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HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD--With all of the recent attacks on developers by NIMBYs (not-in-my-backyard) who don't want to see growth, I thought I would provide a case study on the positive aspects of new development. Columbia Square (photo above) is a perfect example. This $450-million, 700,000-sq.ft., mixed-use project by Kilroy Realty will have an "outsized" positive impact on Hollywood. 

One of the most historic buildings on Sunset Blvd., Columbia Square was the West Coast home of CBS for many years. (Photo right.) Built in 1938, it originated such shows as Jack Benny's Lucky Strike Program, the Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and The Swan Show starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. When CBS moved their studios out of Hollywood in 2007, its future was in question.

Now, thanks to the work and investment of Kilroy Realty Corp., Columbia Square is shining once more. The historic buildings have been restored and renovated as the LA hub for Neuehouse, a New York-based creative workspace collaborative. Acclaimed New York architect David Rockwell, who also designed the interior of the Dolby Theatre, designed the space. Architectural Digest gave the facility glowing reviews in January. 

Writer Mayer Rus said of the space, "If you'd like a window into the leading edge of creative work (and play) spaces in 2016, you need look no further than the recently completed NeueHouse Hollywood, the West Coast counterpart to the original Manhattan office hub for the so-called creative class. ...the LA complex boasts a few attributes its Gotham forebear cannot claim: a building with an impeccable modernist pedigree; a site with a long and compelling history in the production of popular American culture; and the kinds of amenities one can enjoy only in a heavenly Mediterranean climate."

Rus continued in the Architectural Digest article that "there are a number of restaurant and lounge experiences, including alfresco dining on the roof terraces - in facilitating discourse and comfort in the workplace."

Not only has the historic building been preserved, which benefits the community enormously, but it is a place that visitors and residents can patronize and enjoy. Several restaurants have or are in the process of opening, including Rubies + Diamonds, Sugarfish, Sweetgreen and Paley.

Also preparing to move into Columbia Square is Viacom. CEO Philippe Dauman recently discussed the pending move into 180,000-sq.ft. of space with the LA Times. He noted that this will become the headquarters for their West Coast media networks and home base for about 700 employees from MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, BET, Spike, TV Land and Logo. It will provide them with new production stages, a lot of shooting space and a rooftop area for shoots with views of the Hollywood Sign. He noted that the Hollywood facility will be the largest mobile content studio in the industry. 

Besides Viacom, Kilroy has announced that Fender Guitar has leased 40,000-sq.ft. and will be moving their headquarters from Scottdale, Arizona, to Hollywood. These will be new, high quality jobs for Southern California and Hollywood.

After the loss of dozens of entertainment firms over the past 20 years, the announcements by Viacom and Fender Guitar send a great message that Hollywood is back. However, of even greater import is bringing more than 700 quality jobs to the community. Hollywood has an opportunity to show that with smart growth, it is possible to grow a community with balanced jobs and housing. We are building both. We currently have 1,800 housing units under construction and more in the pipeline. In addition, there are several hundred thousand square feet of office space in development as well as several hotels.    

This balance of different uses is what makes the revitalization of Hollywood so exciting. Locating jobs and housing in close proximity with nearby entertainment options and shopping are especially attractive to the Millennials who are locating here. When you consider the compact nature of Hollywood which makes it walkable, as well as its transit connectivity, one begins to see how growth can and should occur to make a community livable.

Due to this single project, we will see the preservation of a historic landmark, hundreds of construction jobs, hundreds more permanent jobs, new opportunities for dining as well as outstanding architecture. It is a win-win for the community. And it would not have been possible without the vision and investment of a developer. 

Let's keep this in mind when next you hear the negative attacks against development.


(Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CITYWATCH—Let’s be clear at the outset: I want our mayor to succeed. It is not my goal or my nature to push for a great LA by wishing that LA’s leadership fails. But, let’s also be clear about this: Our mayor has himself in a political pickle. 

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ALPERN AT LARGE--After I got home last night, after a busy day in clinic and suffering through a miserable rain-soaked and traffic-plagued commute en route to an excellent meeting with CD11 planners for a proposed large development near the future Bundy/Olympic Expo Line station, it dawned on me how the changes resulting from the election of Bill Rosendahl to the City Council in 2005 are alive and well. 

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BIKERVIEW--As you may know, the City of Burbank recently knuckled under to one-percenter pressure and banned bicycles from the Mariposa Bridge over the LA River. You now can’t even dismount and push them across: bicycles are not allowed in any way, shape, or form on this bridge. The reason: fear that they will “spook” the horses ridden by the ultimate in self-entitled privilege junkies, the Equestrian-(un)American community infesting Riverside Drive. 

Yes, from up on their skittish beasts, they literally look down on everyone else. So, no bikes on the bridge. Even though, according to a 1938 Burbank Daily Review article quoted in an LA Times report, this bridge “would be for ‘only equestrians, cyclists and hikers.'”

None of that mattered to the present-day pseudo-centaurs growling out bike hate: their horses are just too nervous to be anywhere near a bicycle. Somehow, though, horses have been trained to go calmly into war for millennia. Yes, they can put up with flying bullets, arrows, and spears, flashing swords and bayonets, roaring cannons, and screams of rage and agony all around -- but they can’t see a bicycle without suffering a heart attack. Maybe modern-day equestrians are just too lazy to train their beasts? 

In another extralegal assumption of privilege, horse folks actually made up their own official-looking signs “banning” bikes from the bridge long before Burbank’s city council (which had originally approved a cyclists-dismount provision) finally gave into their relentless kvetching. No surprise: I’ve actually had horse people tell me that hiking was prohibited on Sierra trails for the same reason. You know, just plain walking. This was untrue, by the way. 

The equestrians’ main argument is that bikes are prohibited on the dirt trails of Griffith Park, to which the bridge leads. This is true. But, a few feet from the park end of the bridge is a paved trail (AKA, a “road”) where bikes are permitted, and could be walked to. And, of course, the LA River bike path will soon be extended past the bridge. 

However, as CiclaValley reports, the very same Burbank City Council just met to consider accepting Metro funds to build a bicyclist- and pedestrian-only bridge about half a mile west of Mariposa, connecting Bob Hope Drive to the park side of the river. This is in anticipation of the bike path extension. 

No word yet on the results of this august body’s deliberations. Maybe they’ll quit horsin’ around and allow all the city’s denizens free access to the river and Griffith Park. Or maybe they’ll cower in fear of the stirrup set again and let the opportunity pass them by. 

We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.Photo: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams

 

EASTSIDER-I don’t mean to keep harping on Airbnb, but this company’s sophistication in maximizing profits to pay off its owners and venture capital partners (as opposed to LA City’s pathetic attempts to regulate almost anything) makes it imperative that we get the new short-term rental ordinance right. 

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EXPOSED--Vegas odds are against an Oscar win this Sunday for indie favorite Spotlight (photo above)—which tells the true story of journalists in Boston who under the leadership of editor Marty Baron expose the Catholic Church’s systemic concealment of sexual abuse by priests. A loss for Spotlight would be good news for “soft-hitting” newspaper publishers but bad news for the public’s right to know. 

Let’s hope that Spotlight inspires LA’s fifth estate to stop turning a blind eye to this city’s growing scourge of “pay to play.”’ 

A good place to start is in Coldwater Canyon, where Harvard-Westlake, having just released a revised DEIR, is moving full steam ahead with its plans to build a widely opposed three-story parking garage, complete with flood-lit sports field on top and private pedestrian skybridge over the public thoroughfare of Coldwater Canyon Boulevard, with the purpose being, in Havard-Westlake Vice President John Amato’s words: “Our kids have to perform in front of audiences so we have to have parking for visitors, and we want to have all our parking in one location.” 

As reported in these pages over two months ago, the public official who wields near absolute power over the fate of the parking project—District 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian—has accepted donations from eighteen Harvard-WestlakeTrustees, with all but two giving the maximum $700 contribution and none disclosing their relationship to the school on the donation form.  

All but a few of the contributions were made on the same day—a feat which tops the virtually simultaneous contributions made to Mr. Krekorian by the same trustees and administrators on February 18, 2011, also with not a single trustee identifying his or her connection to the school. This activity resulted in a windfall for Mr. Krekorian's campaign committee from the school's trustees alone.  

Incredibly, Mr. Krekorian did not return the $20,950 he garnered from the recent contributions. On the contrary, he used the money to obtain public matching funds from the City, so that each Harvard-Westlake contribution was in effect supplemented by $500 of taxpayer funds. In other words, literally the very same people who are having their quality of home life intruded on by the school's plan were made to match the Harvard-Westlake influence-peddling donations. 

LA residents may disagree as to whether Councilmember Krekorian, given his power over the fate of the parking garage project, should return the eighteen contributions he received from Harvard-Westlake Trustees, togthether with all of the matching funds he obtained through use of the Harvard-Westlake money—if only to remove any appearance of partiality.  

Whatever one’s opinion, it would seem obvious that Mr. Krekorian should have been asked about it … by a media that has been strangely silent. Not a single reporter has said a word to Mr. Krekorian. It’s been seventy days since the facts were known. What is the press waiting for? How is their silence not an abnegation of their duty to serve the public’s right to know?

We can only hope that Oscar Sunday will inspire someone to step up to the plate. If not, hopefully editor Marty Baron will help out.

 

(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government.  He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. )

-cw

POLITICS-This 2016 election cycle will certainly be one for the history books, and one for the historians, sociologists and political scientists to evaluate and study for decades to come.  But while no one can really encapsulate the "Trump" phenomenon in a single bullet point, here's a talking point to consider:  Donald John Trump's original flirtation with presidential politics was with the 2000 presidential election ... as a Reform Party candidate

The Reform Party ... as in Ross Perot.  Yes, THAT Ross Perot--the man who hated former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his clan so much he helped President Bill Clinton get elected ... twice ... and who was virtually made irrelevant in his failure to prevent the passage of the NAFTA trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. 

So is Donald John Trump the living revenge of Henry Ross Perot, that same Perot who once stated that "War has rules, mud wrestling has rules - politics has no rules"? 

Do both Republicans and Democrats in very large numbers regret the election of both George Bush the Elder in 1988 and George Bush the Younger in 2000? 

If NAFTA could be repealed today, and was up for a vote to that effect in Congress, would it be repealed? 

Numerous third party presidential and other movements have been tried and failed for virtually the entire history of the United States, but as with the Progressive Party of 1912 (also known as the Bull Moose Party) of Teddy Roosevelt the Republican Party was and is split among those who were fiercely pro-American with respect to economic and political power, but wanted more economic competition and welfare for the needy. 

And a split Republican party led to the election of Democratic Woodrow Wilson, whose terms in office have been both praised and derided aplenty to this very day. 

Hence we have a Republican "Establishment" (hated by the Republican "Base" as being too much in the pocket of Wall Street) that is now in shock and panic mode with the fall of the Bush Family and is scrambling to do anything (ANYTHING!) to gather behind one candidate...who will probably be Marco Rubio. 

Close your eyes, listen to the screams of the anti-Wall Street/Establishment cries of the Tea Party and pro-Trump crowds, and it might sound frightfully similar to the complaints of the Occupy Movement. 

Open your eyes, and you'll see that these same crowds despise the socialism and leftist extremes of the Occupy and Bernie Sanders movements:  these crowds are ardently anti-Wall Street but equally ardent pro-American and pro-capitalism. 

Which can be confusing as heck to anyone trying to figure this out--even "The Donald" was confused when MSNBC anchor described to him the description of a candidate who appeared to be Trump himself ... but was actually Bernie Sanders! 

So is Donald Trump a closet Socialist, a male version of Hillary Clinton, and a secret, wannabe Democrat with "New York Values" as promoted by his Republican detractors? 

Hardly, if anyone's read his writings over the course of his entire life.  He despises socialism but hates crony capitalism and wants a fair playing field.  He's repeatedly threatening to prosecute Hillary Clinton for breaking the law, and his hatred of the Bush Family mirrors that of the aforementioned H. Ross Perot. 

And his unwavering support of American exceptionalism and American worldwide hegemony goes beyond that of Ronald Reagan to the principles of Teddy Roosevelt. 

So IS the ascendancy of Donald Trump merely an attempt to achieve a Republican Party that is more akin to the Reform Party of Perot?  Certainly, the colossal waste of money and effort to promote Jeb Bush's failed candidacy is emblematic of an out-of-touch GOP leadership that apparently forgot that former President G.W. Bush was persona non grata and out of sight at both the 2008 and 2012 GOP Presidential Conventions. 

Furthermore, the willingness to achieve reform in this nation--first within the GOP, and with "Exhibit A" being the Iraq War, which proved to be such a painful drag on the nation (and especially within the Republican voting base)--reform is a phenomenon that is hard to ignore. 

Everyone appears to believe in one way, shape, or form that "reform" is needed, and that "business as usual" just won't be tolerated during what appears to be a Second Gilded Age. 

(And for those who never learned post-Civil War History, the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century was an era of political and economic excess that created horrific income inequality and ushered in the union era ... look it up

So it appears that the GOP is being dragged kicking and screaming on its way to a historical cleansing that will be one for the ages. 

But if Trump does win the GOP nomination, then one can look forward to him taking "reform" to the Democratic Party next--because as Iraq was to the Bush Administration, "Obamacare" is to the Obama Administration. 

The "Affordable Care Act" is set to die an unavoidable death on its own economic unsustainable principles, and if it is not repealed then it will inevitably be gutted and undergo dramatic revisions--and for President Obama to hope for a sensible health care debate once he's gone is commensurate to concluding that his very presence and tone with Congress prevented a sensible debate during his tenure. 

Perhaps President Obama was so desperate to have ANY form of health care reform that he was willing to have such an acrimonious passage of the ACA and force the issue to finally be confronted by Congress, but the ACA is anything but "affordable" and is perceived by so many to be economically harmful that we might see Congress remain Republican because of the ACA blunders in the same way that Congress became Democratic because of the Iraq blunders. 

Which may lead many Democratic and other political analysts wishing that--with the fall of the Bush Family--there was a better and more successful option for toppling the Clinton Family than the well-meaning but potentially unelectable Bernie Sanders. 

Because the Democratic Party inevitably needs reform, too.

 

(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.) 

-cw

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-Last Wednesday, state assembly members Melissa A. Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Mike Gatto (D- Los Angeles) introduced legislation that would require school districts to adequately protect the personal information of their students. 

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MY TURN-It seems that my last article about "NIMBYISM vs Progress" really hit a nerve – garnering the most negative comments of any piece I’ve done over almost three years! This proves my theory that "we the people" don't act, we react. Perhaps this is because, like the rest of the country, we are so divided that's almost impossible to move ahead. 

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EDITOR’S PICK--California’s housing crisis is a complex one, as befits a state with a population of close to 40 million people, spread out over 163,696 square miles, and with some of the country’s largest cities and fastest growing population hubs, as well as some of its most rugged rural areas.

Los Angeles’ Skid Row sprawls just a few blocks from the skyscrapers of downtown and showcases one of the developed world’s largest concentrations of long-term homeless people. They live in tents and jerry-rigged shanties along the sidewalks and in vacant lots, surround social service agency buildings and provide a vista of misery stunning in its intensity. Only a few miles away, middle- and working-class tenants are being driven from their rent-controlled homes into the exurbs or onto friends’ and relatives’ couches. The causes of this diaspora are developers seeking to capitalize on Hollywood’s soaring real estate values and the city’s “densification” development strategy that prioritizes large-scale, high-end housing developments over new affordable housing for middle-income families and the working poor.

The extremes of poverty and affluence do a strange dance in L.A.’s housing story, as they do in San Francisco to the north.

Says tenants’ organizer Dont Rhine, a Hollywood-based artist who cut his teeth in the world of activism working for ACT UP in the 1990s, “There are a lot of renters who are frickin’ pissed off. I’ve not seen anything like this since the AIDS crisis. It’s affecting mental health and physical health.”

By contrast, in the Central Valley deep pools of poverty in cities such as Fresno — the core of which has the third highest poverty rate of any large metro area in the country — perpetuate the existence of slum housing. Twenty years ago, in a deal that then-President Bill Clinton carved out with a conservative Congress, the country’s political leadership eliminated 100,000 units of public housing. Years later, in 2011, the California legislature, at the urging of Governor Jerry Brown, scrapped a program that had funneled billions of dollars from the state into local redevelopment agency grants. Today, while Fresno’s Housing Authority and nonprofit homebuilders such as Self Help Enterprises try to provide decent, affordable housing for the lucky few, the need massively outstrips the supply. Tens of thousands of families are poor enough to qualify for housing vouchers, affordable housing in mixed-income units or public housing, yet most will never be provided an apartment or house.

Roughly 67,000 families in the Fresno area are on waiting lists for these programs. With each year, as federal investments in housing lag, the problem gets worse. Making the matter ever more urgent is the fact that it is in Central Valley towns that much of California’s population growth in coming years is predicted to occur. Absent huge investments in affordable housing, a growing number of Californians in the valley a generation from now will be living in slums, at the mercy of a private rental market utterly indifferent to their basic needs and dignity.

In Orange County, widespread affluence has pushed up real estate values beyond anything affordable to the low-wage, service-sector workers, many of them undocumented, who cater to affluent residents’ consumption needs. As a result, with years-long waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers (for qualified recipients who pay up to 30 percent of their income on rent, with the difference, up to a certain rent threshold, paid for by the government); with a paucity of affordable housing units being built; and with vast shortages in public housing, many residents double, triple or quadruple up, creating some of the most overcrowded and unhealthy living conditions in America.

“Where should I go with no job?” asks Santa Ana resident Concepcion, an undocumented immigrant who has run through her legal options and is at risk of imminent deportation. She lives with her husband and three children inside a tiny room within a small house, in a poor part of town. Recently, a teenager living near the house drew a gun on a police officer and, to Concepcion’s horror, she saw heavily armed SWAT teams swarm past her window. “Low-income housing?” she asks. “I’m ineligible. It’s either here or under a bridge or the public library, where the homeless are.”

It’s a choice many Santa Anans have had to make. When the city surveyed the transient population recently, it found more than 400 people living on the streets surrounding Civic Center Plaza – and another 400-plus living along the Santa Ana riverbed. There are, according to Judson Brown, the housing division manager for the city’s Community Development Agency, only 185 shelter beds for the homeless in Santa Ana and, of these, nearly three quarters are only available during the cold winter months.

In the Bay Area one town after another has witnessed spiraling real estate dislocations as San Francisco’s soaring property market continues to create spillover effects in neighboring counties. In the city itself, family apartments in traditionally immigrant and working-class neighborhoods such as the Mission District have been converted into million-dollar pads for young techies, an ongoing problem driven by the presence of many of the world’s top tech companies in Silicon Valley just a few miles to the south.

Across the bay in Oakland, gritty neighborhoods in that city’s west and north are rapidly being gentrified; there’s some good to this – in lower crime rates and more vibrant economic activity – but also a lot of bad. Historically African American and Latino areas are bought into by a wave of disproportionately white and Asian-American gentrifiers, as they and investors snap up any and all properties that come onto the market. Existing residents find that they can no longer afford exploding rents and are pushed ever further from their places of work and the schools that their children are enrolled in. People with precious few resources to begin with are uprooted and, in essence, told to start afresh.

As a domino line of towns is hit by the Bay Area real estate boom’s shockwaves, so the dislocation spreads further afield. In the last few months, long-time working-class residents in Redwood City and other cities in the vicinity have almost overnight been swept aside by a tsunami of real estate investors taking advantage of their proximity both to Silicon Valley and to San Francisco. Absent a coherent affordable housing development strategy in these towns, local housing activists fear that low- and moderate-income families will no longer be able to stay in the city.

 This series is the story of California’s housing crisis, a crisis that shows no sign of abating. We have decided not to focus on long-term homelessness here, because it is a complex saga involving a discussion of mental health services, addiction treatment and the ways in which foster care kids, veterans and ex-prisoners are too often cast aside by the broader society, that merits a later series unto itself.

Instead, in this series we will mostly look at those who have roofs over their heads, but whose situations are increasingly precarious.

The affordable housing crisis did not occur in a vacuum, but has its roots in both the last recession and in laws written years before that tilted California’s housing relationships in favor of landlords and developers. When the housing market collapsed eight years ago, it was homeowners who bore the brunt of the calamity, with entire neighborhoods destroyed by foreclosures. Today, with California’s real estate market rebounding, owners are again accumulating paper wealth. Increasingly, as property values soar, especially in thriving coastal cities, it is renters who now bear the greatest pain.

As mentioned, Governor Brown’s scrapping of California’s redevelopment agency program — a response taken against the state’s post-2008 financial crisis — deprived local housing budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars overnight. Not surprisingly, as more people find themselves priced out of quality housing, they are bumping up against the realities of catastrophic under-investment in decent affordable housing — a situation in which slum landlords are filling the void.

Renters are also confronting California’s Ellis Act, which provides a mechanism whereby property owners can evict rent-controlled tenants, demolish homes and rebuild the properties as upmarket homes. And they are grappling with the state’s Costa-Hawkins Act, pushed in the 1990s by many of the same conservative political lobbies that propelled Proposition 13 to victory in 1978, and which forbids cities to rent-stabilize properties built after 1995. How bad is the housing crisis in California?

Last year the chair of the state agency responsible for programs that create affordable housing stepped down under pressure when activists revealed he was evicting tenants from property he owned in order to replace its rent-controlled units with luxury ones.

In the coming days we will tell the tale of the struggling middle class and working poor in an era in which public investments in affordable housing have shamefully lagged, and in which politicians have too often catered to the needs of developers rather than to those of renters and lower income homeowners.

We will also explore the economic and health implications of substandard slum housing; the policy implications of growing wage inequalities in a high-cost real estate environment; and the dangers to the social fabric posed by the recreation of housing conditions that would have been all too familiar to Jacob Riis, the social reformer who photographed New York’s slums more than a century ago.

(Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic, New York magazine, the American Prospect, Salon, Slate, the New Yorker online, the Los Angeles Weekly, The Village Voice, the Daily Beast, and Rolling Stone. This important series originated at Capital and Main … where it continues throughout the week.) Photo credit: Ted Soqui

-cw

 

TRANSIT NUMBERS … INTERPRETER PLEASE--Los Angeles transit ridership has fallen even more than a recent Los Angeles Times front page story indicated, according to Thomas A. Rubin, who served as Chief Financial Officer (auditor/controller) of the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) from 1989 until 1993. SCRTD merged with the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC) after the first new rail line was opened in the early 1990s. (I served as a city of Los Angeles appointee to the board of LACTC.) 

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-A brief note: Opponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative have repeatedly claimed that it would block the construction of new affordable housing. In CityWatch I have twice asked readers to send me any addresses where that has been the case. I have also reached out to experts at USC and UCLA with the same question. So far, I have only heard a second hand anecdote, but no specifics yet. I’m still waiting. If readers can send me any details…a location and any zone changes and General Plan Amendments that were required to proceed with an affordable housing project, I would appreciate it. Until then I will assume that this is a baseless claim concocted by supporters of luxury high rise projects intent on preserving the business model of their patrons. 

CityWatch readers probably know that the City Planning Department is trying one more time to prepare and adopt an ordinance to finally stop the mansionization of LA’s single family neighborhoods. 

Part of their motivation is that there are few cases of land use that arouse as much as wrath as McMansions -- those big, boxy, pricey, and cheaply constructed houses that are often mistaken for apartment buildings. 

Consider the following: 

Some people hate them because they conflict with the City Planning Commission’s anti-mansionization policies contained in their Do Real Planning manifesto. 

Some people hate them because they conflict with the policies of the Framework Element, a key part of LA’s General Plan. The Framework is clear that new residential developments must respect the character and scale of existing residences. But, as anyone can see when driving through neighborhoods blighted by mansionization, the scale and character of McMansions intensely clash with existing homes, whether they are Spanish Revival, Tudor, mid-century, or even ranch-style. 

Some people hate them because they displace existing affordable housing. Nearly all of the 2000 homes that the mansionizers bulldoze each year in Los Angeles are small starter homes. Most of them are less than 2000 square feet, and they cost about 1/3 of the Big Macs that replace them. LA’s housing crisis did not just happen. It has multiple causes, one of which is mansionization, whether it involves losing single family homes and duplexes or the creation of Single Lot Subdivisions. 

Last, but hardly least, some people hate them because of their energy-intensive, environmentally unfriendly character. To say the least, McMansions are the least sustainable housing option out there, short of a castle, or to be generous, a real mansion. 

And also consider this: 

  1. Their giant footprints cover much of their lots, so there is little open space for rain to percolate into the ground or for plants to sequester carbon and produce oxygen. 
  1. Their boxiness makes them very hot in LA’s sunny climate, so the owners have no choice but to run their air conditioning around the clock. And, as LA heats up through climate change, those air conditioning units will try to keep up, spewing out even more heat and air pollution in a downward spiral. 
  1. To sell McMansions to their status-conscious buyers, the contractors install outsized appliances, such as enormous restaurant stoves. Sometimes they throw in energy-hungry extras, like whole house vacuum systems with every room featuring a vacuum outlet. The result is enormous electric bills. 
  1. To further appeal to these “discriminating” buyers, the contractors install pools and spas, forcing up water bills to keep them filled with fresh water, generating large electric or gas bills to heat them. 
  1. LA’s new building codes require sprinklers in each room for potential fires and as a result, the DWP must install new two inch pipes for each McMansion to assure sufficient water pressure. The old standard one inch pipes are either left in the ground or hauled off as scrap. 
  1. McMansions routinely include two or even three car attached garages. This feature not only incentivizes automobile driving, but the new double driveways also wipe out green space and trees in front yards and parkways. But since the attached garages are routinely used for recreation, storage, and other habitable uses, the owners park their luxury cars on their front yard driveways, next to sidewalks. 
  1. McMansions create enormous amounts of rubble because they require the demolition of existing houses, most of which contains dangerous asbestos and lead paint that the contractors – with a wink and a nod from Building and Safety -- fail to remediate. 
  1. Because McMansions are huge, they devour enormous amounts of construction materials, such as cement, metals, plastics, and wood. Furthermore, because they are shoddily constructed, they will have a short life-span. Future buyers will quickly tear them down to avoid the extensive repairs necessary to keep McMansions habitable. This short life span, then, also adds to the rubble created by the mansionization process. 
  1. McMansions are higher and larger than adjacent houses, and this means they create much more shadowing than the smaller houses they replace. Neighbors are impacted by loss of sunlight in their yards and gardens, as well as by reduced opportunities to efficiently run roof top solar panels. 

When these many unsustainable features are considered, it is clear that any serious effort to create a sustainable Los Angeles, such as the Climate Action Plans prepared by Mayors Villaraigosa and Garcetti, should have the mansionization process in its cross-hairs. Claims of mitigating the causes of climate change, or adapting to climate change as it worsens, will ring hollow if yet another mansionization ordinance is riddled with more loopholes that allow the continued construction of McMansions.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch. He welcomes comments, questions, and corrections at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Let's start by warning anyone reading this that if you're big into political correctness, this article isn't for you.  If the concept of Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter is tough for you, then this may not be the article for you...and maybe you're part of the problem affecting our City, State, and Nation.

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