<![CDATA[UN4LA - UN4LA NEWS]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2020 20:56:05 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, APRIL 2020]]>Wed, 01 Apr 2020 03:26:55 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-april-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


CORONAVIRUS IMPACTS L.A.

As the pandemic deepens across the globe, and cities across the US are taking measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Angelenos are dealing with a new reality.

In the City of LA, Mayor Garcetti has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, but this raises the question of what is essential.  In this article, Curbed asks if construction work is essential, and looks at responses from developers, unions, and government agencies across the country.

How Essential Is Construction During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

As LA businesses close down, workers have been laid off or let go, putting thousands of renters in a tight spot.  The LA Times reports on actions taken by Mayor Garcetti to temporarily stop evictions and freeze rents. 

Tenants Get Help as LA Freezes Rent Hikes for Thousands of Apartments over Coronavirus

Legacy businesses are those restaurants, shops and service providers that have a long-standing presence in our communities.  The LA Conservancy has suggestions for ways you can support your favorite local business during this difficult time.

Support Legacy Businesses


CORRUPTION PROSECUTIONS IN L.A.

While the pandemic has been dominating the headlines, there have been important new developments in the Department of Justice's investigation into corruption in the City of LA.

Earlier this month former LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander was charged with obstructing an investigation into illegal activities.  Late last week he agreed to plead guilty to one count of falsifying facts. 

Ex-Los Angeles City Councilman Agrees to Plead Guilty to Federal Charge

Also this month, real estate appraiser Justin Kim agreed to plead guilty to delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars to an LA City Councilmember in exchange for help with moving a project forward.

Fundraiser to Plead Guilty to Delivering Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to Bribe Member of Los Angeles City Council


GET OUT OF THE HOUSE: TAKE A (VIRTUAL) TOUR OF L.A.

No doubt many Angelenos are tired of being cooped up in their homes.  Even if it isn't safe to go roaming around the city right now, you can still take of virtual tour of LA County.  The LA Conservancy will show you some of LA's most famous landmarks, along with many others you've never even heard of.    

Explore Los Angeles County


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<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, MARCH 2020]]>Wed, 04 Mar 2020 17:37:59 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-march-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



CITY OF L.A. CONSIDERS EMINENT DOMAIN TO PRESERVE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
 
Councilmember Gil Cedillo has proposed a radical way to keep rental costs down: Invoke eminent domain.  Cedillo's proposal is intended to help the low-income households of Chinatown's Hillside Villa Apartments, now that their affordability covenants have expired and they're faced with massive rent increases.  Predictably, the plan has been embraced by tenant advocacy groups and condemned by property owners.  This story from the Downtown News offers more details. 
 
Cedillo Proposes Acquiring Chinatown's Hillside Villa

 
COMMENT PERIOD FOR SIDEWALK REPAIR PROGRAM E.I.R. EXTENDED
 
In response to requests from a number of groups, the City of LA has extended the period for public comment on the Sidewalk Repair Program Draft Environmental Impact Report (SRP DEIR) to April 24, 2020.  The SRP is expected to remove more than 12,000 street trees over 30 years.  While the City claims that the Program's negative impacts can be mitigated to a level where they're not significant, a number of tree advocates disagree. If you'd like to offer your comments on DEIR, click on the link below.
 
Sidewalk Repair Program Draft Environmental Impact Report

 
GROUPS APPEAL APPROVAL OF OAK SAVANNA PROJECT
 
The controversial Oak Savanna project has been the subject of a bitter struggle for more than a decade.  Harridge Development proposes the construction of 19 single-family homes up to 36 feet in height along a scenic stretch of Mulholland Drive that currently contains oak woodlands.  Each home would include a two-car garage, and the site would also have 38 covered parking spaces for residents.
 
The City’s recent approval of the project drew a number of appeals from both individuals and groups, including the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  Appellants are concerned about a range of issues, including loss of protected trees and loss of habitat.  It’s also important to mention that the project site is designated by the City of LA as a very high fire severity zone.
 
The South Valley Area Planning Commission will be hearing appeals later this month.  Details below. 
 
South Valley Area Planning Commission
March 12, 2020, After 4:30 pm
Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center
6262 Van Nuys Blvd., 1st Floor Conference Room
Van Nuys, CA 91401

 
March 12, 2020 Hearing Notice

 If you can’t attend but would like to comment on the project, Comments can be sent to
 
Jivar Afshar, Planning Assistant

Be sure to include the case number in the subject line.
 
Case No. ZA-2007-1255-ZAD-1A and VTT-67505-1A
 
 
WHEN IS METRO GOING TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER?
 
Construction of Metro's Crenshaw Light Rail Line was supposed to have been completed last year.  Then Metro said it would open in Spring of this year.  Now they've pushed the completion date back again, saying that work will be finished in Summer/Fall 2020.  If it was just this one project, the agency could be forgiven, but extended delays have become the norm for Metro.  The Regional Connector in Downtown was originally supposed to open this year, then it was 2021, and now Metro is projecting completion in 2022.  And in spite of last year's extended delays in finishing upgrades on the A Line (formerly the Blue Line), problems started occurring within days after the reopening.  On February 22 one of the cars actually went off the tracks. 
 
Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars because they were told they would get a better transit system.  And this is what we end up with?
 
Crenshaw Line Opening Could be Delayed

L.A. Metro’s Downtown Subway Project May Not Open Until Mid-2022

A-Line Train Derails in Downtown Long Beach

 
A WOMAN'S PLACE: UNION STATION AND CHINATOWN
 
This month the Los Angeles Conservancy is offering walking tours that explore the linked histories of Union Station and Chinatown, while also highlighting the role women played in shaping those histories.  The tours take place on Thursday nights at 6:00 pm.  Click on the link for details.
 
A Woman's Place: Union Station and Chinatown

 


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<![CDATA[UN4LA NEWS, FEBRUARY 2020]]>Mon, 03 Feb 2020 04:48:27 GMThttp://un4la.com/un4la-news/un4la-news-february-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


SB 50 FAILS TO WIN STATE SENATE APPROVAL

On January 30, SB 50, Scott Wiener's controversial bill that would have upzoned urban areas around transit corridors, failed to win enough votes to move from the State Senate.  The bill's twisted passage to the Senate floor was highly unusual.  It was placed in suspense last year by the Appropriations Committee, then withdrawn from that committee on January 17 by Senate President Toni Atkins.  It was next sent to the Rules Committee, but was withdrawn again on January 27 and sent to the Senate floor for a vote.  A vote was held on Wednesday, January 29, in which the bill failed to win approval, but it came back again the following day.  By all accounts, Thursday was a long and difficult session for Senators, as the vote on SB 50 was delayed while Senator Wiener and his allies engaged in a furious lobbying effort to win support.  In the end, they couldn't come up with enough votes.

UN4LA agrees with tenants' rights activists and community groups across the State that SB 50 was a poorly conceived piece of legislation that would have done much more harm than good.  Recklessly upzoning parcels throughout the State would have pushed real estate prices higher than they are now, and would have likely resulted in massive displacement.  And Wiener's claim that upzoning near transit would get people out of cars and onto trains and busses is not supported by the data.  San Francisco, the area Wiener serves, has built thousands of new units near transit over the past two decades, and yet average weekday ridership in that city is below the level it was in 2001.  And while LA has been aggressively building residential high-rises along transit corridors, ridership is actually lower than it was 30 years ago, in spite of the fact that LA County has added more than a million people during that same period.  

But rational planning and actual data don't seem to mean much to Wiener, nor to Senate President Toni Atkins and Governor Gavin Newsom.  After the bill failed, all three pledged to keep pushing for legislation along the lines of SB 50.  This isn't surprising, since real estate investors, construction interests and chambers of commerce throughout California all support legislation that would force cities to upzone.  Opponents of SB 50 have also warned that Wiener may come back later this year with a gut-and-amend ploy, as he did in 2019.  Last year Wiener introduced SB 592, which initially addressed licensing requirements for cosmetologists.  In mid-year, Wiener threw out the original language and replaced it with new language that would have made changes to the Housing Accountability Act.  This cynical move seems to indicate that Wiener has little regard for transparency, and is more interested in getting bills passed than participating in an open democratic process.  

It's clear that SB 50's defeat does not mean the end of Sacramento's push to override local planning authority.  Scott Wiener will be back.      


CITY OF L.A. IS UPDATING ITS HOUSING ELEMENT

Housing is obviously an issue of concern to everyone who lives in the City of LA, and residents should be aware that the City is getting reading to update the Housing Element of its General Plan.  This important process will affect how the City plans for future residential construction.  Follow the link below to view the current Housing Element, and to sign up for e-mail notifications regarding the update.

Housing Element


HOW WILL THE SIDEWALK REPAIR PROGRAM IMPACT THE URBAN FOREST?

The public has a little over 3 weeks left to submit comments on the massive Sidewalk Repair Program Environmental Impact Report (SRP EIR), which runs over 1,700 pages including the appendices.  The City will claim that the 60 day comment period allows ample time to study the EIR, but it's important to remember that they released the EIR on December 26, in the middle of the holidays, when many Angelenos were out of town.  The City's interest in public participation in the process is questionable to begin with, since it began removing trees under the SRP almost two years ago.  

UN4LA will be joining other groups in asking for an extension of the EIR comment period, but even if that request is denied, we will still be submitting comments by the February 24 deadline.  You can submit comments, too.  To view the SRP EIR, click on the following link and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Sidewalk Repair Program EIR

The address to send comments to is:

Shilpa.Gupta@lacity.org

The City asks that you include "SRP DEIR" in the subject line


HARBOR COMMISSIONERS APPROVE FIRST PHASE OF SAN PEDRO PUBLIC MARKET

In January the Board of Harbor Commissioners gave the greenlight for construction of the San Pedro Public Market to begin.  The first phase is comprised of 150,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and 30,000 square feet of office space.  The project includes the restoration of about 90,000 square feet of wharf and dock space.  An outdoor amphitheater is also planned, but approvals are still pending.  The San Pedro Public Market will replace Ports O' Call, a seaside plaza which was constructed in the early 60s.  This article from Curbed offers more details.

San Pedro Public Market Cleared to Start Construction


CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR GRIFFITH PARK

One of the most difficult issues facing the L.A. City Department of Recreation & Parks is handling traffic and tourism in Griffith Park.  Congestion heading up to the Observatory is getting steadily worse, and it's not uncommon to see a long line of cars parked on the roads leading up to it, since the parking lot is often full.  The problems surrounding the Hollywood Sign are even more vexing, with tourists racing up narrow hillside roads to snap a selfie with the landmark, often tossing bottles, cans, and cigarettes out of their cars on the way.  The cigarettes are especially problematic, since virtually the entire hillside area is a high fire hazard zone.

For years the City Council has been trying to find solutions to these problems, without much luck.  They've studied many options, including electric shuttles, improved signage, increased traffic enforcement, and changes to park hours.  And last year the City hired a firm to study the possibility of building an aerial tram through the park.  Supporters argue that it would give tourists a way to reach the sign without driving.  Detractors say that the construction of a tram would deface the park and possibly exacerbate tourism problems.

Study for Aerial Tram to Griffith Park Now Underway

On the other hand, maybe we could just create another Hollywood Sign.  

Report To Reduce Tourist Traffic Includes Second Hollywood Sign



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<![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


NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW PUSH BY SACRAMENTO TO OVERRIDE LOCAL PLANNING CONTROL

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


CITY OF L.A. FINALLY RELEASES DRAFT E.I.R. FOR PROJECT IT BEGAN ALMOST TWO YEARS AGO 

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


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT RELEASED FOR DE SOTO/BURBANK MASTER PLAN

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


DOWNTOWN ARTISTS COLLECTIVE SUES DEVELOPER

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



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<![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


COMMISSIONERS KILL PLAN FOR 577 APARTMENTS IN SOUTH L.A.

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


L.A. CITY COUNCIL'S BOASTS OF A BUDGET SURPLUS TURN INTO WARNINGS OF HUGE DEFICIT

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


INGLEWOOD'S EXECS GOT RAISES AS THE CITY TOOK ON MASSIVE DEBT

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 SUES L.A. OVER DENIAL OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING LOAN 

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


COUNTY CONSIDERS INVESTING IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES ALONG L.A. RIVER

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


L.A . CONSERVANCY WANTS TO STOP ILLEGAL DEMOLITIONS

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


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<![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


MORE HOMES LOST, AND L.A. CONTINUES TO APPROVE PROJECTS IN FIRE-PRONE AREAS

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


UNIVERSAL STUDIOS TO REMOVE SCORES OF OAK AND WALNUT TREES FOR EXPANSION

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.


DEVELOPER USES INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO SPEED CONSTRUCTION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING

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


URBANITES VS. SUBURBANITES: ARE THEIR LIFESTYLES REALLY SO DIFFERENT?

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




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<![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


LOCAL GROUP SUES CITY OF L.A. OVER TRANSIT ORIENTED COMMUNITIES GUIDELINES

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


LA BREA WILLOUGHBY COALITION SUES TO OBTAIN TRANSIT NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN INFORMATION

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."


WILL GOV. NEWSOM SIGN SB 330?

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


DEBATE OVER SLEEPING ON SIDEWALKS GETS HEATED

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?


BATTLE OVER CASITAS LOFTS PROJECT ON L.A. RIVER

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?


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<![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


L.A. IS LOSING ITS TREES

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


LATEST TWISTS IN DISTRICT SQUARE DRAMA

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
  

PROMENADE PROJECT DRAWS APPEALS FROM BOTH SIDES

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


L.A.'S FORMER DIRECTOR OF PLANNING HIT WITH ETHICS FINE

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


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<![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.


ANOTHER HUGE JUMP IN HOMELESSNESS ACROSS L.A. COUNTY

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

SB 330: NANCY SKINNER'S GIFT TO DEVELOPERS

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

SB 592: SCOTT WIENER'S TROJAN HORSE

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

L.A. CITY COUNCILMEMBER RYU OFFERS HOUSING SOLUTIONS

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

PASADENA RESIDENTS DOUBT TOXIC TESTING RESULTS

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


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<![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


CUTTING OFF THE CAMPAIGN CASH: IS THE CITY OF L.A. FINALLY GOING TO TAKE ACTION?

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

SB 330: WOULD IT REALLY PRODUCE MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

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

L.A.U.S.D. WANTS TO CUT DOWN 48 TREES AT GRANT HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS

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

WARNER BROS. BUYS A NEW SITE IN BURBANK, AND PLANS TO BUILD OFFICE TOWERS

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




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