A Word from the Wise: When Fixing LA’s Housing and Sidewalk Problems … Make Homes, not ‘Projects’

LOS ANGELES

ALPERN AT LARGE--With all due respect to those who live in a housing project, I think it's safe to say that most of us want to live in a home, and not in a beehive.  And with all due respect to those who live in Manhattan or in Downtown LA, I think it's safe to say that most of us would move to those places if we wanted to truly live there. 

Similarly, when we ask for a drink of water, we don't want to be firehosed and swept off our feet.

We're in a war of words, a war of paradigms, and a war of math, in the City of the Angels. 

Example #1: Mass transit always leads to overdevelopment and traffic, and/or fighting mass transit prevents overdevelopment and traffic. 

As time and experience allows us to learn the difference between our fears and our realities, we've seen mass transit and freeways through bad neighborhoods not spruce up the housing and traffic, and we've seen mass transit and freeways through good neighborhoods jack up overdevelopment and traffic. 

Which is why our mayor deserves kudos for being a transportation advocate, but also deserves scathing criticism for overdevelopment.  Hollywood needs its Red Line, and a north-south link to the developing Purple Line Subway and Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, but then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti of Hollywood pushed through OVERdevelopment. 

In other words, despite the good that Garcetti has done for Hollywood, he's also done some bad ... and it's OK for us to both praise and scorn him for his good and bad efforts, respectively (and respectfully). 

Similarly, with respect to traffic, those who fought the Expo Line tooth and nail (make it go underground from Overland to Sepulveda, even if it costs $300 million and the LADOT doesn't support it!) also fought the rail bridges.  The LADOT worked with electeds to get the Sepulveda rail bridge (which is beautiful and works well), but now we've got a traffic problem on Overland. 

Good job, anti-Expo NIMBY's, because the Expo Line Authority DID have a plan to elevate the Expo Line at Overland, and the LADOT recommended a rail bridge there, but by insisting that everything be underground, we now have a street level Expo Line crossing at Overland that is the problem everyone knew it would be. 

So let's get over the "mass transit always leads to this, or fighting mass transit leads to that", because common sense comes from all over, and stupidity, greed, and narcissism also comes from all over. 

Example #2: Addressing Affordable Housing always leads to megadevelopment, and we've got to get used to big monster projects. 

Nonsense.  Poppycock.  Garbage.  We've created stupid megadevelopment before mass transit, and we're doing it during mass transit, and if we'd voted down Measure M and voted to end all new mass transit tomorrow, our city leaders and its crony-capitalism developer clique would still advocate for overdevelopment. 

No one but NO ONE has a realistic chance of fighting a big development downtown, or on the Wilshire corridor, or wherever a "downtown" atmosphere/planning zone is SUPPOSED to be, but there's always a fight to avoid making the City into a series of Downtowns and create a new traffic jam all over again. 

And I suppose that uberdeveloper Pamela Day, an acolyte of the "Alan Casden school of overdevelopment" deserves a big "thank you" for her honesty when she spoke her true feelings at a Planning town hall regarding an 80+ foot-tall project in a 30-40-foot-tall corridor about how she thought Mar Vista was a lousy place to live, and insulted Mar Vistans as a whole. 

Fortunately, we've got Councilmember Mike Bonin and his team to remind Ms. Day and her team that 80+ foot-tall projects is still too damned high in the suburbs, and that her financial betterment isn't the driving force as to whether her project should be approved, and that infuriating the neighbors while threatening traffic, parking, and blocking out the sun is probably a bad, bad, BAD idea. 

Similar to signage, there's proper compromise, and then there's urban blight.  And if the public sees a bad idea, then the public's elected leaders should represent them. 

People want HOMES and NOT PROJECTS.  Housing, not beehives.  We could create 2-4 story-tall projects throughout the city (and both north AND south of the I-10 freeway!) to create sustainable, delightful, and happy apartments, condos, and townhomes to address the needs of those who want a place to call "home". 

And when we create tall megadevelopments, they should be located where they make sense, and require lots of mitigation to acknowledge the impacts these megadevelopments have on their taxpaying neighbors (who still, believe it or not, have rights, too). 

Example #3: The sidewalks are too expensive to be fixed, and too challenging a project to fix in 5-7 years. 

One of the main reasons that Angelenos had some misgivings about Measure M was that it didn't fix the sidewalks quick enough, and provide enough rapid funding to address this horrible problem.  But Measure M was one of the best ways to get some funding, and to get the ball rolling for private-public and other funding initiatives, to address our sidewalks.  So it was passed. 

But today, after the bruising and drama-laden election cycle that ended in November 2016, we've got new battles to fight. 

Any and ALL mitigation for new light rail lines and rapid bus lines should involve and include a prioritization of fixing the major commercial corridors adjacent to all major rail and bus stops--and with a timeframe of 3-5 years. 

Street Services, Public Works, the LADOT, Metro, and Neighborhood Councils should derive lists of the most major sidewalk fixes (and ADA-compliant sidewalk carveouts for the handicapped and for bicycles to reach their destinations) with a 3-5 year goal of fixing those problems first. 

And NO development, particularly one with variances, should be allowed to escape or avoid the sidewalk repair mitigation funding requirements needed to resolve a "War on Sidewalk Safety". 

Commercial/business zones, family-friendly neighborhoods, areas fighting urban blight, and mass transit all have something in common:  keep the sidewalks safe, clean, and user-friendly. 

And with spring 2017, with all of its City Council races, and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the ballot, the time is NOW to demand that the right balance of common sense be applied to ensure we build (but don't overbuild) the right Los Angeles for the 21st Century.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member 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 CD11Transportation 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 Dr. Alpern.)

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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