ONE MAN’S OPINION - Los Angeles is a broken City. Its infrastructure is old, its departments severely understaffed and not able to keep up with the decline. We see signs of it everywhere. Potholed streets, crumbling sidewalks, brownouts, burst watermains and on one residential street near the LaBrea tar pits, water and tar have broken through the pavement. It’s been going on since before the 4th of July with no help in sight except sand to cover it over and cones to warn passing motorists. Ultimately it will get into the County drain system and then maybe someone will fix it. I’m sure everyone has their own story of something or other that isn’t working given most of the departments are understaffed by 25-30%. All that is a sign of a physically broken city. Then there is the crime and homeless crisis. Crime in the streets and crime in City Hall. That is a different kind of broken city, a morally broken city.
Crime in the streets is something law enforcement hopefully can correct given enough time and support. Crime in city hall is different, it’s not just graft, it’s the fact that the city does not follow its own rules and regulations or the processes that have been in place for many years. Like many of you I hoped that when the FBI landed, they would really investigate the planning practices of this city. Any true investigation would have placed us under a Federal Consent decree. Well they didn’t and that leaves us to deal with it. What is the it I am talking about? It is the constant dump of large projects from the Planning department, produced in virtual and actual back rooms with lots of input from special interest groups.
The latest dump includes the Housing Element, an update to 4 Community plans, a modification of TOC requirements provided by measure JJJ and probably what they call a modification of the City’s Framework Element. It took time to dig into the Housing Element and it was worse than I first thought. It was billed as a horn of plenty stuffed with all kinds of delicious treats, but in reality, it is a Trojan Horse filled with bulldozers, dump trucks and all manner of tools to help developers and special interest groups destroy our neighborhoods. It is a flaming afront to all the good hard-working people of Los Angeles who for decades toiled to make their neighborhoods and this city a place to be proud of. It is a betrayal of the Neighborhood Council system and the many thousands of people who gave of their time and energy to start and serve on those councils over the last 20 years. It mocks their service and says that despite their hard work and due diligence we are a city of selfish immoral racist because we live in single family homes.
The city knows better than this, but it doesn’t fit their narrative or the goals they are pursuing. Those goals are multiple. They have everything to do with Federal and State programs attached to funds the city wants and providing their developer friends with additional lands to build upon. The city is perfectly prepared to allow outside groups like Abundant Housing LA and others to present the city in its worse light. Not only that, the planning department writes reports the developers then regurgitate to make their point.
An example of this is an excerpt from a May 21, 2021, Planning department report which states:
While there are many reasons for variations in zoning across Los Angeles, the history of zoning and public and private investment patterns is deeply rooted in racist policies including redlining, restrictive covenants, exclusionary zoning, and urban renewal. The legacies of discriminatory land use and housing policies and practices have led to entrenched patterns of racial segregation and inequitable access to high quality schools, employment, health, and other critical determinants of life outcomes. Despite the 1968 passage of the Fair Housing Act which prohibited racial discrimination, racial and economic segregation persist to this day.
A letter submitted by Abundant Housing LA and YIMBY Law regarding the Housing Element is filled with references dealing with segregation that closely mirror the Planning Dept letter.
What is particularly disturbing to me is that the previous Housing Element (2013-2021) included the following which is the exact opposite of the current Planning Department letter:
Los Angeles is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. Owing largely to this diversity, Los Angeles has become far less segregated than it was just a few decades ago. In fact, according to an index of segregation called the “isolation index, “Los Angeles is now the least segregated major city in the United States 12. 12 9 Glaeser, Edward and Jacob Vigdor. “The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Segregation in America’s Neighborhoods, 1890-2010.” Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. May 24, 2013.
I don’t think anyone would say that Los Angeles is perfect, but this Housing Element does not even begin to solve the problems it lays before us. It will merely produce more market rate units and a small number of affordable units. The problem, not only in Los Angeles, is not a lack of housing, it is a shrinking middle class and a lack of sufficient income to live a healthy, productive life. The very entities pushing this element are supporting the companies responsible for the globalization that has robbed us of good paying jobs. Hopefully in the future we will be able to discuss why this is happening but for now the City needs to stop pushing these unfair plans and follow the rules and procedures that have been in place for many years to update general plan elements and community plans.
The Mayor and Council members need to instruct Vince Bertoni to go back and borrow a page from the previous Housing Element which stated:
For at least 20 years the City has been pursuing a sustainable approach to accommodating long-range growth. This approach is established in the Framework Element of the General Plan, first adopted in 1995, which encourages sustainable growth in higher-intensity commercial and mixed-use districts, centers and boulevards, and in proximity to transit. These centers and transit stations and stops are depicted on the map below, the goals and policies of the Framework Element establish a balanced approach to growth by linking it to the land uses and infrastructure that will support the type of infill development that incurs the least economic, environmental and social costs. The Housing Element helps to fulfill this strategy.
I realize that many in the Real Estate Industrial Complex (REIC) want to rewrite the Framework Element because it is old and doesn’t give them what they want. To them I say, remember the Framework Element was mandated by the EPA because of their concerns over air quality in Los Angeles. If you want to rewrite it, do it the right way with an Environmental Impact Report and an open Citywide process that engages all of us, not just a few.
To continue with this process, in this way adds to the moral rot taking place in the city. How long can a city survive that is both morally and physically broken.
(James O’Sullivan is the retired ex-president (25 years) and current ex-officio of the Miracle Mile Residential Association. He is Vice President of Fix The City Inc., currently in court with the City over their adoption of the Hollywood Community Plan and we are pushing the City to be more transparent with RSO units.