DUELLING VISIONS--The Build Better LA Initiative is a remarkably bad idea that hands more power to the Los Angeles City Council to approve overdevelopment, even as it boosts the council's desire for more campaign cash from real estate developers.
This building industry-funded plan is billed as an effort to create affordable housing. But in reality, it sets up a series of trap doors that let the City Council approve massive new projects without any plan for traffic or infrastructure.
Even worse, the promised affordable housing is a mirage. It would purportedly be included in super-sized developments approved by the City Council. But in fact, the affordable housing can later be cut back by a mere Council vote — if the Council thinks a developer won't make enough profit by housing the poor.
That's quite a cozy arrangement. Just the kind of backroom gifting that necessitated the founding ot the Coalition to Preserve LA. The coalition is fighting overdevelopment, traffic congestion and destruction of community character, and is gathering signatures for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative aimed for the 2016 November ballot.
Under this bizarre plan, the City Council gives its developer friends permission to break their promises to build affordable housing, while calling it an affordable housing program. It's not the Build Better initiative, but the Backroom Bonanza initiative.
The fine print says the City Council can later reduce the affordable housing originally promised by developers to assure “a reasonable return on investment for Developers.” The dubious ballot language has not yet been approved by the LA City Clerk.
Grace Yoo, a prominent Koreatown attorney and social justice activist, called the proposal “a Trojan horse. It seems as if it's a gift for people who need affordable housing units, but that's not what it's doing. It gives the City Council too much power. They are not doing battle for the little guy, but for the developer.”
Yoo is a key backer of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which strikes directly at the heart of the Council's too-close relationship with developers. It puts a two-year halt to the City Council's practice of approving luxury mega-projects that are not allowed by zoning.
The frenzy of overdevelopment has destroyed thousands of units of older affordable housing and is directly feeding the city's spike in homelessness.
(Jill Stewart is Campaign Director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)