Wed, May

Top 10 Points to an Affordable Los Angeles


ALPERN AT LARGE-There's time for complaining, and there's time for helpful suggestions.  I've done plenty of the former, but also believe that without the latter one will get tuned out. During a time where the Mayor reports he's listening--his "back to the basics" effort and State of the City speech are focused on that--it's hoped that Affordability will be part and parcel of his leadership approach. 

And I don't mean "Affordability" as a way to screw up our quality of life--too often, clowns offer ideas to help a few investors at the expense of the rest of us.  I mean REAL Affordability as in "the middle class".  As in "let's go back to our childhood memories and figure out what worked to make those less than wealthy have what they need for a reasonable price." 

1) Food is too expensive--particularly healthy food.  Not to bang too hard on Taco Bell, but there's a reason why poorer individuals eat there more than they do at El Pollo Loco--it's cheaper.  Whether it's lowering local energy prices, publicizing the most cost-effective and healthy food locations in town, or just the bully pulpit, Angelenos who earn a living should be able to afford food. 

2) Energy is too expensive--DWP reform is one the most viable and popular challenges for our City Hall and Neighborhood Councils to pursue.  It helped get our Mayor elected.  Some of the problems we face include over-reaching environmentalists who are too quick to ignore the costs to middle-class homes, and who have their own profiteering agendas.  An open discussion of doing what it takes to lower rate costs is frighteningly overdue. 

3) Water is too expensive--and we're in a drought.  Ditto to the DWP issue of overly expensive energy costs above, in that DWP reform is overdue, and that over-reaching environmentalists (who often are quite well-to-do, and have no clue as to what a family of 4-6 with children must do to survive here).  Overdeveloping is the last thing we need to do, and our leadership has to finally come up with better agreements to claim water from outside our state. 

4) Free and open space to grow up and play is too expensive.  An agreement with the LAUSD--not the takeover proposed by the City in the past, but a true partnership--is needed to allow children and their families access to the playgrounds and open space that once a hallmark of growing up.  A paradigm of "we the taxpayers paid for these playgrounds and fields" must be promoted to allow and ensure open space to be accessible by foot. However, for those of us with easy access to our Parks, it should be noted that we've got some great people, and great programs, in our Parks--and our Parks budget should be preserved as much as should be our Libraries. 

5) Rent is too expensive--and "Affordable Housing" is being perverted by profiteering developers to the detriment of our communities.  SB1818 (the state law which allows extra densification everywhere for "Affordable Housing") must be redefined in the City of Los Angeles tto ensure more and real Affordable Housing.  Furthermore, "Affordable Housing" must be redefined and simplified--it has been my observation that there is Senior Affordable Housing, Student Affordable Housing, and Commercial Affordable Housing (keeping low-wage employees near their job sites).   

6) Affordable Housing is too expensive--true Affordable Housing should minimize, if not obviate, the need for a car.  If a married senior couple needs two cars to meet their needs, then their rental unit is not affordable.  If a student needs a car to survive, then his/her rental unit is not affordable.  If an employee needs a car to survive and can't walk to or take an easy bus ride to his/her job, that his/her rental unit is not affordable. 

7) Civic involvement is too expensive--too often, daytime meetings and everything from jury duty (understood, this is a State and not a City function) to school functions force us to choose between our jobs and our community.  The Mayor's bully pulpit and our City government needs to advocate for those who cannot be in two places at once, with meetings and functions to be scheduled as much as possible in the evenings and weekends. 

8) Education is too expensive--and our LAUSD is out of control.  Whether it's stupid union rules, cluelessness and detachment by the LAUSD leadership, or anything else, our ability to build and maintain facilities, our intelligence of how we get books and equipment to communities most in need of them, and the inane way we handle our student breakfast program shows a childishness and rigid manner in the way we spend our education tax dollars.  We need adult rules, and we need the ability of business-savvy and accountable leaders to manage our expenses and obviate a family's need to spend on education materials and classroom essentials when their taxes should have already paid for them. 

9) Higher Education is too expensive--college has been a cottage industry that's smashed and trashed the middle class for over a generation.  Online classes, partnering with the LAUSD and City resources to allow achieving high school students to get an AA degree, partnering with Kaplan and other educational programs to provide affordable SAT preparation courses in our City parks, and (most of all!) the establishment of vocational schools either in our parks or other City/public locations to focus on "jobs, and not just college" are all endeavours to consider. 

10) Job Creation is too expensive--one need not have a higher degree to get a good job that pays a middle-class wage.  Industrial-zoned land has VALUE.  Manufacturing jobs have VALUE.  I entirely support the concept of a Silicon Beach, but jobs other than that which involves a computer/engineering degree have VALUE.  And we need to court those jobs, and create locations and incentives for those jobs, as much as we're courting jobs related to the movie industry. 

The Mayor does appear to be listening, and I just heard Councilmember Mike Bonin talk about transportation and planning in a way that shows he's listening, too.  I wish that other City leaders showed they were listening, and that our City leaders would listen a little MORE, but I'll take what I can get.  All I know is that the middle class isn't being adequately represented, and that this City all-too-often caters to "the 1%" at the expense of the majority of those who ALSO live in this City. 

"Quality of Life" includes Affordbility...REAL Affordability.  One need not have to make six-digit figures to survive and thrive in the City of the Angels.


(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  [email protected] .   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, 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.)







Vol 12 Issue 31

Pub: Apr 15, 2014



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