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