The people of West Adams, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park have been working for years to create a new Community Plan in order to provide a framework for future growth in these areas. In May of this year they released the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the plan. That should have been a time for celebration. But far from celebrating, many community members felt betrayed when they learned that the City Council was working feverishly to approve a massive project that violated the Community Plan in a number of ways.
The proposed Cumulus project would dump nearly 2 million square feet of new development, including a 30-story skyscraper, at the already congested intersection of La Cienega and Jefferson. It goes far beyond what would be allowed under the new Community Plan, and renders meaningless the years of hard work that local residents invested in creating it.
This is just one more instance where the City Council has shown its total contempt for the planning process. Once again, City Hall has chosen to empower developers with deep pockets, while cutting the community out of the decision-making process.
As a result of the City Council's actions, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Friends of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative are jointly suing the City Council and the developer to stop the project. Follow the link to read their press release.
Crenshaw Subway Coalition
If you've been following local news over the past few years, you know that a lot of people are angry about the City of LA's current approach to development. Unfortunately, the media often frames the argument in terms of pro-density developers and city officials with a vision for the future against aging white homeowners who want to cling to the past.
The problem with this view is that it doesn't begin to deal with the scope and complexity of the problems we're facing. The simplistic pro-density vs. anti-density trope makes it look like City Hall and developers are fighting to bring LA into the future, without taking into account the reality of what's happening as a result of the current building binge. For years the City has been building residential complexes along transit corridors in the belief that it would get people out of cars, but transit ridership is down and congestion is worse than ever. The Department of City Planning incentivises the eviction of low-income tenants by offering zone changes and other variances to landlords. City Hall has been successful in luring businesses and residents to "revitalized" communities, but hasn't addressed LAPD staffing shortages, causing huge spikes in crime. And while our elected officials will move heaven and earth to push a luxury housing complex through the approval process, they have yet to create a credible plan to solve the homeless crisis.
Let's face it. The development process in LA is completely, utterly broken. The Mayor and City Council routinely hand out zoning changes and major variances to developers who have contributed thousands of dollars to their campaigns. The Mayor blithely overturns unanimous decisions made by the City Planning Commission. The DCP has greenlighted numerous luxury skyscapers in its push for higher density, while thousands of affordable units are taken off the market. LA's water resources continue to shrink, and yet the City refuses to undertake a cumulative assessment of the demands planned construction will make on our water supply. And why are we even talking about updating our General Plan and Community Plans, when it's clear that City Hall has zero interest in monitoring and enforcement?
So what we do? It's clear that many Angelenos feel they have no voice in planning for the future of their community, and there are a number of groups that have organized to fight individual projects. But wouldn't our efforts have a greater impact if we were all working together? United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA) was created to give Angelenos a unified voice. If we can come together to press for better planning, we have a better chance of getting City Hall to pay attention. UN4LA will fight for:
• Projects that are designed to enhance, not exploit, your community.
• Water, power and transit infrastructure that you can rely on.
• Consistent enforcement of zoning and building codes.
If you're interested in working with us, or if you just want to learn more, follow this link to our Contact page:
The City of LA is facing numerous challenges right now, but we believe that we can meet these challenges and overcome them. We've seen the disastrous results of short-sighted policy decisions made by politicians and developers acting out of self-interest. It's time for our communities to come together and demand a role in shaping the city's future. UN4LA believes that better planning means a better Los Angeles.
If you feel the same way, let's talk.