MIRACLE MILE--I’m sure if Mayor Eric Garcetti were asked to vote for more homelessness in Los Angeles he would answer resoundingly: NO! I’m equally sure that were each member of the Los Angeles City Council asked the same question we’d hear the same resounding answer: NO. Some might even say HELL NO!
So, that leaves many of us in the Miracle Mile thoroughly puzzled by Councilmember David Ryu’s answer to us when he was asked to save the 500 rent stabilized (RSO) apartments the City Planning Commission ripped out of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). Ryu has been a consistent advocate for rent controlled housing, yet he seems genuinely convinced that one or more of his colleagues will vote to sink the entire HPOZ if he steps up and demands that the Council save the rent stabilized apartments in the heart of the Miracle Mile.
Perhaps Ryu is worried that the Mayor will veto an HPOZ that preserves those rent stabilized apartments, which stand in the path Garcetti and his allies have carved out for supersized, transit-close development. If Ryu successfully convinces Council to restore the original HPOZ plan drafted by the Planning Department and approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, Garcetti will be foiled. The Mayor’s appointed Planning Commission eliminated those 500 RSO units from the HPOZ, so that gives us a clue as to what the Mayor might do—but maybe not. What we do know is that approximately 1000 renters will face imminent eviction if their apartments lose HPOZ protection.
Statistically that could mean that 7 of those individuals will end up homeless. And there could be more if Council President Herb Wesson follows through with his unwarranted and unscientific poll – taking in only the views of owners, not renters – that could result in another 300 rent stabilized units being sliced from the CD 10 portion of the Miracle Mile HPOZ.
The tenants of these RSO units are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends. They are valued members of our community and they cannot be cast into the streets because of the “significant investment that we’re making in Wilshire Boulevard,” as Planning Commission President David Ambroz recently said. Fellow Commissioner Dana M. Perlman echoed Ambroz: All those historic, small-scale, rent controlled apartments in the Miracle Mile between 8th Street and Wilshire had to go because the multibillion dollar investment in the Purple Line subway extension requires a future of high-rise, high-density, luxury apartments.
Preserving the neighborhood, and saving the homes of countless residents, Perlman dismissed as short-sighted. “We’re doing it for today and we’re not planning for the future, and part of our responsibility, of course, is to look to the future,” Perlman said. A future, that is, without affordable housing within walking distance of the subway being built specifically to address the needs of the transit-dependent – which is to say, people who do not live in luxury apartments and do not drive luxury cars!
Thus far, the city’s carte blanche for developers in the Miracle Mile has eliminated 100 rent stabilized apartments, constructed 1,800 market-rate luxury units, and built just 2 low-income dwellings. This is the reality which Ryu now seems willing to embrace and extend, and with it, the guarantee that some residents will end up living on the streets. Meanwhile many others will be pushed further away from the very transit corridor they were living in because they’ll be permanently priced out of the new housing being built. That’s a morally bankrupt tradeoff, plain and simple.
So it goes. Planning Commissioner Robert Ahn (now running for U.S. Congress), made the objective all too clear when he applauded the removal of Olympic Boulevard from the HPOZ. He inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he said “I think we need to maintain flexibility on a major street like Olympic Boulevard for the future planning purposes.” Is no street safe from the gilded grasp of the Mayor’s developer buddies?
Will there be a vote in favor of more homelessness? If the answer is NO, then it can only come if Councilman Ryu refuses to support the CPC gutting decision and demands all the removed properties be reinstated. And then he’ll have to show his mettle in City Council. He will need 9 other members to stand with him to override the CPC.
Councilman Ryu supports saving RSO units. He has proven that on several occasions. We need to support and encourage him to take a stand against the CPC and the Mayor. This is his Council District and he was elected to protect our neighborhoods.
No excuses will be entertained. A vote to sustain the CPC decision is a vote for homelessness. A vote to restore the RSO units is a vote against homelessness. Let’s make sure all our elected officials say NO to homelessness! Reinstate the Miracle Mile HPOZ! Save historic, affordable, rent-controlled housing!
(James O’Sullivan is President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and co-founder of Fix the City … a non-profit, citizen association whose stated goal is its name … to Fix the City. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)