<![CDATA[UN4LA - UN4LA NEWS]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2019 00:18:21 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, JULY 2019]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2019 05:15:27 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-july-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA

UN4LA News will be taking a break in August.  Hope you have an enjoyable summer.


The results of the 2019 Greater LA Homeless Count were released early in June, and the news was not good. The total numbers went up by 12% in LA County and 16% in the City of LA.  One of the most disturbing facts to emerge was that even though thousands of people were moved into shelters and supportive housing in 2018, even more people ended up becoming homeless.  Will we ever turn a corner on this crisis?  Click on the link below to view the presentation from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.  There is some positive news, but the overall picture is far from reassuring.  One important point the report makes is that in order to resolve this situation we all need to get involved.       

2019 Greater LA Homeless Count Results


Earlier this year State Senator Nancy Skinner introduced SB 330, which she calls the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. The bill is aptly named, because it threatens to make California's housing crisis even more severe.  SB 330 is extremely complicated, and if passed would affect hundreds of cities and unincorporated areas.  Among the bill's most disturbing impacts would be the loss of protections for renters, larger loopholes to help developers avoid building affordable housing, and the increased threat of legal action against cities, making them less likely to reject bad projects for fear of a lawsuit.  SB 330 would also prevent voters from repealing any aspect of the bill.  

This toxic piece of legislation has already been approved by the State Senate, and will be heard by the Assembly Local Government Committee on July 10.  For a thorough breakdown, read the analysis from the Embarcadero Institute.

SB 330 Analysis from the Embarcadero Institute


Earlier this year SB 50, a bill proposed by State Senator Scott Wiener that would have upzoned parcels near transit, was put on hold until the next legislative session. Not willing to wait until next year to continue his assault on planning, Wiener used the the legal but controversial "gut and amend" tactic to mount an attack from another direction.  

How does this work?  In February of this year Wiener introduced SB 592 which was related to licensing for barbers and cosmetologists. But on June 13, the Senator gutted the bill's existing language and inserted entirely new language. SB 592 now proposes to amend the existing Housing Accountability Act (HAA).  The HAA already prevents a city from disapproving a housing project if it's consistent with the city’s general plan, zoning, and development standards.  With SB 592, Wiener intends to expand the HAA to make it apply to "any form of land use decision by a local agency".  

To better understand how truly dangerous this is, read what the League of California Cities has to say about the bill.

SB 592 Analysis by the League of California Cities


There is some positive news on the housing front.  In June LA City Councilmember David Ryu introduced a series of motions which, if they become law, could limit evictions, incentivize the construction of middle-income housing and expand eligibility for the California Renter’s Tax Credit.  This story from the Los Feliz Ledger has the details.

Ryu Looking for Fixes to Homelessness and Housing Shortage from Los Feliz Ledger


A proposed project on Foothill Blvd. has Pasadena residents up in arms.  The application to build a four to five story mixed-use development was approved by the Pasadena City Council, but now residents claim that testing for toxic chemicals was inadequate.  The site was formerly used by Caltech for research into jet propulsion, and also by the Navy for classified projects.  The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) says they've studied the location and found no significant concerns.  Shouldn't that be enough?

Actually, no.  The residents may have good reason to be worried.  The DTSC has been the target of intense criticism for years, and many have levelled the charge that it has failed to scrutinize sites where development is planned.  If you want to get an idea of how bad things actually are at this agency, here's a quote from an oversight hearing held in February of this year.

"In recent years the Department has faced criticism over fiscal mismanagement, inconsistent record keeping, insufficient administrative processes and lack of transparency. Specific incidents across California have exposed and continue to expose glaring failings in DTSC’s implementation of its core programs, as well as its support programs. Such incidences include the mishandling of the hazardous waste facility permitting and enforcement of Exide and the Quemetco battery recycling facilities; delayed site remediation; failed public participation and transparency activities; and personnel issues have all led to decreased stakeholder confidence and public trust in DTSC’s ability to meet its mandate to protect public health and the environment."

Can you see why these Pasadena residents are so upset?

Angry Residents: Testing Not Enough at Space Bank Development Site from Pasadena News Now

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, JUNE 2019]]>Mon, 03 Jun 2019 04:20:44 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-june-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


At the urging of six LA City Councilmembers, the City's Ethics Commission has drafted recommendations for new rules regarding campaign contributions from real developers.  It's high time.  After years of pay-to-play deals, City Hall needs to clean up its act.  UN4LA strongly supports these propsed reforms.  For more details, follow the link.

High Time for Ethics Reform


In May SB 330 was approved by the State Senate, and it's now headed for the Assembly.  The bill's author, State Senator Nancy Skinner, claims it would remove unreasonable local restrictions that impede new residential development, and thereby speed the production of housing.  But this complex and confusing bill seems likely to cause more problems than it solves.  If approved by the State Legislature, SB 330 would:

  • Void local development policies, standards, or conditions enacted after January 1, 2018, that do not comply with the bill.  
  • Limit the number of hearings that can be held for proposed projects.  
  • Create a new type of housing project application, a “preliminary” application, without bothering to define exactly what that is.  It also starts the clock for the approval process from the time the "preliminary" application is submitted.
  • Delay enforcement of housing code violations for seven years if the correction is not necessary to protect health and safety.

All of these proposed mandates are troubling, and have the potential to cause problems for communities and planning agencies.  While the bill has a number of supporters, it's opposed (unless amended) by the California Chapter of the American Planning Association and the League of California Cities.  

You can read SB 330 here.

SB 330: Housing Crisis Act of 2019

And you can read the objections submitted by the California APA and the League of California Cities below.

SB 330: American Planning Association, California Chapter

SB 330: League of California Cities


Is LAUSD actually going to cut down 48 mature trees on the Grant High School campus?  Right now it looks like that's exactly what's going to happen, unless community activists are successful in getting the District to rethink its plan.  LAUSD has proposed an ambitious renovation project which would bring the school's structures up to date and make it compliant with seismic safety laws.  No one disputes that the campus needs an upgrade.  The question is whether it's really necessary to cut down so many trees in the process.  Members of the surrounding community are also asking why they weren't informed earlier that the renovation involved the destruction of so much of the school's tree canopy.  

The school, located in Valley Glen, falls in LAUSD's 3rd District, which is represented by Scott Schmerelson.  Area activists are hoping they can convince Schmerelson to put a hold on the plan until other options are explored.  For more information see this post on the project from the Greater Valley Glen Council.

Grant High School Renovations to Uproot 48 Mature Trees


A big real estate deal just went down in Burbank, where Warner Bros. has purchased a new campus and plans to build more office space.  The former home of NBC, at the intersection of Alameda and Olive, was sold to the studio earlier this year.  Architect Frank Gehry will design a row of office towers near Riverside Drive which will Warners will occupy.  As part of the transaction, the studio has sold the Ranch Lot, its production facility on Hollywood Way.  For more details, read the story in the Times.

Warner Bros. Buys Burbank Studios

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, MAY 2019]]>Thu, 02 May 2019 04:10:45 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-may-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


In the wake of last year's devastating fires, newly installed Governor Gavin Newsom is anxious to prevent further loss of life and property.  But his proposal to bypass environmental rules in order to allow a series of prescribed burns is strongly opposed by a number of environmental groups.  These groups argue that the State's plans will only further damage forests and habitat, and will not prevent the spread of fires driven by wind.  Read the LA Times' reporting on the controversy....

Newsom Declares Wildfire Emergency, Waives Environmental Rules to Expedite Projects

....and then read the Sierra Club's response to Newsom's plan.

Letter from Sacramento: A Chance to Take a Better Path


Long Beach is experiencing a building boom.  Substantial new investment has boosted the economy, but unfortunately many longtime residents won't be around to enjoy the benefits.  Real estate investors are snapping up multifamily properties and jacking up rents, which means displacement is becoming a big problem.  The Long Beach Business Journal reports on the surge in new development.

Long Beach Experiencing Development On A Scale Not Seen In Over A Decade

The Long Beach City Council realizes that displacement is a problem, and is looking at the possibility of creating an ordinance to protect tenants.  But this move is controversial, as the Long Beach Press Telegram explains.

Long Beach Moves Forward with Tenant Assistance Policy


A couple weeks ago the Feds nabbed Robert Shapiro, formerly head of developer Woodbridge Group.  Shapiro has been accused of running a massive Ponzi scheme involving luxury real estate, but he's not the only one in hot water.  A group of investors has filed a suit against Comerica Bank, claiming that the bank should have known what was going on and failed to take action to stop Shapiro.  With the billions of dollars flooding into luxury real estate these days, it seems likely that Shapiro isn't the only one who's been gaming the system.  

Did Comerica Bank Turn “Blind Eye” to Woodbridge’s $1B Ponzi Scheme


The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT, an LA City agency, not to be confused with LA County Metro) has received applications from 11 companies that want to offer over 37,000 dockless bikes, electric bikes, and scooters.  Proponents of the new mobility options argue that allowing these companies to operate in the City of LA will give the public more ways to get around, and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but there are a number of issues to be considered.  

Getting people out of cars and onto bikes is a great idea, but at the same time the City of LA is handing out permits to companies that offer dockless and electric bikes, Metro, a County agency, has been struggling to get their own bike program off the ground.  Is it really a good idea to bring private companies into the mix?  Metro has already cut prices on the bikes it offers in an effort to lure more customers, but private companies looking for greater market share will always be able to go lower.  Free market advocates will say this is great, and the public benefits from the competition.  The problem is, once a company drives competitors out of business and achieves market dominance they’re likely to jack up prices again.  By pitting private bike-share companies against Metro, the City of LA seems to be undermining the transit agency’s efforts.

As for electric scooters, it’s easy to see that they’re really popular, but their proliferation has brought problems.  While the City has set safety standards for their use, including the requirement that they be prohibited on sidewalks, there are plenty of people who pay no attention to the rules.  The City also requires that the scooters are parked in such a way that they don’t block sidewalks, but again, there are still riders who don’t seem to care.  And then there are the safety issues.  Robin Abcarian talks about some of the problems in this article from the LA Times.

Bird Scooters - So Much Fun, So Damn Dangerous

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, APRIL 2019]]>Tue, 02 Apr 2019 06:43:29 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-april-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


Claiming it would help solve California’s housing woes, last year State Senator Scott Wiener presented SB 827, a bill that would have upzoned parcels nears transit as a means to incentivize the construction of new housing.  SB 827 failed, in large part because social justice groups saw it as a threat to low-income communities.  Wiener came back this year with SB 50, again promoting upzoning near transit, claiming that new language in this bill would protect communities threatened by gentrification.  But the groups that opposed his last bill aren't any more impressed with this one.  Read the letter for yourself.

Equity Groups Submit Letter Expressing Serious Concerns with Wiener’s SB 50


Ordinary citizens are having a hard time trusting their elected officials these days.  In LA many people are skeptical about the ethics of the folks at City Hall.  This uneasiness was reinforced last year when it was reported that the FBI had raided Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office and home.  Adding more fuel to the fire, a search warrant surfaced early this year that showed the Feds were looking into shady development deals Downtown.  Among those mentioned in the warrant were former Garcetti deputy Raymond Chan, LA City Councilmember Curren Price, Board of Public Works Commissioner Joel Jacinto, and Deron Williams, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Herb Wesson.  Crimes mentioned in the warrant included bribery, extortion, and money laundering.  In this article Dick Platkin laments the loss of trust in those who were elected to serve us.

How City Hall Lying Contributes to Plummeting Trust in Government: An LA Case Study


If you've been following Downtown development news, you've probably already heard that Parker Center is going to be demolished and that a new civic center building is going to take its place.  But actually, our elected officials have much bigger plans for the area around City Hall, though how it's all going to unfold is kind of vague and confusing.  

The project that's supposed to replace Parker Center is called the Los Angeles Street Civic Building (LASCB) Project, and it seems its primary purpose is to create new office space for City employees, but it could be other things as well.  In fact, it's kind of hard to say at this point what it's going to be.  The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) describes "a new office building, which would consist of approximately 753,730 gross square feet", but it also says the project "could be accommodated in one or two buildings on the site." The EIR goes on to say "The new building(s) could take on a variety of configurations, but would generally fill the footprint of the existing Parker Center building."  Well, at least they kind of know where it's going to be located.

But Jose Huizar posted a video in June 2018 where he says the LASCB project will involve the demo of Parker Center and construction of a 27-story structure with around 713,000 sq. ft. of office space, plus 37,000 sq. ft. of street level retail.  So according to Huizar it will be a single building that will include retail as well as office space.  Which is kind of weird because the EIR doesn't say anything at all about retail.  In fact the EIR doesn't give very many details at all, which makes you wonder if the authors have any idea what the project's impacts will really be.

And actually the Huizar video is about the much larger Los Angeles Civic Center Master Plan.  This is a massive project which would involve the construction of a number of buildings in muLtiple phases, including office space, commercial space, housing, a cultural facility and a public plaza.  Looks like it adds up to around 2,000,000 sq. ft. in all, and it's projected to take at least 15 years to build.  Most people might think that before embarking on a project of this size you should have a pretty clear idea of what it's going to entail.  Not the folks at LA City Hall.  They're already looking for bids on the LASCB, which will be either a single 27-story building, or a couple of smaller buildings, and will consist of 750,000 sq. ft. of office space, though there might also be some ground floor retail.  Apparently it could also include a tunnel to City Hall East, or maybe a bridge, they're not sure yet.  And some kind of open space, even though no one has any idea where it will be.  

But one thing you know for sure: You can trust that Jose Huizar wouldn't be pushing for this project unless he had your best interests at heart.  You can watch him explain the whole thing in this video.

Los Angeles Civic Center Master Plan Presented by Councilmember Jose Huizar


Every year Friends of the LA River (FOLAR) organizes a clean-up day to remove waste deposited in the river bed.  It's a great way to help maintain one of our most important resources, and maybe meet some interesting people in the process.  Click on the link below to find out which dates and locations are best for you.

LA River Clean-Up: Schedule and Locations

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, MARCH 2019]]>Sun, 03 Mar 2019 05:12:04 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-march-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


State Senator Scott Wiener believes that upzoning near transit will solve our housing problems.  He thinks that simply by letting developers build bigger projects near rail and bus lines we'll reduce housing costs and increase transit ridership.  But a look at SB 50, a housing bill authored by Wiener, shows that the Senator doesn't even have a basic grasp of the facts.  

SB 50 Will Not Solve Our Housing Problems


Work has stopped on Oceanwide Plaza, a $1 billion project located in Downtown.  In January a contractor on the project, Webcor Construction, filed a suit claiming that it was owed $52 million.  The suit names the primary contractor, Lendlease, and the developer, Oceanwide Holdings. 

This is making the folks at City Hall nervous.  When activity stops at a high-profile, big ticket construction site, it's likely to make investors skittish about putting more money into Downtown.  Oceanwide Holdings has said they intend to resume construction after they've recapitalized the project, but many observers believe the stoppage is related to economic conditions in China.  The Chinese government has been taking steps to reduce the flow of its currency overseas in recent years.  Also, the Chinese economy took a big hit in 2018, and there's a good deal of uncertainty about what the future holds.  

This could cause problems for Downtown, since Chinese money is backing a number of high profile projects.  Shenzhen Hazens is planning to construct two towers near LA Live.  And the long-delayed Grand Avenue project is now moving forward after receiving an infusion of $290 million from Chinese firm CCCG Overseas Real Estate.  Hopefully financing is firm for both of these deals. 

After Huge Project Stalls, Questions Rise At South Park’s $1 Billion Oceanwide Plaza


No one will be surprised to hear that high rents and no-cause evictions are making people homeless, but CBS News has produced an excellent documentary that gives the problem a human face.  This video tells the stories of people from all walks of life who are facing displacement.  It can happen to anybody.

High Rents Create a New Class of Hidden Homeless in Los Angeles


Last month Mayor Garcetti announced that LA will recycle 100% of its wastewater by 2035.  This is certainly a goal worth working toward.  As LA's water resources face an uncertain future, we need to boost recycling as much as possible.  The plan is to invest about $2 billion in making improvements to the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant over the next 16 years.  If all goes well, this would be a huge step forward in achieving water sustainability for the City.

But that's a big "if".  Garcetti loves to makes sweeping pronouncements about his bold initiatives.  Like his RecycLA program, which was supposed to be a quantum leap towards make LA a zero-waste city.  Here's what the program's web site says....

"The City of Los Angeles is launching an exciting new public-private partnership that will, for the first time in the history of the City, offer customer-friendly and efficient waste and recycling services to all commercial and industrial businesses, institutions, and large multifamily buildings."

Anybody who's been following the stories about skyrocketing waste pick-up costs and piles of trash left sitting for weeks will be laughing at the words "customer-friendly and efficient".  While implementation has improved in recent months, there are still many citizens who are infuriated by RecycLA's botched roll-out.  And the City's claim that it will achieve its stated goal of 90% landfill diversion by 2025 is pretty hard to believe.  Especially since it just renegotiated contracts with waste haulers, reducing its short term goal from 45% to 35% diversion by 2023.

The big question regarding recycled water at the Hyperion plant is whether the City can actually fund $2 billion in improvements over the next 16 years.  But for what it's worth, here's the press release.   

Garcetti Says LA Will Recycle 100% of Its Wastewater

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, FEBRUARY 2019]]>Sat, 02 Feb 2019 17:52:19 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-february-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


Accusations of corruption flew at the Planning & Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee hearing on January 15, where the hotly contested Crossroads Hollywood project received the Committee's blessing.  During public comment on the project, numerous speakers brought up the current federal investigation into corruption at City Hall.  While the FBI probe is currently focussed on projects approved in the Downtown area, Hollywood residents implied that a pay-to-play culture had infected the entire planning process.  PLUM Committee members took offense at the accusations, with Councilmember Gil Cedillo stating that the allegations were the result of "hysteria". 

UN4LA has taken a look at campaign contributions received by members of the City Council.  Is the public's outrage simply the result of scandalous media reports?  Or should citizens, in fact, be deeply concerned about how business is done at City Hall.  Cick on the link below to read more.

Are Accusations of Corruption at City Hall Nothing More than "Hysteria"?


And on a related note, the LA Times recently published a story about former City Hall insider Raymond Chan, who apparently asked developers for funds to support an event celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.  Chan, a former aide to Mayor Garcetti, has also been connected to the FBI investigation into Downtown development deals.  Were Chan's fundraising activities an anomaly?  Or were they just an accepted part of doing business with City Hall?

L.A. Deputy Mayor Raised Money from Developers with Major Projects in Downtown


LA isn't the only place where accusations of corruption are flying.  In Inglewood multiple lawsuits have been filed over the proposed Clippers area, alleging numerous improprieties regarding actions taken by Mayor James Butts and the City Council.  This story from the LA Times concerns alleged violations of State open meeting laws.  

Another Lawsuit Targets Proposed Clippers Arena in Inglewood


The LA City Council is currently considering a proposal to offer over-the-counter approvals of liquor permits to restaurant owners.  While the Department of City Planning seems determined to play down the risks of such a proposal, there are many possible downsides.  In the first place, LA neighborhoods like Downtown, Koreatown and Hollywood are already oversaturated with locations serving alcohol.  Is it really a good idea to make the situation worse by allowing automatic approvals?  And while most restaurants are probably run by responsible persons who would follow the law, there have been unscrupulous operators who have ignored the conditions of their permit and caused problems in our communities.  One of the biggest concerns is that Neighborhood Councils would no longer have the opportunity to consider new permits.  Do we really want to cut NCs out of the decision-making progress when it comes to businesses serving alcohol?

Alcohol Over-the-Counter Permit Motion

Community Impact Statement from NoHo Neighborhood Council

Pay no attention to the Department of City Planning's FAQ on the subject.  It only talks about the upside and ignores potential problems.  Once again City Hall is trying to cut communities out of the decision-making process.  This ordinance will only hurt our neighborhoods.


Every day we turn a tap in our kitchen or bathroom and water comes running out.  Most of us don't even think about where the water comes from or how it arrives at our homes.  In fact, this everyday miracle is made possible by massive infrastructure that must be constantly maintained and upgraded.  The LADWP is working constantly to make sure that the thousands of miles of pipes beneath our streets are up to the task.  Click on the link to learn about projects they're currently working on.

LADWP Infrastructure Improvement

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, JANUARY 2019]]>Tue, 01 Jan 2019 23:37:14 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-january-2019

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


If you follow planning issues, you'll remember that last year State Senator Scott Wiener tried to overturn local zoning control with his bill SB 827.  Wiener's bill failed, but he promised he'd try again and he's making good on his promise.  Last year Wiener unveiled SB 50, which is another attempt to override local zoning.  

Here's a link to the bill.  

SB 50

If you think it's important for communities to have a voice in local zoning decisions, contact your state reps.  If you don't know who they are, you can find them here.

Find Your Rep


The Department of City Planning (DCP) is also making another try at pushing a bad plan on the Hollywood area.  You may recall that a few years ago the DCP tried to bulldoze residents into accepting a previous version of the Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU), but it was overturned in court.  One of the many problems with the previous plan was that City Hall didn't even get the area's population figures right, in spite of the fact that the 2010 US Census had just been released. 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the new Hollywood Community Plan Update is now available.  Unfortunately, the DCP seems to think that rampant upzoning is all that's needed for the area.  Developers love it.  Many people who live in Hollywood believe the new update will cause a continuing loss of housing accessible to the community, create a further burden for public services, and hammer our already stressed water infrastructure.

You can view the DEIR below.

Hollywood Community Plan Update DEIR

If you'd like to comment, send an e-mail to....

Linda Lou, Los Angeles Department of City Planning


Be sure to include the following text in your subject line.

Subject Line: Hollywood Community Plan Update, Case No.: CPC-2016-1450-CPU, EIR: ENV-2016-1451-EIR



While revenues to the City have been at record highs for years, we still face a structural budget deficit that could mean big trouble for all of us.  Jack Humphreville breaks it down on CityWatch.

LA has an $84 Million Hole in Its Budget: Does Anyone Care?


Finally some good news.  The City of LA has begun work on creating an Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). This step is long overdue, but if done properly the UFMP could create a framework to begin healing and enhancing LA's urban forest.  Check out the report below. 

First Step: Developing an Urban Forest Management Plan for the City of Los Angeles

<![CDATA[LOS ANGELES IN 2018]]>Sun, 02 Dec 2018 05:29:32 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/los-angeles-in-2018This month UN4LA offers a collection of images from the past year.  The newsletter will return in January 2018.

Dozens of unhappy residents of the Westlake community showed up at a forum in January to voice their opposition to the City's proposed North Westlake Design District (NWDD). The overwhelming majority of those who spoke were against the NWDD, and many expressed their fear that the proposal would only speed gentrification in an area where displacement of low-income renters is already a problem. It appears now that the plan is on hold, at least for the time being.
In Spring of this year, the artists at 800 Traction, some of whom had been living there for decades, were finally forced out by the developer who recently bought the property. Rampant displacement in this part of Downtown has left the so-called "Arts District" curiously bereft of actual artists. The new owners are planning on turning the ground floor into retail and restaurant uses and the upper floors will be converted to office space.
As a result of massive statewide opposition, State Senator Scott Wiener's SB 827 didn't even make it out of committee. The bill would have upzoned parcels near transit, and Wiener argued that it would lower housing costs by boosting construction, in addition to increasing transit ridership. Wiener apparently didn't consider the fact that his radical upzoning proposal would jack up real estate values on affected parcels. Apparently he also wasn't aware that even though San Francisco and Los Angeles have been approving high-density projects near transit for years, per capita transit ridership in the Bay Area has been on the decline since the 90s, and in LA transit ridership is lower now than it was in 1985.
City Council President Herb Wesson apparently didn't anticipate the reaction he'd get when he unilaterally selected a parking lot near Vermont and Wilshire as the site for a homeless shelter, declaring that no public hearings would be held to receive input on the matter. Koreatown residents were outraged that Wesson would make such a decision without even consulting stakeholders, especially since the City has a history of ignoring the community. After weeks of angry protests, Wesson finally agreed to reconsider. We need to build housing for the homeless, but the only way to do that successfully is with full participation from the community.
In May the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT) held a grand opening for the Crest Apartments, which offers 64 units of permanent supportive housing, including 23 units set aside for homeless vets. The project, located on Sherman Way in Van Nuys, was designed by architect Michael Maltzan, and is a model of environmentally responsible, energy-efficient construction. (Image from Michael Maltzan Architecture.)
This small apartment building at 1920 Whitley will probably not survive to celebrate its 100th birthday. A developer has received approval from the Department of City Planning to build a new structure on the site which will rise 66 feet and contain 24 units. This project was approved under the Transit-Oriented Community (TOC) Guidelines, which were supposedly formulated to promote affordable housing, create local jobs, and boost transit ridership. Unfortunately, the three existing rent controlled units will be replaced with only three affordable units, so no net gain in terms of housing accessibility. The TOC Guidelines actually don't mandate that the developer hire any local workers. And the fact that the new building will have more than twice the number of required parking spaces seems to indicate that no one at City Planning cares if the future residents ever ride a bus or a train.
Earlier this year the Board of Public Works approved the removal of 18 mature trees on Cherokee in Hollywood in order to proceed with sidewalk repair. While there's no question that the sidewalks in this neighborhood need to be fixed, the City has been indiscriminately cutting down trees as part of its Sidewalk Repair Program, in spite of the fact that LA's urban forest is declining at a rapid pace. UN4LA has partnered with the Eastside Nature Alliance in taking legal action agaist the removal of the Cherokee trees. We are NOT arguing against sidewalk repair, only that the City needs to complete the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that it began in 2017 for the Sidewalk Repair Program. The City must complete the EIR in order to insure that alternatives to removal are considered, and that if removal is necessary, replacement trees will be properly maintained. The Cherokee trees are still standing thanks to the intervention of Councilmember David Ryu and Bureau of Street Services Director Adel HageKhalil. But thousands of other trees throughout the City are at risk.
Earlier this year the City Planning Commission (CPC) ignored the pleas of Harbor Gateway residents and approved a huge new distribution center at the intersection of Vermont and Redondo. The majority of the Commissioners apparently didn't care that the project would bring approximately 300 diesel truck trips into this residential neighborhood on a daily basis. They also didn't see a problem with the fact that there was a healthcare facility across the street, a senior housing facility a half a block away, and a public park just north of the project site. But the approval was such an outrageous violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that State Attorney General Xavier Becerra protested. He wrote to LA's City Attorney, arguing that the approval was illegal and declared that the developers needed to scrap their ridiculously inadequate environmental assessment and start over. You'd think that a letter from the Attorney General would make City Hall think twice, but at this time the City hasn't said anything about reconsidering the project.
Last year the developer who plans to build a 26-story mixed-use structure on the site where Amoeba Music stands began the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project. Apparently this year they decided that would take too long, and opted instead to push for approval under the State's Sustainable Communities (SC) law, which would make it exempt from environmental review. In order to qualify, it must be shown that the project won't have any significant impacts on local infrastructure or cultural resources, and the City recently published an SC Exemption claiming that was the case. Apparently City Planning has forgotten that when they did the Initial Study for the EIR last year, they said the project WOULD have potentially significant impacts on cultural resources and local water infrastructure. The Initial Study also said the project would have potentially significant impacts on fire protection, police protection, schools, parks, and other public facilities. But apparently none of that matters when a developer is in a hurry to get their project approved.
About 2,500 units of new housing have been approved for the Warner Center area since the completion of the Warner Center 2035 plan. But according to an article published on Curbed in November, "[N]ot a single one of the new units will be set aside for low- or even middle-income residents." Councilmember Bob Blumenfield is apparently unhappy about this, and looking for a way to promote the construction of affordable housing in the area. Good luck with that. Over the past 10 years the vast majority of new housing built in Los Angeles has been geared towards the affluent. The paltry number of affordable units built do not begin to address the need. Members of the City Council have spent plenty of time wringing their hands over this problem, but have made no significant progress toward making housing more accessible to middle- and low-income households. As Mayor Garcetti continues to push for rapid gentrification of LA's communities, Warner Center is just the latest neighborhood where developers have made it clear that only the affluent are welcome.
As work continues on the Purple Line Extension, the Department of City Planning (DCP) has proposed a Transit Neighborhood Plan (TNP) to cover the Wilshire District along the future subway corridor. But stakeholders don't understand why the DCP is pushing for the TNP when area residents will be updating the Wilshire Community Plan in just a few years. They argue it makes more sense to wait until work begins on the Community Plan update, when issues related to transit could be considered in the context of population, housing, infrastructure and public services. It's also questionable whether the DCP actually has any idea of how to plan around busses and rail, because even though planning staff has been talking about transit-oriented development for over a decade, transit ridership is lower than it was 30 years ago.
<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, NOVEMBER 2018]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 04:52:51 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-november-2018

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


City Hall has finally figured out how to cut you out of the planning process.  They've finally found a way to make sure you don't have a voice in decisions about your community's future.  

For years they've been working on re:code LA, a comprehensive revision of the City's zoning code.  The first stage of that revision is now moving forward.  It's called the Processes & Procedures Ordinance.   If adopted, it will add a new chapter to the Los Angeles Municipal Code.  Basically it's a power grab by the Department of City Planning (DCP).  The best way to sum up what's happening here is to talk about how it would limit the authority of your elected officials....

LA's City Charter says that all legislative power of the City is vested in the City Council, except as otherwise provided in the Charter.  That includes power over planning and zoning.  But by adding this new chapter to the Municipal Code, Processes & Procedures seems intended to change that.  Under "General Authority" the new language states....

"The City Council generally exercises all legislative authority associated with the Zoning Code, except where otherwise provided by the Charter, State law, or the Zoning Code."

In other words, the Zoning Code itself could limit the Council's power over zoning.  And since the DCP is rewriting the zoning code, the idea seems to be to take planning power from elected officials and give it to unelected planning bureaucrats.  The addition of the words "State law" is also disturbing, since this could potentially limit the City's ability to challenge legislation from Sacramento, like maybe something along the lines of SB 827.  And there are other problems.  This ordinance restricts appeals, weakens safeguards for HPOZs, and allows the DCP to grant conditional use permits without public input.  

The City Planning Commission has already approved Processes & Procedures.  Next it goes to the Planning & Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, and it seems to be on the fast track.  Even though City Planning staff told members of the public they were open to revising the language, the ordinance was forwarded to PLUM with no changes.  It's uncertain when the Committee will actually take it up, but it could be as early as next week.   

We have to make sure that PLUM rejects this ordinance.  Call PLUM Chair Jose Huizar ASAP and voice your opposition, and then call the other committee members, too.  

PLUM Committee
Jose Huizar, Chair
213 473-7014

Marqueece Harris-Dawson
213 473-7008

Mitch Englander
213 473-7012

Bob Blumenfield
213 473-7003

Curren Price
213 473-7009

It's also a good idea to send an e-mail.  Here's a suggested subject line.  Be sure to include the case number and council file number.   

OPPOSE Processes & Procedures Ordinance; Case No.: CPC-2016-3182-CA; Council File: 12-0460

Send it to PLUM staffer Zina Cheng, and please copy the City Clerk.


<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, OCTOBER 2018]]>Mon, 01 Oct 2018 05:40:01 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-october-2018
Lots of vacant retail space at the new El Centro complex in Hollywood. 

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

UN4LA's mission is to bring communities together to plan for a sustainable future.  This city's growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


If you've been following development in LA for the last several years, you know that the folks at the Department of City Planning (DCP) are big fans of mixed-use projects.  According to them, building residential structures with ground floor retail will encourage people to shop in their own neighborhood and spend less time in their car.  And if you've attended any planning hearings at all in recent years you've certainly heard DCP staff extoll the virtues of "walkable, vibrant streets".

But you may have noticed that a lot of these new mixed-use buildings have plenty of vacant commercial space.  Could this have anything to do with rapid decline of brick and mortar retail over the past several years?  Exacerbating the problem is the fact that many commercial landlords are willing to leave space vacant for months or years in the hope of attracting a major chain willing to pay top dollar.  And if these spaces stay empty, that means the city is losing out on valuable revenue from sales tax.

Across the US, local governments are looking for ways to combat this problem.  This article from BisNow gives more details.

Fed Up With Vacant Storefronts, Residents Force Cities To Punish Retail Landlords


Earlier this year the LA City Council passed a motion to place a meaure on the November ballot asking voters to approve the formation of a municipal bank.  Proponents can cite a number of reasons for making such a move.  Doing business with private banks can be costly, and many backers want the City to have more control over how taxpayer dollars are invested.  But unfortunately, as is often the case in LA, our elected officials haven't undertaken a thorough investigation of what this proposal would involve and only offer the vaguest outline of how the bank might function.  And a report by the Chief Legislative Analyst identifies a number of possible problems.  Jack Humphreville offers a reality check on CityWatch. 

The Bank of Los Angeles: A Weapon of Mass Financial Destruction?


Recently the City of LA agreed to settle a lawsuit over the condition of its sidewalks by agreeing to spend $1.3 billion over 30 years to repair them.  Fixing our sidewalks is important, and UN4LA agrees that this should be a priority.  Unfortunately, this program could result in the removal of thousands of trees at a time when our urban forest is under threat from several different directions.  UN4LA believes the City needs to complete an Environmental Impact Report before proceeding, in order to look at alternatives to removal and to consider best practices for replacement. 

We Need Trees and Sidewalks


Earlier this year the City Planning Commission (CPC) approved the environmental assessment for a 340,000 sq. ft. distribution center at the corner of Vermont and Redondo in the Harbor Gateway community. This project will generate over 1,300 car trips a day, including hundreds of trips by diesel trucks, and is intended to operate 24/7, yet the CPC turned a deaf ear to residents' concerns about the project's impacts.  

But it's not over til it's over.  The California Attorney General has written to the LA City Attorney citing numerous problems with the approval, and asks the City to go back and do the job right.

California AG Backs LA Harbor Community Fighting Toxic Project


In September the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board voted to spend $400,000 to study extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line (currently under construction) into West Hollywood.  The MTA is aggressively pushing to build light rail, but is this approach doing anything to increase transit ridership?  

Actually, no.  Transit ridership is down about 20% since 2013, in spite of the fact that the MTA has spent billions on building new rail in recent years.  Ridership stats for the Red/Purple Line, the Blue Line and the Green Line have all declined in recent years.  Rail proponents point out that ridership is up on the Gold and Expo Lines over the past couple of years, but this seems to be the result of significant new extensions for both lines with the addition of several new stops.  And total rail ridership for the first half of this year has declined significantly over the same period last year.

So why does the MTA keep forging ahead with new rail projects?  A recent article on the West Hollywood line from The Real Deal may offer a clue.  "Given the history of past Metro line extensions, a light rail to West Hollywood would likely have a positive impact on residential and commercial real estate values in the enclave."  A link to the full article is below.

Big Plan for Rail Line through WeHo Chugs Closer to Reality