PLANNING FOR THE PEOPLE-Not long ago I published a piece on the need to stop the LA City Planning Politburo because City Planning has long ago stopped becoming a force for rules and bylaws and started becoming a "build-build-build" shill.
Similarly, I just published a piece on promoting both the Wilshire Subway and reconsidering a long-overdue Metro Rail/Metrolink connection in the City of Norwalk.
And no, the two pieces are not in contradiction, or mutually exclusive.
In general, those who fight for more transportation options are not interested in overbuilding the begeezus out of our city, county or state. They want mobility and options and an overall increase in environmental/economic improvement, happiness and quality of life for those of us who pay for New Starts projects.
Yet we have too many vultures (often quite politically-connected) who figure out all sorts of creepy, sneaky ways to turn transportation advocates into "useful idiots" and justify all sorts of overdevelopment that no one in their right mind would want.
After all, if we're trying to catch up in our congestion and mobility issues, why would we want to overdevelop and worsen our traffic problem? Or even just worsen our quality of life?
A little bit of development is a nice compromise that makes a cute, sweet new (maybe affordable to most, maybe not, depending on the locale and development) neighborhood of homes or apartments.
A whole lot of development where we build to the moon (THE MOON, DAMMIT, THE MOON!) just infuriates and insults the intelligence of all of us -- including the taxpayers who fund new transportation projects and get their rights taken away from them in return.
So would anyone in their right mind want the arts district of Bergamot Station to be shut down just to create a monster development next to the Expo Line in Santa Monica? Maybe a "chill pill" … or three … is needed for the Santa Monica Council and Planning to create a very small housing project with commercial to make a real nice trip generator for that city...and tell the drooling developers and density-warriors to take their body parts elsewhere.
Similarly, while I think the Norwalk Green Line Extension to connect LAX and LA County to the rest of Southern California region is a darned great project, I am very sensitive to the concerns of the Norwalk City Council and to Norwalk residents, and we should all take heed to those well-placed concerns.
After visiting Norwalk last night, and hanging out with fellow Friends of the Green Line veteran Daniel Walker, we learned from the SCAG officials (who, happily are done with a quixotic MagLev campaign and are now spending their taxpayer-funded efforts on relevant issues) that the locals have lots of negative feelings and fears about this project.
One look at the map shows that city to be right smack-dab in the middle of the I-5, I-105, I-605, and SR-91 freeways, and between the soon to be LAX-connected Green Line and Metrolink. Norwalk really is a "gateway city.” The freeway access to the eastern terminus of the Green Line is reportedly substandard, and access to the Metrolink station is a problem.
So if we want to help Norwalk and enhance ridership/access/quality to the Green Line and Metrolink, we need to create a freeway/road fix that prevents cut-through residential neighborhood traffic to the current and future stations, establish a transit-oriented residential/commercial development near Firestone/Imperial that fits into that region, and a station that is near the county governmental hub at Imperial/Norwalk that makes sense.
It's likely that part or all of this would have to be a subway, as considered before in the 1990s when this was last studied, and there's already about $1 billion funded for this "county light rail connector project.” And more will be needed to allow Norwalk to be enhanced, and not destroyed, by this project.
So what does this have to do with Los Angeles and Measure S? I am guessing that Norwalk, unlike Los Angeles, isn't going to let any pro-transit sentiments allow creepy, sneaky developers (and their Planning and other density warriors) overdevelop Norwalk in the name of "transit oriented development" or "affordable housing" or "urban infill.”
Los Angeles, like Norwalk, needs homes and neighborhoods, not projects or spot-zoning. Los Angeles, like Norwalk, needs to obey its laws and not be bought out by developer money -- and it sure as HELL shouldn't need the Sea Breeze scandal and Measure S to finally, finally say no to developer campaign contributions..
Let's revisit Measure S:
- Developers will have to have to pay for their traffic and environmental impact reports to be done by independent experts, and not by their own hired guns. EIR's have to mean something, and they have to be credible.
- Backroom deals between billionaire developers and City Councilmembers will be made illegal, and City Council rules and laws will be adhered to and enforced.
- Developers will have to prove to impacted communities that their new megaprojects can absorb the new development with respect to traffic and other environmental impacts.
- Despite claims by mega-developers that they want to create affordable housing, the opposite has been the result of these at-market and oversized, over-tall projects (which often have over 50% vacancy) that ultimately leave fewer, and not more, truly affordable housing for Angelenos.
- The City Council will have to (finally) update the City’s legally-required Community and General Plans that balance growth and environmental impacts.
You know ... follow and obey the laws!
We need a Transportation Infrastructure for the 21st Century -- and we made big progress towards that with Measures R in 2008 and M in 2016.
We also need a Planning Infrastructure for the 21st Century -- let's make progress in that direction as well with Measure S in 2017.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.