LA's ‘Affordable’ Housing Efforts: Unaffordable and … Morally Bankrupt

PLANNING POLITICS--Nice to know I'm not the only one who's aghast at how the City's efforts to improve affordable housing is making things worse, not better.  Let's keep it simple, please:  we need senior affordable housing, student affordable housing, and workforce affordable housing.

Everything else is just overdevelopment, and a warped interpretation of how the City and State wanted to ensure a middle class could afford to live in California. 

My recent sarcastic CityWatch article about how developers could use, and should use, the usual talking points in justifying overdevelopment and unsustainable urban projects is something we all see just too darned often. 

And then WE get called crazy, or zealots, or NIMBY's, or racist, or what have you...which is the perfect way to get reasonable people to shut up and be shut down. 

The recent CityWatch article about the Casden Sepulveda development was a true flash to the past of what set me (and other Expo Line supporters) off about where this City is going. 

Cities and neighborhoods will always have to figure out variances and compromises for the greater good, but it is NOT the state law (SB1818) on affordable housing that is the problem...it's how the City of Los Angeles interpreted it that is the problem. 

In particular, while I find our current Mayor Eric Garcetti to be more affable and responsive than his Sacramento-based, smashmouth-politics predecessor, his "overdevelopment and neighborhood destruction with a smile" usually has the same result of his predecessor. 

And the good will that Antonio Villaraigosa lost after getting Measure R passed (because of his predisposition to enabling overdevelopment) is pretty much getting lost by Mayor Garcetti before his own transportation initiative (Measure R-2, as it's often called) because of the "sons of Casden", such as that which is being planned "by right" at 12444 Venice Blvd. 

The tallest and least affordable and most neighborhood destructive project for miles around is being promoted as "by-right" by an inscrupulous smashmouth developer who refuses to work with the public to come up with a compromise that would create TRUE affordable housing, and have a project that's appropriate for the neighborhood. 

Better to come up with a shorter, market-value condo development with lots of extra parking to serve the local commercial corridor of adjacent Downtown Mar Vista--at least THAT would be more honest than promising local artists the ability to live in $2000+/month "affordable housing". 

Meanwhile, Boyle Heights ain't the only neighborhood that's losing affordability.  The whole darned City is becoming unaffordable for the middle class! 

Meanwhile (again), the Build Better LA Ballot Initiative on this November's ballot is being opposed by business (such as the LA Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industry and Commerce Association) and LA Tenants Union alike! 

So maybe the City of LA won't be surprised if BOTH Measure R-2 AND the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative pass, but Build Better LA does NOT. 

Want to REALLY enhance affordable housing, transit-oriented development, pedestrian-friendly streets, sustainable development and urban infill, and a better quality of life for all Angelenos? 

1) Acknowledge that Downtown/City Hall and the "Planning Politburo" are being dominated by zealots who enable the uber-rich and connected, and smash the law-abiding remnants of the middle class. 

2) Acknowledge that Neighborhood Councils, local Chambers of Commerce and tenants organization will do wonders in guiding local efforts for affordable housing that are cheap, quick to build, and get the job done. 

3) Acknowledge that universities can and should direct affordable student housing efforts. 

4) Acknowledge that local businesses can and should direct affordable workforce housing efforts. 

5) Acknowledge that legitimate, non-compromised senior advocacy groups can and should direct affordable senior housing efforts. 

6) Acknowledge that, with the exception of Downtown and certain key locations, virtually ALL affordable housing developments should be 2-4 stories tall...maximum! 

7) Acknowledge that there are many neighborhoods south of the I-10 will be ripe for affordable housing and a new development of the middle class where it's been long overdue. 

8) Acknowledge that, while mass transit is a venerable and laudable goal, PARKING can and will be needed for the unforeseeable future.  If a project spills out parking to the adjacent neighbors because it doesn't provide enough parking spaces for its residents, then it NEVER should see the light of day. 

9) Acknowledge that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is by far a better plan than Build Better L.A. because, as with Neighborhood Councils, it allows a democratic, grassroots approach to teaming up with the developers who choose to play by the rules rather than our socialistic, winner/loser approach that portends to help the little guy ... but only helps the rich and powerful. 

...Because to do anything otherwise is just ... unaffordable, and morally bankrupt.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member 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 CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  alpern@marvista.org. He also 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.)

-cw