Sun, May

We Need an ‘Affordable’ Fix for Unaffordable LA


ALPERN AT LARGE--With skyrocketing utility rates, costs of health care, and an average rent of approximately $2000 per month, it's obvious the City of the Angels is anything but angelic when creating affordability for the average Joe/Jane middle-class American.  But can we fix this affordably, or will we just continue to encourage those who built LA and California to throw up their hands and move away? 

1) It's obvious from the way our City and state spend money that we've been pandering too long, and with too much budgetary devastation, to present and future governmental services from being efficient and sufficient for taxpayers' needs. 

So whether it's the Republicans, or conservative or moderate Democrats, or liberal Democrats who understand that "Math doesn't lie", we've got to get over our mommy/daddy issues and recognize that a balanced and sustainable budget--with all of its painful sacrifices--is truly necessary if we're going to allow ourselves and future generations a chance to succeed and thrive. 

And if "progressivism" is turning into "socialism", then we better take a hard, HARD look at Venezuela, Greece, or any other paradise-turned-into-purgatory before we walk down that road.  If the middle class is fleeing to other states (like Texas or North Carolina), then we MUST take note. 

So when the issue of state pension reform hits the news cycle, perhaps we can stop ignoring it.  The reality is that cities and counties are not only grappling with their own pension/budget problems, but they also have a devastating lack of state support. 

We MUST have our City and County political heads work with our state leaders, or we'll have a fiscal crisis the likes of which will make Detroit look like a picnic--because there are only so many millionaires and billionaires in California, and because the stock market will NOT be rising forever. 

2) We MUST fund transportation as the economic engine to promote mobility for both fiscal, business, and quality of life purposes.  We finally have a name for "Measure R-2" for more sales taxes to fund transportation...it's called "Measure M".  And we must pass it.

I've been on the fence for this measure for quite awhile, because I've seen past transportation efforts lead to bad planning and developer overreach...but if we look at transportation as "income" and planning as "spending", we have to have more "income" and less (or smarter!) "spending" to fix our L.A./California household. 

Past stupidity and lack of courage/foresight in the San Fernando Valley led to an Orange Line Busway that could have, and should have, been a more cost-effective and economically-beneficial light rail line.  But the Valley's leaders blew off the experts and the transit advocates, and never reversed the Robbins Bill to show cohesive leadership and build it the right way. 

So with the long-awaited Orange Line-Red Line pedestrian tunnel finally completed and a VICA-led effort to convert the Busway to a light rail line, it'll be expensive but LESS expensive if we upgrade our transportation system NOW. 

And we need to let private employers, developers, and businesses know that we mean business when we ask them to pay for our infrastructure.  Universal Studios and the City Walk could have been directly connected to the Red Line Subway, and now everyone's suffering from that.  Ditto for any lost opportunities in North Hollywood. 

Arguably, any "deals" with hotels, developers, etc. should be focused on transportation/infrastructure mitigations.  THEY (the private sector) can and should expedite paying for freeway, road and rail connections and repairs and upgrades, and play a major role towards the conversion of fixing L.A.'s sidewalks from a 30-year window to 7-10 years. 


So we will all need to pay for transportation upgrades, because not only our freeways but our new rail lines (Expo, Foothill Gold) are clogged with commuters, and our subways are busier than ever.  

There's just no question we all need to put our money where our collective mouth is. 

3) We MUST stop whistling past the graveyard, and stop promoting Orwellian nonsense, about affordable housing when we're really just helping the rich get richer, and promoting upscale housing for the wealthy instead of giving the middle class the support and love they deserve. 

We could build 2-3 story affordable, middle-class housing all over the City (and including south of the I-10 freeway) in a matter of 1-2 years without having to build uber-developments that are geared to the "1%" or without having to transform neighborhoods from family-friendly to those that favor the wealthy and build so big and tall that "us little people" will no longer be able to see the sun and sky. 

And if our celebrity/star-obsessed City will pay attention, it's not just the "old, NIMBY cranks" who want the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative--it's also concerned Angelenos Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pine, Garrett Hedlund, and Chloe Sevigny...to say nothing of former Mayor Richard Riordan (who founded the Charter Reform that created the Neighborhood Councils) and Skid Row Reverend Alice Callaghan. 

Let's build...but not have get-rich-fast types kick some financial tail at the expense of kicking the tails of the rest of us.  Los Angeles IS moderate, IS compromising, and IS open-minded and caring. Blockbuster building that shreds the character of neighborhoods isn't "progress"...it's wanton destruction, no matter what flowery speech is used to justify it. 

So we can and should focus on TRUE affordability...but we can't wait any longer.  We just can't afford to keep kicking the can down the road, either at the political or the grassroots level. 

These are battles that we just cannot afford to lose, if we want to keep our City and state truly affordable for ourselves and our children.


(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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