to shake off and exorcise itself of the demons within it—parasites with their equally-parasitic paradigms who seek more taxpayer “magic money” and political connections than they do environmental improvements.
It’s no secret that Big Solar is focused on the connected and the wealthy, rather than the local (and, arguably, more cost-effective and affordable) solar efforts by small businesses who will best extend solar power to our sun-drenched state. 
And if one points out that “the emperor has no clothes,” at least from a scientific and cost/benefit perspective (solar power should not be a monopoly, a no-holds-barred effort to make solar power cheap enough so that any household can get it without having to rely on tax/ratepayer gimmicks, solar power has a future but wind energy has very limited potential, electric cars are unaffordable but hybrids are the way to go, fossil fuels still are a necessary part of modern energy technology), that one is demonized with a McCarthyistic zeal until he/she figures out it’s best to shut up and avoid the unending slander.
Yet cleaning up our Environment has not one but two benefits:  first the obvious health benefits to ourselves and to future generations, but also a critical second benefit:  our Quality Of Life.
Which is why the efforts of  those seeking to clean up the Sepulveda Basin, so recently stymied by a devastating “slash and burn” effort on the part of the Army Corps of Engineers merits so much of our attention and concern.
Which is also why the efforts of Expo Line proponents to get the City of LA, Expo Line Authority and Metro to stop looking at us like we’re just spouting crazy talk when we call for solar panels on train stations and native planting, to say nothing of establishing the Expo Parkway along the entirety of the line as originally envisioned, equally merits so much of our attention and concern.
Why there is insufficient highlighting and requirements by these aforementioned governmental entities, and any developers planning to build near the Expo and Crenshaw Lines, to establish these two lines as greenbelts to serve both as transportation and open space, shows how little L.A. City and County focuses on what is needed to make our region so livable:
We need to have open space, greenbelts, and a pleasant place to live in order to attract good jobs, restore our Economy and Environment and allow our children a place to grow up and thrive (i.e., a Quality Of Life).
The late John Quimby (the namesake of the Quimby Act which promotes green spaces) figured out how nice our lives were with green spaces and how unpleasant our lives were without them.  Anyone who’s visited our regional, state and national parks understands that as well—regardless of political leanings.
So it’s a New Year, a time to start anew, and a time to revisit old challenges.  But let’s not forget how Economically and Environmentally lousy our Quality Of Life has become here in the City of Los Angeles.  The Economy, the Environment and our collective Quality of Life are never, and have never, been mutually exclusive.
Yet optimism can still prevail:  I wish all of Los Angeles a Prosperous, Healthy and Happy New Year in 2013!
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)
Vol 11 Issue 2
Pub: Jan 4, 2013