ALPERN AT LARGE - For those unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar that starts each year with the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), it's based on a lunar and not solar calendar...and this year Rosh Hashanah came early! But just as we're starting a New Year, it's evident we're starting (or attempting to) a new era in the City of Los Angeles. So Happy New Year (L'Shana Tova, in Hebrew) and here are a few "well wishes" to a New Year:
1) We're getting a reinvigorated Downtown...let's do something with it to establish a first-rate economy!
An excellent article by new LA Times transportation writer Laura Nelson describes the problems with a lack of parking and access to American Apparel and the up-and-coming Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles (LINK:). Her article raises a host of directly-related and secondary issues, and it's hard to prioritize them, but ...
... after decades of working to restore a once-forsaken Downtown, we're seeing residential and business and nightlife that every major city should have in its center. While compassion and wisdom should rule the day when dealing with the homeless and working poor who live there now, the economic power that comes from restoring a vibrant industrial base can't be denied, and more attention should be focused on expanding job centers.
... is "Downtown" synonymous with Bunker Hill, City Hall, Union Station, or something more broad? I doubt I am the only person who includes the Arts District as part of "Downtown", and I'm tired of it being forsaken. Whether it's the City and County working with the private center to cough up the money to build more parking garages, roads and transit lines (bus and DASH for the immediate future), the time is NOW to redefine "Downtown".
... the Downtown Light Rail Connector, Union Station and the Metro system extends underground to the north and west of the Arts District, and we can no longer ignore the southeast corner of Downtown as a long-forsaken portion of our City and County. It cries for a residential, commercial and employment boom that would please any fan of economic growth, urban infill, and cost-effective densification of a major metropolitan center.
... with the Eastside Gold Line Extension on a rather loooooong hiatus, when IS the time to suggest that it's not too great a project, and when IS the time to suggest that a Major Investment Study should be considered for a Red Line Subway Extension that extends 1-2 miles to the southeast to a reinvigorated Arts District? Perhaps that'll be after current Supervisor Gloria Molina is out of office--we really need to replace the "Queen of No".
2) Let's create Elegant Density...but it has to be Smart Density to be truly elegant!
The Villaraigosa/Garcetti era has morphed into the Villaraigosa/Wesson era...which has now morphed into the Garcetti/Wesson era. All three men have been accused of ignoring (and even stepping on) Angelenos (particularly homeowners) who've been unfairly demonized, belittled and cajoled into swallowing environmental and overtaxation.
The Casden and Hollywood Millennium high-rise developments are perfect examples of this trend, where it was unquestionable that the locals living near these megaprojects (not just big projects, but MEGAprojects big enough to create their own City Centers) opposed them, but a few non-local special interests were able to eclipse the needs of those residents (all decided during daytime hearings when the locals were at work).
However, Downtown Los Angeles has an opposite plight, where cheaper and lower woodframe projects are being built where taller, metalframe projects are more in order and virtually unopposed
There are three major locations for very tall high-rises (not just tall, but very tall, like ten or more stories) to occur in Los Angeles: Downtown (not so much the aforementioned Arts District but the Bunker Hill/City Hall portion of Downtown), the Wilshire Blvd Corridor, and the Century Blvd. Corridor near LAX.
Elegant Density can mean building those big projects Downtown, and offering more incentives to meet the needs of moving residential and commercial projects together. Elegant Density is NOT transforming a neighborhood of low- or even medium-density into a new Downtown.
This is particularly true during an era where water and power and other infrastructure appears to be in short supply, and arguably 50-100 years behind (and maybe even unattainable) to meet our modern and future needs. Razing old, dilapidated neighborhoods and revitalizing our Downtown, Wilshire and Century corridors is both Smart and Elegant, but to create Too Much Density lacks support from any serious urban planner.
3) Treat homeowners and residents like investors, not serfs!
Having just retaken my required ethics and funding courses to remain a Neighborhood Council Boardmember, I seriously wonder how many of the City Councilmembers and other Downtown officials have taken (and stayed awake during) those courses. Public funds are public funds, and they've largely gone to a few connected entities, many who donated to the campaigns of our elected leaders, at the expense of our infrastructure.
That a small group of South Mar Vista homeowners voted 42-38 to create a small assessment district to pave their streets and fix their sidewalks speaks volumes about decades of City abuse and misspending of City funds.
Whether it's to corporate sweetheart deals, unsustainable benefit and pensions to the DWP and other public sector unions, or other wrongly-prioritized sources, these South Mar Vista homeowners already spent their taxes on the necessary infrastructure they use every day, and now they've been desperate enough to be willing (by the slimmest of margins) to pay for their infrastructure TWICE.
I'm sure that many on the City Council and in the Downtown arena believe that the rest of the City is desperate enough to pay for their infrastructure TWICE as well, but there are three requirements for any bond, tax or other revenue-raising measure to succeed:
a) A City-wide pay freeze for the next several years must be created.
b) The residents will require local input and even control of what gets fixed, and how the money is spent.
c) The City leaders will need to apologize for past misdeeds, acknowledge their existence, and prove that these misdeeds will not happen again.
City Council President Herb Wesson and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did not get their desired tax hike in the spring, no matter how much Alan Casden and other lobbyists gave them to sell this hike--which failed to pass muster with the voters despite any organized opposition.
If the new City Council and Mayor want to succeed in any road-rebuilding effort, or any other infrastructure effort that requires raising of revenue, they will have to show courage and humility--and respect, definitely respect--to the voters that elected them, and who will have the choice in 2-4 years to re-elect them.
Let's build a New Los Angeles. L'Shana Tovah to you all, and let's all do the right things to make this New Year and New Los Angeles, better than ever.
Vol 11 Issue 72
Pub: Sept 6, 2013