STACK AND PACK HOUSING--2017 was a banner year for the top down crowd. California Senate Bill SB35 was especially fruitful in negating local control and zoning requirements. The City of Los Angeles acquiesced like a speculator being offered a hot Internet Coin and added its own legislation to make sure Communities could only opt in. Uncle Joe (Stalin) is smiling somewhere knowing that citizens must endure these new outrages to common sense and civic pride for the sake of collectivist housing that is unnecessary, unaffordable and mostly ugly.
Stack and Pack became the preferred development of elected officials and planners -- though no one dared call it that. Instead they called it a “housing crisis.” Stack and Pack refers to multi-family housing where we are forced to walk, bike, skateboard, or take public transit to work. After all, having the family car be the workhorse of the middle class has been called “environmentally irresponsible” -- an unnecessary symbol of mobility and freedom. Mixed-use apartments with bonuses for low income rentals became impossible to block no matter how big or how few parking spaces were proposed. Crowding is the order of the day. Car ownership must be punished till you are so sick of traffic you decide to give up your wheels and mobility and stay in the new ghettos imposed on us by all those planners Downtown and in Sacramento.
On Ventura Boulevard, new mixed-use developments have been built and more are being approved. At the moment, perhaps 10% of the population in the Ventura Corridor may be able to walk to work, a restaurant or the dry cleaners. But what about the other 90%? Must we be condemned to more and more traffic and endure slower emergency response times? Who are we building these developments for? Seniors? Millennials? Professionals?
Research shows we are not building these behemoth buildings for millennials. A study by rental Apartment List found that Los Angeles' millennial population -- residents between the ages of 18 and 35 -- diminished over the last 10 years by 7.4 percent. The withdrawal of millennials is particularly disappointing because politicians have been touting, unjustifiably, the repopulation of the city's core by younger Angelenos. Plans for more mass transit, vertical development and street clogging bike lanes have largely been aimed at the young. "The high cost of living combined with stagnant incomes make LA a relatively unaffordable place for renters," says Andrew Woo, Apartment List's director of data science. "Fewer millennials are settling in LA." Stacking and Packing apartments on the Ventura Corridor and elsewhere in Los Angeles will not change these facts.
However, the bigger reason we cannot afford excessive development in Los Angeles (or just about any place in California) is the increasingly inhospitable environment and our crumbling infrastructure. Where is the water going to come from? The current drought is persistent and appears to be getting worse. Recently, the LA Times reported: due to leaks at the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility we may not be able to heat our homes all at the same time. Our water pipes are overburdened. Has there been a 2-week period when water mains haven’t broken? Our electrical grid is also overburdened with aging equipment. Southern California Edison suggested it could take $13 billion to modernize its section of the grid. Where is that money coming from, oh, lowly ratepayer? Last summer and not for the first time, we have been threatened with brownouts or blackouts. This is just what we need when the average temperature hits 100 degrees for 3 months in a row like if did last summer.
Contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles has only seen a small population growth of only 401 people, over the last few years. If not for immigrants we would have had a net loss of over 55,000 people, according to the California Department of Finance. We don’t need to build as many apartments because Los Angeles has hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs since 2007, casting a pall over the state’s economic recovery, according to a forecast released by Chapman University. The report found that California lost 170,000 residents, on net, to other states in the last three years. Nearly all those residents left Los Angeles.
The Golden State has the fifth highest state tax in the nation, as well as high gasoline taxes that have recently increased even more, and now many Californians will suffer under the new tax reform bill. What we in Los Angeles and in the whole State need to do is conserve, rebuild, improve, modernize and make our decaying infrastructure more reliable and less fragile. We need to get our taxes and costs more competitive with other States. Our California dreaming is becoming a nightmare for the average citizen.
(Eliot Cohen is currently Chair-Person of a Planning and Land Use Committee within the Neighborhood Council System. He works as a Financial Advisor. Photo by Eliot Cohen.) Photo by Eliot Cohen. Edited by Linda Abrams.