Sat, Apr

Common Sense, Common Decency and Common Cause in a 21st Century Los Angeles 


ALPERN AT LARGE--Sometimes it's hard to traverse the path of common sense and compromise, although most of us living in the world of maturity and kindness don't have a problem with that.  And that's the majority of us. Yet we will be attacked, belittled, told we're "crazy", and cornered as we attempt to not only save, but improve our City of the Angels. 

The Expo Line is a smashing success, as evidenced by its lack of rail cars for its surging ridership.  That the lack of rail cars was warned about by transit advocates to an inept, tone-deaf, and otherwise-distracted Metro Board dominated by then-Mayor Villaraigosa might be the truth, but sooner or later we need to face forward. 

Then, Mayor Villaraigosa and the late Westside Councilmember Bill Rosendahl had to break a few barriers to get to where we are now, and current Mayor Garcetti and current Westside Councilmember Mike Bonin are clearly focused on the future. 

But at the present, it's safe to say that the Expo Line was NOT a failure, and IS being ridden by more people than many would have ever predicted … although a bunch of us Friends4Expo Transit veterans pretty much knew that the Expo Line would have exploded in ridership when it reached its goal in Santa Monica. 

My family went to Santa Monica (we live in West LA) recently with some friends, and made the mistake of using a car--time lost to drive and park made for a rather unpleasant experience. In contrast, using the Expo Line this last Sunday made for an opposite experience--less stress, more happiness, and more free time. 

In short, the Expo Line is succeeding because it's just Common Sense to use a direct train (for all of its flaws, lack of parking and lack of grade separations, the ride was sweet and the Metro staff on a Sunday night were very kind and helpful) along the mega-congested I-10 freeway corridor, which is one of the most overcrowded corridors in the nation. 

Yet we are now seeing a rush of law-breaking and overdevelopment that makes no prima facie environmental, legal, or moral sense as state affordable housing and pro-mega-development laws get slammed down our throats, and less-than-honorable cities like Los Angeles misinterpret them to make overdevelopment even worse. 

As Jill Stewart, she of the LA Weekly fame, and of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative fame, recently opined in CityWatch, Governor Jerry Brown and other "smiling tyrants" (can't accuse THEM of hurting people, can ya?) is doing anything BUT leaving California in better shape than when he arrived. 

And to think that the Democratic Party in Sacramento is supposed to be "representing the little guy".  

Well, the "little guy" (and/or gal, if you prefer) is getting bowled over as the Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League, and grassroots organizations throughout the City of L.A. and the state have the temerity to fight for Common Sense, Common Decency and Common Cause as we ask for density, development, and mobility that is ... 

... (Gasp!) sustainable!   

... (Gasp!) economically-beneficial for the majority, and not for a privileged and connected few at the expense of that majority! 

... (Gasp!) environmentally-friendly, and beneficial for the quality of life of families and for all ethnicities and socioeconomic groups! 

Of course, if one dares oppose the powers that be, there are all sorts of legal and verbal slapdowns, threats, belittlings and attacks. 

I saw it when the Westside gathered around and took on a crude, conquering and seemingly-corrupt uber-developer Alan Casden and his enabling cronies in the Villaraigosa administration, and I am seeing it now throughout the City of Los Angeles when Neighborhood Councils and grassroots groups are denied compromise arrangements in favor of godawful, prima facie, and environmentally-harmful overdevelopments.  

So it's safe to say that more transportation funding is needed this November--a "yes" vote on "Measure R-2" for a half-cent sales tax hike is in order. 

But so is a Neighborhood Integrity Initiative this spring to allow our laws, common sense, City bylaws, and environmental justice to be preserved and upheld. 

And the time to raise the issue of a legal authority in the City to defend our Bylaws and zoning/planning laws and Community Plans for average, ordinary, non-wealthy Angelenos is also coming due.  

The Bylaws and job description of the City Attorney is NOT to protect ordinary Angelenos but to protect the City Council and other Downtown powers--deal with that! 

But a Neighborhood Council legal office of some stature and power, to enhance the role of Neighborhood Councils and to not require poor and middle-income Angelenos the need to pay for expensive legal counsel and protect themselves and their communities is something that would be great for L.A.'s Downtown gods and goddesses to have to deal with, too. 

We DO need more transportation, densification, developments, affordable housing, etc. but in a matter that is both legally, mathematically, scientifically and environmentally sound. 

Common Sense, Common Decency, and Common Cause: the smashmouth era of Antonio Villaraigosa is over, the kinder but still troubling era of Eric Garcetti is in full swing ... 

... but the future of LA, where Downtown isn't always at war with its citizenry, is still worth the fight.   

And it's a fight that Neighborhood Councils and grassroots groups will have to take up.


(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  [email protected]. 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.)


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