<![CDATA[UN4LA - UN4LA NEWS]]>Fri, 03 Jan 2020 18:20:27 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, JANUARY 2020]]>Sat, 04 Jan 2020 01:22:25 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-january-2020

A monthly newsletter published by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles.

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

Contact UN4LA


As 2020 begins, the State Legislature will return to its push for new laws to override local planning control.  Among the current proposals, the most controversial bill is Scott Wiener's SB 50.  Wiener claims that his bill is intended to solve the housing crisis, but there are many who argue that it would create more problems than it solves.  Among other things, SB 50 would:

  • create a streamlined approval process that would allow qualifying residential projects to be exempt from environmental review 
  • grant qualifying projects waivers on density limits
  • radically reduce local municipal control over residential development
  • allow pretty much anybody to sue a local jurisdiction for denying a multi-family project approval

Follow the link below to read the bill for yourself.

SB 50

This opinion piece from the San Francisco Examiner questions Wiener's commitment to providing real relief for low-income communities.

SB 50 Authors Need to Be Better Allies of Tenants


At long last, the City of LA has released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for its Sidewalk Repair Program (SRP).  The environmental review process for this project has been convoluted even by LA standards.  It began in 2017, and the release of the DEIR only marks the beginning of public review of the document.  It will likely be many more months before it's approved.  While the City likes to claim that it values transparency, the fact that the DEIR was released on December 26, in he middle of the holidays, when many people are out of town, should serve as a reminder that City Hall generally prefers to discourage meaningful public participation.  And the fact that the EIR hasn't been approved yet has not stopped the City from forging ahead with the Program.  The Board of Public Works has been approving sidewalk repair projects for almost two years.

This is a problem because many projects approved under the SRP require the removal of trees, and LA's urban forest is already shrinking.  No one can argue that the City's sidewalks need to be improved, but it needs to be done in a responsible way.  The City estimates that implementation of the SRP would mean cutting down over 12,000 trees, which could have significant impacts on air quality and local temperatures.  The EIR claims that replacements would be planted at either a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, but the City's record on the planting of replacement trees leaves a lot to be desired.  UN4LA has sued the City of LA because it has been removing trees for the SRP without having completed legally required environmental review.  The lower court decided in favor of the City, but we are currently pursuing an appeal.

To view the SRP EIR, click on the following link and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Sidewalk Repair Program EIR

You can also support the appeal requiring the City to complete the EIR before removing any more trees by clicking on the link below.

Support the Appeal


A Mitigated Negative Declaration has been released for a proposed project to be built at the intersection of De Soto and Burbank in Woodland Hills. The existing Warner Center Corporate Park would be demolished to make way for ten new buildings ranging from two stories to 24 stories high. The Project would be constructed in eight phases and includes about 1,000 multi-family units, including 841 apartments and 168 condos. The Project would also create over 1,000,000 square feet of office space, and about 60,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, as well as a 228-room hotel.  You can view the MND by clicking on the link below.  Comments must be received by January 17.

De Soto/Burbank Master Plan Project Mitigated Negative Declaration


A Downtown artists' collective has filed a lawsuit against the developer that bought their building in 2018.  The Santa Fe Art Colony Tenants Association decided to sue the owner of the building, Fifteen Group, after being hit with rent increases that in some cases tripled what tenants were previously paying.  The units had been covered for decades by an agreement that restricted rent increases, but that agreement expired in 2016.  The Tenants Association had offered to purchase the building for $16.8 million, but Fifteen Group set the price at $22 million.  Part of the lawsuit is based on the tenants' claim that the developer did not negotiate with them in good faith.  This article from The Real Deal offers more details.  

Developer Sued by DTLA Artist Collective

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, DECEMBER 2019]]>Wed, 04 Dec 2019 05:45:59 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/december-03rd-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.  Growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


In November the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission voted to uphold appeals asking the City to overturn the approval of a complex containing 577 apartments in South LA.  This may (or may not be) the final chapter in the project's long and difficult history.  Developer Charles Company initially received strong support from CD 10 Councilmember Herb Wesson.  It may be a coincidence that Charles Company co-founder Arman Gabay, his family members and associates, had contributed thousands of dollars to campaign and officeholder accounts associated with Wesson.  (Eric Garcetti and Jose Huizar have also received generous contributions from the developer and his associates.)  Wesson believed in the project so strongly that he helped the developer win millions of dollars in federal loans.  But the Councilmember seems to have had second thoughts about his association with Gabay after the developer was charged by the Department of Justice for having bribed a County official.  Wesson cited gentrification concerns in a letter of opposition submitted to the Commission.  Could there be other reasons the Councilmember wanted to make this project go away?

Officials Kill Plan for 577 Apartments in South LA


Just a few months back the Mayor and members of the LA City Council were patting themselves on the back for delivering a budget that included a large surplus.  Somehow that surplus has suddenly turned into a massive deficit.  How is this possible?  The LA Times breaks it down and asks if the budget process shouldn't be a whole lot more transparent.

What Do You Know, LA Is in Financial Peril Again


And speaking of transparency, was it really wise for the City of Inglewood to cover a deficit by diverting proceeds from a pension obligation bond into the City’s general fund, instead of using the money to pay down pension liabilities?  Inglewood took on $36 million in debt without voter approval, then its leadership pumped millions into pet projects and awarded raises to the City’s executives.  This story from The Mercury News lays out the details.

How Inglewood Sidestepped Voters When It Took On Millions in Debt to Cover Up a Deficit


Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has filed a lawsuit over the City of LA’s denial of its application for funds to build affordable housing.  The non-profit had submitted a proposal to build over 200 units for seniors, LGBTQ persons and people suffering from chronic health issues at the corner of Seventh and San Julian in Downtown.  The City rejected the application saying it had already awarded available funds to other applicants, but AHF says the City’s process is unnecessarily complex and opaque.  City Controller Ron Galperin shares this view, and in a report released earlier this year his office highlighted the fact that even though City Hall has earmarked $1.2 billion for affordable and permanent supportive housing, no units have actually been completed.

AHF Sues City of LA over Skid Row Project Denial


Los Angeles County has $41 million that it wants to spend to assist low-income communities along the LA River, but deciding how to use the money could be a contentious process.  There are a number of issues confronting neighborhoods adjacent to the River, from gentrification to environmental contamination.  No doubt a number of communities will want a voice in deciding how to disburse the funds.

County Wants to Spend $41M Fighting Displacement along LA River


Illegal demolitions are far too common in LA, and the penalties for knocking a building down without proper permits are far too small.  Developers know that even if they get caught illegally bulldozing a building, the fines are minimal.  It's just a cost of doing business.  The Los Angeles Conservancy wants to change that.  Click on the link to learn more.

L.A. Needs Stronger Demolition Deterrents

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, NOVEMBER 2019]]>Mon, 04 Nov 2019 03:54:49 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-november-2019
Photo of Saddle Ridge Fire from BBC News, October 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.  Growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


As fires rage again in LA County, it's hard not to ask the question, "Why do we keep building in fire prone areas?"  Nineteen homes were destroyed in the Saddle Ridge Fire, and scores more were damaged.  A dozen homes burned in the Getty Fire.  This should be no surprise.  Wide swaths of the areas where these blazes burned, Sylmar, Porter Ranch, Brentwood, have been designated as Very High Fire Severity Zones by the City of LA.  In spite of this, the Department of City Planning (DCP) continues to approve new projects in these areas.  Not long ago the DCP greenlighted a project in Porter Ranch called the Vineyards that includes 266 apartments, a 100-room hotel and a Kaiser medical office building. 

And then there are the projects approved under LA City's Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) Guidelines.  TOC projects are fast-tracked, speeding through the review process, and nobody at City Hall seems to care that some of them are located in Very High Fire Severity Zones.  In light of the recent destruction, the loss of homes and the chaos caused by evacuations, should we continue to build in places where the risk of fire is high?

Last year, when much of the State was ablaze, the LA Times published an analysis of structures at high fire risk in California.  The study shows there are over 100,000 buildings in high hazard zones in Los Angeles, including homes located in the Valley, on the Westside and in the Santa Monica, Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains.  If you haven't already seen it, it's worth taking a look.

A Million California Buildings Face Wildfire Risk


On Friday, October 18, the Board of Public Works voted to allow Universal Studios to remove 112 trees from their grounds, including 63 California Black Walnut and 49 Coast Live Oak trees.  This comes on the heels of the removal of scores of trees for the redevelopment of the Sportsmen's Lodge site, and dozens more from the Grant High School campus.  

At the hearing, Board President Kevin James emphasized that Universal has a plan to replace the trees at a ratio of 4 to 1, but didn't acknowledge that it will take decades for the new trees to deliver the same ecosystem services as the existing woodlands.  Nor did James, or any of the other Commissioners, seem concerned about the loss of wildlife habitat.    

The City of LA has allowed the removal of thousands of trees in recent years, without monitoring the loss of tree canopy or impacts with regard to increased temperatures, degraded air quality, and reduced groundwater recharge.  Mayor Garcetti speaks often about his plans for a sustainable LA, but his actions are in stark contrast to his claims.  The Board of Public Works vote on the Universal trees was disturbing, but predictable.  Just another reminder that real estate interests call the shots at City Hall.  Trees, brush, birds and animals are all expendable.


A building that will provide 84 affordable apartments is rising quickly at 166 S. Alvarado, thanks to an innovative approach to construction.  The modular steel units that are being used to build Hope on Alvarado are manufactured in China, where construction takes place in a controlled environment, avoiding delays due to bad weather.  Developer Aedis Real Estate Group says they expect to have the project completed early next year.

Modular Homeless Housing Rising in Westlake


These days urban planners never seem to tire of telling us about the benefits of living in the central city as opposed to the suburbs.  You can enjoy vibrant neighborhoods, a shorter commute and a more active lifestyle simply by embracing urbanism.  But are city dwellers really that different from suburbanites?  A new study by Eric A. Morris of Clemson University says they're more alike than we might think.  Richard Florida breaks it down at CityLab.

Urban and Suburban Lifestyles Are More Similar Than You’d Think

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, OCTOBER 2019]]>Fri, 04 Oct 2019 03:07:10 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-october-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.  Growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


In September local group Fix the City filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over its implementation of voter-approved Measure JJJ.  In the run-up to the election, voters were told that Measure JJJ would boost affordable housing, create local construction jobs and help ease congestion.  But Fix the City argues that the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Guidelines, which were added to the LA Municipal Code to implement the Measure, go beyond what voters approved.  Fix the City also says the TOC Guidelines ignore important safety issues.

Has the City delivered on what JJJ promised?  It depends on how you read those promises and what you expect from the TOC projects.  Have new affordable units been approved under The TOC Guidelines?  Yes, but in many cases the projects involve the demolition of rent-stabilized units, and the Guidelines allow developers to count replacement units as part of the affordable total.  Have local jobs been created?  No one knows for sure.  All JJJ said was that developers had to make a “good faith” effort to hire local workers.  It didn’t define that effort, say what proof was needed, or indicate what City department would verify it.  Have TOC projects reduced congestion?  No evidence has been produced to verify this, and these days the City doesn’t even monitor traffic congestion.  But it is a fact that transit ridership is lower than it was 30 years ago and has declined for the past 5 years.

The lawsuit was filed to challenge a TOC project that the City approved at 10400 Santa Monica.  Click on the link below to read more.

TOC Lawsuit at Fix the City


For over a year now the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been moving forward with a proposed Transit Neighborhood Plan (TNP) for the Wilshire corridor.  Because the extension of the Purple Line will bring new subway stops to Wilshire Blvd., the DCP argues that a new plan is needed to allow more growth, which would supposedly encourage area residents to drive less and ride transit more often.  Never mind the fact that the DCP has been approving high density residential near transit for years, and transit ridership is lower than it was in the 80s.

Area residents have repeatedly told the DCP that any move to upzone the area should be postponed until the Wilshire Community Plan is updated starting in 2020.  Because the DCP has ignored these concerns, the La Brea Willoughby Coalition (LWC) submitted a series of Public Records Act requests, asking for information on the process used to select neighborhoods for inclusion in the TNP.  Having received no response, the LWC has filed a lawsuit against the City of LA and the DCP to force disclosure of the requested records.

LWC sees the suit as being about much more than just the Purple Line TNP.  A press release from the group's President, Lucille Saunders, says the suit was filed "to ensure the public’s right to know and for true transparency in public processes."


SB 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, was presented to Gov. Gavin Newsom on September 17, but it still has yet to receive his signature.  The bill is complicated, has been the subject of fierce debate up and down California.  SB 330 would create a new "preliminary application" for housing projects, and reduce the time that an agency has to approve or disapprove the project.  It would also prohibit jurisdictions from adopting  policies, standards or conditions that would decrease the intensity of residential zoning.  

Proponents argue that the bill would speed the creation of affordable housing and prevent jurisdictions from downzoning to limit new development.  Opponents say that the bill would only generate more high-end units without guaranteeing any significant gains in affordable housing.  Preservation groups are also concerned that the bill could allow the destruction of potentially historic structures.   

Gov. Newsom must  decide by October 13 whether to sign or veto SB 330.  

SB 330


Last month an LA City Council meeting turned contentious when Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell proposed placing further restrictions on where the homeless can sleep.  Advocates for the homeless were vocal in expressing their opposition to making it harder for those without shelter to find a place to bed down for the night.  O’Farrell countered that homeless encampments were creating health and safety hazards that needed to be addressed.

The City of LA has laws on the books which ban sleeping on sidewalks, but as part of a court settlement the City agreed not to enforce the ban strictly until more homeless housing is built.  Currently the homeless are allowed to bed down on sidewalks from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am as long as they keep their distance from doorways and driveways.

Will LA Impose New Rules on Sidewalk Sleeping?


As efforts to restore the LA River have moved forward in recent years, real estate investors have been purchasing property along the banks in the hope of profiting from the transformation.  Now the first major development, Casitas Lofts, planned for a site between Atwater Village and Glassell Park, has become a flashpoint for debate over competing visions of the River.

The developer plans to build a large complex with 419 new units, of which 35 will be affordable.  The project boasts many amenities, including access to an adjacent site where a State park is planned.  The project’s backers say it will bring badly needed housing, clean up contaminated land, and provide revenue to fund river restoration efforts.  

On the other side of the debate are a number of groups which have numerous concerns, ranging from environmental impacts to gentrification.  Opponents include the National Resource Defense Council, non-profit arts group Clockshop, and Friends of the LA River (FoLAR), which has spent decades advocating for the restoration of the River.  

An Environmental Impact Report is currently being prepared and should be completed later this year.  Expect the public review period to be contentious.    

Can Los Angeles Blend New Housing with River Restoration?

<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, SEPTEMBER 2019]]>Tue, 03 Sep 2019 03:51:22 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-september-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.  Growth must be shaped by community engagement, not developer dollars.

Contact UN4LA


LA is losing its trees.  While elected officials talk about the importance of the urban forest and pay lip service to sustainability, we're losing the most effective tool we have to fight rising temperatures.  The photo above was taken by an activist witnessing the recent removal of 11 liquid amber trees on Sunnyslope Avenue.  The City of LA said it had to cut the trees down as part of its Sidewalk Repair Program, and claimed that they were in poor health.  Tree activists disagreed and showed up to document what they felt was an unjustified assault on the neighborhood.  

But this is minor compared to the massive number of trees that have come down recently or will be coming down in the near future.  The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to cut down 48 trees at Grant High School as part of a campus upgrade.  Ninety mature trees will be felled as part of a makeover of the Sportsmen's Lodge.  Harvard-Westlake School plans to remove scores of trees as part of its plan to turn the former Weddington Golf Course into an athletic facility.  And Universal Studios continues to bulldoze hundreds of trees, including protected native species, in the course of its years-long expansion plan.  

How can we reverse this trend?  Click on the link to learn more.

LA Is Losing Its Trees


The massive District Square project, a mixed-use complex planned for the intersection of Crenshaw and Obama Boulevards, is the subject of an appeal filed by the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.  The project has a long and complicated history, with the first application filed almost a decade ago, and several changes occurring over the years.  The most recent version, which includes 577 residential units, shops, restaurants and a grocery store, was approved in June.

District Square's story has been been pretty twisted.  Developers Arman and Mark Gabay, of the Charles Co., originally had strong support from Councilmember Herb Wesson, and they managed to secure over $30 million dollars in Federal grants and loans for the project, but at present they're in default on $6 million of those loans.  It also couldn't have helped things that Arman Gabay was charged with felony bribery and wire fraud in 2018.  He's accused of having made monthly payments to an employee in LA County's real estate division.  Apparently this was too much even for Wesson, who has been trying to distance himself from the developers.  Interestingly, just before the project was approved, Charles Co. floated a ground lease on the site, which makes you wonder if they have the money to actually build anything.  You can read more in these two articles from Curbed and The Real Deal.

Crenshaw Subway Coalition Appeals District Square Development

Charles Co. Shops Ground Lease on Unbuilt South LA Project


Toward the end of July the City of LA approved the massive Promenade 2035 Project In Warner Center.  Not long after, the decision drew two appeals, one from a local community group and one from the developer.  Gina Thornburg, founder of Coalition for Valley Neighborhoods, is challenging the project due to its lack of affordable housing and the inclusion of a multipurpose stadium.  Developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is appealing the City's decision to downsize the stadium from 15,000 seats to 7,500.  This article from The Real Deal offers more details.

Billion-Dollar Warner Center Megaproject Faces Another Hurdle


There are good reasons why we have laws to restrict lobbying by former city officials.  But apparently Michael LoGrande, LA's former Director of Planning, didn't think those laws applied to him.  Almost immediately after stepping down from his post, LoGrande was back at City Hall, now lobbying city officials on behalf of private clients.  Is it any wonder citizens are cynical about the development process in LA?  

Former LA Planning Director Faces $281,000 Ethics Fine from LA Times

While He Was Illegally Lobbying, Former LA Official Was Also Getting Paid by City Hall from LA Times

<![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