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Wed, Feb

The Real Estate Scams Keep Coming, Along With Aggressive Policing Of The Unhoused

LAPD draws its guns in a confrontation with homeless people in Van Nuys.

PLANNING WATCH LA

PLANNING WATCH -A new independent media source, the LA Public Press, reported on a recent armed LAPD confrontation with two homeless people in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Van Nuys.  According to the LA Public Press: “The violent incident is the latest escalation against the community of unhoused people on Aetna Street in Van Nuys.”  The story then listed incidents going back to August 2020, when the LAPD started harassing the Aetna homeless encampment and neighborhood volunteers:

“Those living in or near the encampment have . . . turned Aetna Street into a thriving community.  They put on a festival called Aetnapalooza and, for a time, organized movie nights.  They also held a weekly community night to dispense hygiene kits, medical and harm reduction supplies, and food, while displaying art from members.”

At the same time the State legislature and the City of Los Angeles adopted a long list of real estate scams.  Their official rationale was that slashing zoning regulations will spark a building boom, which reduces homelessness.  This justification is demonstrably false, however, because the scams increase the market value of private parcels which then prices tenants out of existing housing.  Next, the City Council responds to complaints about the unhoused and lobbying by developers, with orders to the LAPD to break-up the resulting homeless encampments. 

According to the Public Press article, these LAPD actions begin with harassment of homeless people and their encampments.  In addition, the City Council adopted a detailed no-camping ordinance to bar homeless encampments from select areas.  Council District 5 also fenced off public areas, forcing the homeless to relocate to other neighborhoods.  This displacement tactic is fully visible on San Vicente Boulevard, near the Carthay Circle neighborhood.

In Van Nuys these anti-homeless practices have escalated to include an armed LAPD confrontation against homeless people in the Civic Center area.

City Hall’s decision to treat homelessness as a police problem not a housing problem pushes more Angelenos into homelessness.  The value of private parcels increases, along with the cost of housing.  Furthermore, other causes of homelessness remain: the elimination of HUD and CRA public housing programs, evictions, stagnant wages, inflation, speculation in houses and apartments, and new real estate scams.

  • A new California law, AB 1033, allows property owners to treat Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) as duplexes. They can rent out the ADU’s or even sell them.  When this happens, the new owners become landlords, responsible for maintenance and utilities. 
  • Another real estate scam, LA’s Affordable Housing Streamlining Ordinance, allows affordable housing projects to receive up to five zoning waivers, such as doubling the density of a project to a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 3.5: 1. 
  • While not applicable to Los Angeles, which already permits R-3 and R-4 apartments on commercial lots, in other cities, such as Long Beach, AB 2011 and Senate Bill 6 went into effect on July 1, 2023. This new legislation allows developers to turn, “underutilized and/or empty commercial buildings . . .  into housing.”

We need to carefully track these and similar housing bills because they rest on the undocumented claim that they reduce homelessness, never mentioning how they benefit real estate developers.  So far, the only local data available, LA’s annual homeless count, reveals that homelessness is increasing.  As for the actual beneficiaries, real estate developers, the latest Los Angeles Development Map documents LA’s current real estate boom, despite the city’s steady population loss.

 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which compiled these data, is a regional planning agency jointly founded by LA County and the City of Los Angeles.  Between 2015-2022 LA’s homeless numbers rose from 25,000 to 40,000 people, even as the city pursued housing programs that were supposed to reduce homelessness.

  • Senate Bill 1818
  • Transit Oriented Communities density bonuses.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units
  • LA’s 2021-2029 Housing Element has 136 implementation programs. If/when they are rolled out, I expect homelessness to still grow.

In light of the counter-productive impacts of these old and new housing programs, we can draw two conclusions:

First, local officials respond to public complaints about homeless encampments with LAPD directives to push homeless encampments to other neighborhoods, sometimes with drawn guns.   

Second, once the LAPD clears out homeless encampments, developers can build high rent, high-rise apartment buildings on newly cleared building pads.

Police harassment of the homeless therefore serves two purposes.  It placates upset neighbors, and it creates building spots for highly profitable real estate projects.

 

(Dick Platkin is a retired Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA.  He is a board member of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA).  Previous columns are available at the CityWatchLA archives.  Please send questions to [email protected].)