ONE MAN’S OPINION - Those of us who have been active in our neighborhoods for some time know that the way the city does business is changing. It used to be you could anticipate some of what the council or Mayor would do and try to come up with counter measures, today not so much. Today there are new rules, new procedures, and a new relationship between the city and the people. I almost said between the city and its constituents, but the people are no longer its constituents. Their constituents start with the city employees, especially the unions. Then come the developers, builders, non-profits, and State and Federal agencies whose bidding they believe they must do. We the people are the left- behinds.
Much of what we see going on today can be trace back to Sacramento and Washington D.C. In order to get Federal and State monies the city must dance to their tune or fight back, which they never seem to do. That leads me to think that there is one plan from top to bottom. One of the things that has changed is the role non-profits are playing. This is an emerging group that fulfills many roles for the elected class. I think this is where the change is really happening. I’ve noticed it at the Federal and State levels but now it’s full blown at the city level.
Nowhere is it more noticeable than in the planning process. The City is beginning to update 4 community plans on the Westside. It is a huge undertaking and I just learned that there is an advisory group of 52 community leaders convened to assist the Planning department. I have no idea who appointed them, but they are there and helping the city evaluate the initial draft community plan materials. Those materials are new land use maps, zoning, and draft policies. I asked around to find out who these people were, but no one seemed to know. It took a bit of digging but I finally found a list of the 52. At the top of the list was Abundant Housing LA which told me all I need to know. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that they are the sworn enemy of single-family neighborhoods so that is really putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house. As I ran down the list, I found name after name affiliated with non-profit organizations centered around equity and climate change. The more I read the more I realized the scope of the problem. The planning documents state that these plans will help address a wide variety of topics, including “housing, tenant rights, homelessness, climate change, mobility, historic preservation and cultural resources, sustainability, and other critically important issues facing the Westside Communities.” My first reaction was they just switched the board from checkers to chess but then I realized they are designing a whole new game board and the people will not have clue until it’s to late. To be fair there were also people from Neighborhood Councils, BID’s, students, architects, and a few Homeowner groups but the heavy hand of the non-profits and business groups will be a force to be reckoned with.
The problem is no one is raising their hand and asking how the city can proceed without following the Framework Element and its Mitigation Measures. The city knows they have a problem, it is the problem they had and still have with the Hollywood Community Plan Update.
To be clear the historical way to update a community plan is to issue a Notice of Preparation that you are going to do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), hold a public Scoping Meeting so that everyone can state which environmental issues and information they believe should be studied in the EIR. There is a time limit to get your information into the record and then you wait for the Draft Environmental Impact Report to be issued, discuss it, and move on.
I am sure all of the 52 people and organizations listed in the advisory group would most surely have submitted comments throughout the process of these 4 plan updates, but they should not be allowed to front load the process. That is exactly what is going on at this point. The city knows that most people are working and raising their families and as a result come to these things over a period of time. They get notified by their chambers, Neighborhood Councils, Homeowner groups etc. and then get engaged.
The city knows all of this, but it seems it no longer cares. It is doing everything it can to do an end run around the primary planning document we have, the Framework Element. They did that by adopting the Housing Element which is inconsistent not only with the Framework Element but the land use element, the community plans. I have no doubt that they will try to change the Framework Element in some surreptitious way in the middle of the night. We can only do what we can to hold them accountable with lawsuits and eventually the ballot box.
There is an old saying which states, more will be revealed and more will be required. We have a long path ahead so stay tuned.
(James O’Sullivan is the retired ex-president (25 years) and current ex-officio of the Miracle Mile Residential Association. He is Vice President of Fix The City Inc., currently in court with the City over their adoption of the Hollywood Community Plan and we are pushing the City to be more transparent with RSO units.)