‘Build Better LA’ Campaign: Dirty Tricks Won’t Fix Our Affordable Housing Problem

LOS ANGELES

JOBS AND HOUSING PROMISES-When the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – as of this writing, slated to appear on the November 2016 ballot – was announced last fall it was enthusiastically supported by many grassroots neighborhood leaders fed up with mega-developments and spot zoning. It was instantly opposed by the developer class, the construction trade unions, and City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino, Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo, Paul Kerkorian, Mitch O'Farrell and Curren Price.

 

Now, right on cue, another ballot measure, the Build Better LA initiative has been launched. It is billed as an “Initiative to Increase Creation of Jobs and Affordable Housing Units.” Its campaign motto is: “A job. A house. A future.” 

This Norman Rockwell sales pitch is intended to camouflage the callous purpose of the initiative: it is a shameful, devious and deceitful attempt to shoot down the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and trick the citizens of Los Angeles in the process. 

Supported by the LA County Federation of Labor, this is nothing more than a political/developer-class backed attempt to keep the status quo in place by giving developers anything they want in exchange for reliable donations to reelection campaigns. It is exactly the kind of “business as usual” move that millions of people across the country on both sides of the aisle are rebelling against.  

Build Better LA is touted as a way to mitigate the surge of homelessness in LA while aiding residents struggling with skyrocketing rents (that average around $2000 a month) – but this corrupt ballot measure does not even come close to solving these problems. 

The advocates of the Build Better LA want to encourage super-sized apartment projects to be built that require a zoning exemption for increases in height, residential floor area, or density. The developer will also get three incentives or concessions from the city (density bonus, reduction in parking, etc.) and in return, the developer will add a percentage of low to very low income housing units in their market rate projects. These projects will be built within Transit-Oriented Districts and designated centers along transportation corridors. This includes all land within one-half mile radius of a major transit stop. 

What most people don’t realize is that a “major transit stop” isn’t defined as a subway, light rail, or express bus stop; it also includes any bus stop with service every 15 minutes. In other words, these gargantuan projects can be constructed everywhere in LA.

But surprise, the Built Better LA initiative does not require any affordable units to actually be built in the approved building. They can instead build the low income housing one-half to three miles away from the project. For a new apartment complex on Wilshire Boulevard, that means that the affordable units can be built below Washington Boulevard. So, how would that address the affordable housing needs of the Miracle Mile? Answer: it doesn’t. 

The developer can also pay an in-lieu fee to the city instead of building any affordable units. All monies will be deposited in the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The City will then use that money to “create and/or preserve housing affordable to Extremely Low-, Very Low- and Lower-Income households.” Don’t hold your breath on that happening, because that money will then be in the belly of the beast. The City of Los Angeles has a long history of raiding funds of all kinds for purposes other than what they were originally designated for.

I thought New York City, with its “poor door” policy where low income residents had to enter through a separate door, was bad -- but this is so much worse. This initiative pretends to help the homeless and those struggling to keep up with soaring rents, but it offers no relief they can depend on.

So, don’t be fooled, this initiative will not help our homeless problem and it will not remedy our affordable housing crisis. What it will do is to allow for even more mega-developments containing market rate apartments that will continue to add to our deteriorating infrastructure crisis.

Build Better LA is political chicanery of the worse kind: it makes false promises to the poor in order to line the pockets of the rich. Haven’t we had enough of that?

 

So, regardless of who or what you vote for in November 2016, make sure you vote no for the Build Better LA initiative.

(James O’Sullivan is Vice President of Fix The City and President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association.)  Photo Credit: Getty. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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