Corruption: The Way the City Does Business?

ALPERN AT LARGE - In my previous article that addressed the oversized, Godzilla-like Casden/Sepulveda project that is likely to destroy the mobility and livability of much of the Westside, and which is being slammed into the Planning process against the opposition of Westside City Councilmembers and neighborhood leaders , I noted that the Casden developers were pushing for December 5, 2012 Planning Hearing before the Final EIR even came out.
Then the other shoe dropped:  the Final EIR snuck through last week, right after a distracting election season and right before an equally distracting holiday season, starting with this Thanksgiving.  Which got me (and other grassroots leaders) thinking…isn’t this “other shoe dropping” the way LA does business?
 
Some call it anarchy, some call it pushing the envelope, and some call it other things—like “corruption” or “thwarting the will of the voters, taxpayers and anyone else who believes in the rule of law” but that other shoe keeps dropping, doesn’t it?
 
So against the urgings of both CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and CD5 Councilmember Koretz and their staff, the Casden Developers are pushing for a major zone-tract change and slew of associated variants for its Westside development (next to the future Exposition/Sepulveda Exposition Light Rail Line station, and at the intersection of Pico, Exposition, Sepulveda) at a Planning Hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at the West LA Municipal Building (Santa Monica and Corinth).
 
The grassroots, thanks to the Internet and a healthy grassroots enthusiasm, is up in arms and I’m happy to report that a much higher pre-holiday turnout than I expected attended this week’s meetings of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and the Mar Vista Community Council Planning Committee to derive language to oppose this monstrosity, despite the upcoming holidays (which we would rather be preparing for with our families).
 
We do fear that these Casden Developers, who have a sordid history of influence peddling and political pay-to-play (LINK: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/oct/15/local/me-casden15) in the City of Los Angeles, are already marching forward with the understanding that a 13-2 vote of the City Council (over the presumed opposition of the two Westside Councilmembers) will get this hideously poor example of land use passed.
 
It’s quite clear that the Casden Developers operate by the Charlie Sheen paradigm of “WINNING!” to get their dreams to come true, regardless of the damage and grief they inflict upon everyone else with their smashmouth tactics.  They know darn well that the 538-unit development and 260,000 square feet of retail planned at this location that everyone with a planning degree, a transportation degree, or even a shred of common sense knows it’s unworkable from the outset.
 
They know that their underhanded way of slamming this through the Planning and political process is almost certainly prima facie evidence that this project is just too darned big for this land parcel—which is a real shame, because this location (as well as the Pico/Sepulveda intersection) is an excellent location for a truly transit-oriented, job-centered development and Westside Regional Transportation Center because of its proximity to the Expo Line, Pico and Sepulveda Blvds., and the I-405 and I-10 freeways.
 
But that all falls to the wayside when one embraces the “WINNING!” approach to doing things in the City of the Angels.
 
So when greedy and connected individuals want to thwart the intent of creating and preserving single-family housing tracts by stopping a Community Care Facility Ordinance process that keeps single-family homes from becoming R2, R3 and R4 parcels with multiple individuals and families (despite a lack of traffic, parking, water, electricity and infrastructural support), the City Council can ignore the cries of the majority and do the bidding of the connected lawbreakers, it’s  “WINNING!” as the other shoe drops.
 
So when the DWP and City Council continue to sneak in more revenues and let over-empowered public unions (who’ve gone way beyond the realm of defending workers’ rights and gotten quite comfortable stepping on the necks of taxpayers) avoid the necessary belt-tightening that the rest of us are experiencing every day, it’s “WINNING!” as the other shoe drops.
 
So when City and DWP unions ignore the lack of funds devoted to currently-working City staff and taxpayer-funded public services, because our City budget is increasingly being diverted to retired and soon-to-be retired City workers who pulled off (and want to continue pulling off) a slew of hell-spawned pension/benefit arrangements, it’s “WINNING!” as the other shoe drops.
 
So when Herb Wesson and the City Council slam through a half-cent sales tax to hurt all Angelenos, both rich and poor, with the main focus on supporting the bloated, ever-exploding and unsustainable pension budget—and not on vital City services—it’s “WINNING!” as the other shoe drops.
 
So when the last major Democratic figure in the region who had the power and desire to restore the City’s fiscal house in order (Zev Yaroslavsky), drops out of the Mayoral race, the remaining Democratic insiders fight Republican ex-mayor Riordan’s ballot initiative to prevent the City from going bankrupt, and fight Republican outsider and former radio commentator Kevin James’ SuperPAC to even the odds in a city that is under the thumb of public sector unions gone mad.
 
Again, it’s “WINNING!” as the taxpayers and residents and businesses of LA, both Democratic and Republican, lose big time with “the other shoe dropping” becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.
 
So here’s a reminder or three to the Downtown interests who are driving this City into the ground, and who mistakenly believe that taxpayers and residents and businesses have an unlimited capacity to absorb the excessive taxation and political malfeasance of our way of doing business:
 
1) We can always say “NO” to the proposed half-cent sales tax, and demand City Hall make the tough, painful but necessary decisions to allow our City to survive.
 
2) We can always say “YES” to Mayor Riordan’s ballot measure—he’s got nothing politically to gain from this measure, only a desire to see our City survive.
 
3) We can always just throw in the towel and demand our next Mayor be the one to pull the inevitable Bankruptcy ripcord—I’ve heard enough liberal and conservative, and Democratic and Republican, folks declare a resignation to this approach that I increasingly presume that Bankruptcy is, indeed, inevitable.
 
So, Downtown…how are THOSE other shoes that can, and probably will, drop?
 
(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 Alpern@MarVista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 
-cw
 
 
 
 
CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 94
Pub: Nov 23, 2012