Thu, May

Los Angeles: Once America’s Dream, Now America’s Nightmare


THE VIEW FROM HERE - For virtually everyone who came to Los Angeles since 1890, Los Angeles meant one thing: the American dream, a detached home on its own plot of land.  In fact, a detached home is probably the #1 American value around which our entire culture revolves.   

Owning one’s home and moving away from authorities was the practical route to Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.  Escaping from Thomas Edison’s dictatorial control of the film industry is why so many Jews moved here to operate in freedom. Because power tends to corrupt, all the Eastern cities became centers of corruption.  The average family, however, wanted a decent life, i.e., owning their own home on their own land. 

California in general and especially Los Angeles became the epitome of the American ideal. In the early 1900's, LA had more space than one could image.  “The huddled mass yearning to be free” heeded Horace Greeley’s advice and came West. 

As most know, Collis Huntington of railroad fame used his rail lines in order to develop suburbs away from downtown Los Angeles.   Los Angeles 1850s-1900s.  Housing tracts sprung up within a ½ mile of his rail lines.  When the middle class could afford a car, then the extent of land which was opened to newcomers was virtually inexhaustible.  Before the auto, one had to walk from the rail line to one’s house, thereby limiting how far a development could be from the train. With a car, one could drive right into the family driveway.  In 1890, Los Angeles had 50,395 ppl. Within ten years (1900), it had doubled to 102,479 ppl. In the next ten years (1910), the population had tripled to 319,198 ppl.  Within the next twenty years (1920), the population grew by another 385% to 1,238,048 ppl.  

The City Engineers Foresaw a Serious Problem  

In 1915, the City recognized that Los Angeles was dramatically different from all prior European and American cities.  It was not based on a small core.  Most European cities had grown up around medieval towns surrounded by walls, and American Eastern cities had been established pre Industrial Revolution.  As people had to be within reasonable walking distance of each other, housing density was required.  Hence, cities had row houses and Brownstone mansions were only 20 feet wide. 

The 1915 Study of Street Traffic Condition in the City of Los Angeles   

Everyone interested in the causes of Los Angeles’ demise should master this 1915 Study. It explains the mathematics of what is possible and what is not possible in Los Angeles.  It proved a couple principles: (1) Densification will make a few wealthy at the expense of everyone else (page 31), (2) Rapid Mass Transit is mathematically impossible in Los Angeles.  The 1915 Study, like all Cassandras, was ignored.  After WW II, the city went hog wild on rapid mass transit and densification.  It took a few decades for the truths in the 1915 Study to manifest themselves.  Anyone who pointed out the corruption and bribery was shoved aside.  Densification funnels money upwards to the 1%. 

The message of the 1915 Study is that Los Angeles has a population limit. The last thing Angelenos should do, it warned, was to densify core areas because densification only makes a few landowners wealthy and everyone else poorer.  Well, that’s what the developers wanted – to become vastly wealthy. Thieves do not worry about their victims. 

We now know that the point at which a city needs to stop density is 3,600 ppl per sq mile. LA density’s 8,304.2 ppl per sq mi. 2020 US Census Here’s the process which is hidden in these figures. As density increases, land values increase. As the value of the land on which homes sit increases, the cost of the homes increases. “No urban area whose density is greater than 4,100 people square mile has a price-per-income ratio less than 4.”   May, 19, 2023, The Marin Post. 

Price-per-income Ratio (PPI Ratio) 

The PPI Ratio is a figure neither Wall Street nor their Woker stooges will mention. It compares the price of housing to the average income of the area.  If housing costs a family less than 30% of its income, it’s PPI Ratio is 3 or lower. If housing costs a family more than 30% of its income, its PPI rate is above 3.  Thirty Percent (30%) is the new figure of the maximum a family should spend on housing. It used to be 25%. 

An area with a population density greater than 5,100 ppl per square mile, will have a PPI Ratio greater than 5. That means 50% or more of the income goes for housing. That leaves less disposable income for everything else.  Thus, building affordable housing in an area which is already too dense will only increase the cost of housing and make the area’s housing less affordable.  Los Angeles’ overall PPI Ratio to purchase a house is a sky high 8.2, which is why only 37% of Angelenos own home. A huge percentage of homeowners bought pre 1990, when the PPI Ratio was much lower.  

Council District 13's East Hollywood with 31,095 ppl per sq mi has the 3rd highest density in Los Angeles. Adding more housing in East Hollywood will drive up the cost of housing. Why?  Developers pay over market value for less dense lots in order to greatly increase the number of units. At the corner of Garfield and Franklin, where there used to be one single family home and a gas station, they want to add 63 condos.  Thus, the value of land constantly escalates. 

In 2023, East Hollywood’s median household income is about $42,167.29 (2023 dollars), which is one of the lowest household incomes in the county.  That means a family can afford only $1,171 per month for housing. As of May 2023, the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in East Hollywood is $1,995 – that’s for one bedroom. For a three bedroom apartment, the rent is $3,950 per month or $47,400 rent per year.  

How to Make Everyone’s Rent Increase 

CD 13 Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez and the other Woker councilmembers want to increase the density in East Hollywood! They propose to demolish rent controlled apartments and then increase the overall density of East Hollywood by adding market rate apartments at a 3 to 1 ratio; 3 market rate units for each “affordable rate” apartment.  The only people who financially benefit are the developer and Wall Street.   

A family of 4 which pays 50% of its income for a one bedroom apartment in 2023 will be unable to afford even a studio apartment after Hugo Soto-Martinez builds more InFill apartments to benefit his Trade Union buddies.  Where do the poor go?  Look under the freeways.  

People came to Los Angeles to own a decent home on their own lot.   Garcettism and Wokeism have turned that dream into a nightmare.  

(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor.  The opinions expressed are those of Richard Abrams and not CityWatchLA. You may email him at [email protected].

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