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For Tujunga: The Wrong Kind of Affordable Housing

NEIGHBORHOODS - During the Los Angeles City Council meeting held on Friday, April 8, 2011, Councilmember Paul Krekorian said that a proposal to build a 64-unit, three-and-four-bedroom, “affordable rental housing” project for large families, using SB1818 bonus density benefits in Tujunga, must be vetted by the community of Sunland-Tujunga before actual funding can take place.


The project proposed for 10046-10056 Samoa Ave, Tujunga, is on a busy, sub-standard street within 100-150 feet of Bolton Hall Museum, a Los Angeles Historical Resource, known as  the second historical resource in the City of Los Angeles to be included on the California List.

Due to the densification of the surrounding residential area, there is no public parking at Bolton Hall. The coveted street parking next to the museum is taken by cars that spill over from the crowded multi-family residential buildings where parking is sorely inadequate  (see California Code Section 65915, as amended by SB1818, for historical resource protections from adverse impacts such as would be caused by this proposed project).

Additionally, our “Historic Old Town”  Commerce Avenue shopping area is only one block from the proposed project. It was recently restored by the city with new sidewalks, curbs, gutters, flower pots, a Verdin clock and street furniture with donated city and Federal Stimulus Funds.

These two blocks of Old Town Commerce that already lack sufficient parking are adversely affected by overflow parking  the same way  as Bolton Hall Museum. The proposed auto-dependent apartment building is about one-third of a mile from limited public bus service.  

Three-and-four-bedroom apartments often become home to several adults and extended families  in each apartment who must drive to work, schools, and shopping. The increase in traffic on this narrow street cannot be mitigated.

It’s also important to note that Samoa Ave has no curbs, gutters, or sidewalks and is built on an old creek bed. Although dry most of the year, the street is subject to severe flooding during heavy rains as are many surrounding streets. The ground water percolation on these lots will end after construction. The runoff will pour down Samoa causing even more flooding below on Commerce Avenue, as well as Foothill and Tujunga Canyon Boulevards during the rainy season.

Another “Quality of Life Issue” must be considered: This high-density neighborhood already has more than its share of crime. It is considered a  "high crime" area. A dense, closed off, "affordable housing" project will only increase this already serious problem.

Sunland-Tujunga is not against “affordable housing.”  Since this dense neighborhood already has more than its share of very affordable, non-government regulated rental units, we prefer to have for-sale housing which provides pride of home ownership and helps to improve the neighborhood.

Despite Councilmember Krekorian’s assurance of community involvement, many community members  have questions.

Has this project been secretly under wraps at the Mayor’s office? In early February, before the community had become aware of the intended development, the Mayor sent a letter to the City Council asking them to pass the $13 million Tax-Exempt Revenue Funding resolution for this "proposed" project.

Why was our community not notified sooner of this action?

If this project is truly in the infant stage of planning, how can the developers know they need funding equal to $13 million?  

How can the city allow this large a project to go forward especially on this street, under the above conditions that also include the  close proximity to a Historical Resource, without a full Environmental Impact Report?

Why, when they came to the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council’s Land Use committee meeting, did Milare Housing say their proposal was “exploratory only," and that they didn’t own the property yet? They also added that they would have the project approved by July 2011.  

How would  they possibly have had this project approved in four months?

Did  the developers  already select a general contractor because they are a spinoff of another company?

Were their plans actually solidified before they met with our community?  If so, with whom and how much "after the fact” vetting by the community can  actually take place?

Let’s call the Samoa Project exactly what it is - a low income “Housing Project.”

Some studies such as this Public Housing Project Study (pages 6 and 7), have indicated that it is better to plan "affordable housing" within smaller buildings integrated throughout the city without changing the character of the neighborhoods, allowing families to assimilate into their newly adopted communities in a more healthy, less stressful environment  providing a higher  quality of life.

When Councilmember Paul Krekorian first took office he was immersed in an SB1818 project in Valley Village and he immediately did a “Charter Section 245" motion to delay it.   He then put a motion forward to revise the City’s  SB1818 implementation ordinance (CF-09-0966-S1). Councilman Krekorian emphasized in this Motion that “…the City’s SB1818 Density Bonus Ordinance (No. 179681) has caused too many impacts on our neighborhoods, at the expense of too little affordable housing. In fact, in many instances, these development projects result in the loss of affordable housing.”  

Revision to the City’s SB1818  implementation ordinance is vital to save our neighborhoods from these invasive urban infill projects.  We want him to move forward with his promised revision as soon as possible and help our community to stop the Samoa project before it’s too late.

When the City Council passed the Motion and approved the funding for the Samoa project without questions, they apparently had not reviewed, or had ignored, Council File #11-0404, consisting of many important dissenting comments from our community.

All impacts must be carefully considered not only for this project but for all  affordable housing projects “before” approving the allocation of any type of taxpayers’ funds regardless of the government institution the funds originate.

Los Angeles needs to get a grip and do “real” planning that will meet the needs of all our communities, not just the developers and special interest groups.

(Elaine Brown is  President of the Commerce Owners and  Business Restoration Assoc., Inc. (COBRA.) which is within the sphere of influence of the Samoa Project.) -cw

Tags: Tujunga, Samoa Ave, affordable housing, housing projects, Paul Krekorian, Old Town Commerce, Bolton Hall, tax-exempt, parking, flooding, real planning





CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 66
Pub: Aug 19, 2011