City Destroys Homes of the Poor to Fatten METRO’s Bottom Line

DANCE OF DENSITY-We have heard that one reason the Garcetti Administration has been demolishing the homes of poor people is to construct more dense units near Transit Corridors. They call these extra dense projects Transit Oriented Developments (TODs). Some people think that it is wise to cram high density construction near subways and light rail. As the LA Times reported, the City has approved the destruction of over 20,000 rent-controlled units since Garcetti was first elected as councilmember for CD 13 in 2001. 

What is the connection between demolishing thousands of poor people homes and the METRO Lines? 

Rent-controlled properties are older (pre-1978) and almost all of them are less dense than new projects which Garcetti wants constructed in the TODs. Since METRO lines already go where the housing has already existed for decades, there is very little vacant land for the TOD projects. Thus, existing rent-controlled units, i.e. the homes of the elderly, disabled and poor, obstruct Garcetti’s desire to create a Manhattan type density near transit lines. The solution of the Garcetti Administration is to demolish the homes of poor. 

Now, Valley Village has provided us all with proof positive that one purpose of destroying poor people’s homes is to increase new projects with much greater residential density so that bad parking and traffic conditions become so unbearable that people will give up their cars and use the METRO. The group Fix the City has previously alleged that the Garcetti Administration is intentionally making traffic much worse in an effort to coerce people to use the Metro System. 

Let’s be very clear – we are not talking about METRO’s serving the needs of the poor but rather the poor sacrificing their homes to satisfy the desires of METRO. This admission was made last Thursday, July 14, 2016, by a Garcetti appointee on the South Valley Area Planning Commission. Commissioner Dierking explained his voting to destroy rent-controlled apartments on property which the proposed developer did not even own. Here is Commissioner’s justification for destroying the homes of poor people, a quote from the hearing on the Hermitage-Weddington Project on July 14, 2016: 

“…as a METRO Employee this is a block and a half away from the orange line station and I want to see people talking less about parking and cars and more about walking to the bus and I think we need to create trans-oriented development route projects...I'd love to see the 48-unit project… ” 

After a hearing lasting hours, during which many residents provided extensive evidence of the great difficulty they were already having finding places to park, told stories of being attacked at night as they walked blocks to their homes, and complained of increasing traffic congestion, Garcetti’s appointee, who works for METRO, brushed aside all the testimony about parking and congestion as if he just does not want to see it. Instead, Garcetti’s appointee wanted to hear testimony about walking to take the bus. This is because his boss has a vested interest in more people taking the bus

In most cities, commissioners are not permitted to vote on issues which will benefit their employers. But, apparently, in Los Angeles the rules governing conflict-of-interest do not apply to Garcetti appointees – even when they admit in public that they have a conflict-of-interest. Thus, we see the decision to ignore the evidence and vote to benefit an employer. 

How far away from any semblance of fairness has the City gone for a commissioner to freely admit that his vote is to benefit his employer after stating he does not even want to hear evidence he does not like. No member of the public present at this hearing testified in favor of the Project. No one at the hearing thought that worse parking and more congestion were laudable goals -- except, it seems, Commissioner Dierking. 

After re-reading Commissioner Dierking’s admission, it’s clear that he not only says what type of testimony he does not want to see presented by the public, but he specifies what the public should be saying. Commissioner Dierking is upset that the public provided no support for Metro’s Let’s All Use the Bus mantra. 

We should note that this proposed destruction of more homes of the poor is right across the street from Marilyn Monroe’s home that was demolished with Garcetti-Krekorian approval three (3) days before the Cultural Heritage Commission hearing on the subject. 

Development does not necessarily mean “progress.” As we have seen in other places in Los Angeles, the term “development” has come to signify the predatory destruction of tens of thousands of homes of the elderly, disabled and poor because their homes are within a few clocks of Transit Oriented Districts. As Commissioner Dierking explained, the Garcetti Administration does not want to see any evidence of the harm which it is causing. Rather, the Garcetti Administration dictates to the public the type of evidence that they should present to support the destruction of their homes. It’s as if Garcetti were following a script out of a George Orwell novel. 

After years of destroying rent-controlled apartments and years of documentation that Los Angeles is slipping into decay due to the Garcetti Administration’s predatory practices, people need to assert themselves in order to save Los Angeles. 

Back in December 2013, famed international lawyer Mickey Kantor convened the prestigious 2020 Commission to address the deteriorating state of the City of Los Angeles. In its December 2013 Report Introduction, the 2020 Commission found: 

“Los Angeles is barely treading water while the rest of the world is moving forward. We risk falling further behind in adapting to the realities of the 21st century and becoming a City in decline. For too many years we have failed to cultivate and build on our human and economic strengths, while evading the hard choices concerning local government and municipal finance presented by this new century.” 

We are approaching the three year mark of this alarming indictment of the way Garcetti runs the City, but each day reveals new evidence of a predatory regime which has become so authoritarian that it dictates to its citizens what type evidence they should give at public hearings.

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Graphic credit: LA Curbed. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.