PLANNING WATCH - Despair can easily overwhelm you in Los Angeles and other large US cities, especially because so many of their residents are unhoused. This fully preventable tragedy results from widespread real estate speculation, economic inequality and poverty, evictions, and termination of HUD public housing programs.
Other local trends are equally disturbing: declining transit ridership, crumbling streets and sidewalks, ho-hum responses to climate change, underplanted and poorly maintained urban forests, billboard blight, and old, un-monitored General Plan elements.
In contrast, expensive high-rise apartments, undaunted by rising interest rates, continue to pop-up despite long-term population decline and high vacancy rates. These speculative projects easily obtain (unmonitored) density bonuses and discretionary zoning approvals.
While I fully understand this despair, we need to remember that many grassroots groups have recently emerged to oppose these real estate cons and the City Hall giveaways and plans that enable them. Since most of these groups are new, please let me ([email protected]) know about other groups that should be added to my list.
- Planning that relies on local residents, not developer dollars, to determine the future of neighborhoods.
- Consistent enforcement of zoning and building codes.
- Transparent municipal budget processes.
- Proper urban forest planting and maintenance.
- High ethical standards for elected officials and other public servants.
- Reliable water, power, and transit infrastructure.
United Neighbors ([email protected]) originated in Los Angeles but has expanded throughout California. Detailed information is available at https://www.unitedneighbors.net/. United Neighbors’ goal is: “The protection of multi-family and single-family neighborhoods while supporting affordable and equitable housing for all. The rights of all residents and the rights of people needing affordable housing are bound together, and the solution to our affordable housing crisis requires thoughtful, effective, and rapid-acting legislation with community input.”
- “Protect tenants: prevent gentrification and homelessness through rent control and other tenant protections;
- Preserve existing affordable housing: preserve existing affordable housing for the poor and working- and middle-class residents, not demolish it to build luxury housing;
- Produce new affordable housing: produce new affordable housing through the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and cost-effective new construction.”
LA Tenants Union (LATU) (https://latenantsunion.org/en/resources/) has 13 local chapters in Los Angeles. They can be reached at (213) 986-8266 and [email protected]. In addition to direct actions, collective help, and information for tenants facing eviction, LATU campaigns for the elimination of California’s Ellis Act, human rights to housing, and rent forgiveness.
Fix the City’s (FTC) (https://fixthecity.org/) expertise is lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles for adopted plans and ordinances they contend are illegal. Their web lists an impressive number of legal cases they have won, including judicial nullification of the 2012 pro-development Hollywood Community Plan Update. Regarding their mission, “FTC believes that the prosperity of cities depends upon their livability: Good schools, safe parks, properly staffed police and fire, gridlock-free, non-cratered streets, clean air and safe sidewalks. In Los Angeles these vital public services are suffering in large part because the City has failed to monitor and invest in its crumbling infrastructure and has allowed development to outpace and exceed its capacity to provide essential services.”
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) (https://www.cesinaction.org/) can be reached at 213-353-4411 or [email protected]. CES concentrates on tenant organizing, eviction clinics, tenants’ rights counseling, code enforcement, rent control, government assisted low-rent housing, and legislative advocacy.
In addition, there are many local coalitions in Los Angeles who direct their political energy to opposing loathsome real estate projects. UN4LA and United Neighbors try to keep track of them, but their lists need continuous updating.
Independent On-line Publications
CityWatchLA (https://www.citywatchla.com/) publishes two on-line issues each week. You can sign up for free email delivery at the same website. The publication’s volunteer writers, like me, offer independent analysis of pressing local, state, and national issues, with special attention to Los Angeles.
LA Progressive offers original and syndicated articles on many topics, including Los Angeles, at https://www.laprogressive.com/topics. You can sign up email delivery at https://support.laprogressive.com/become-a-member/.
Capital and Main is a non-profit publication whose news stories and opinion columns cover: “Income inequality, climate change, green economics, housing, health care, public education, immigration, race, and criminal justice.” Their website is https://capitalandmain.com/, and email delivery is available at https://capitalandmain.com/sign-up .
Statewide and National Organizations
Livable California’s (https://www.livablecalifornia.org/) primary concern is statewide planning and housing issues. You can sign up for their email list and regular Zoom calls at https://www.livablecalifornia.org/contact/. Their mission? “We are a nonprofit that advocates for empowerment of local governments to foster equitable, livable communities, and truly affordable housing.”
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition (https://nlihc.org/) is a clearing house for low-income housing issues that “. . . achieve socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.” Their email sign-up page.
Final words: We live in a country where public schools, streets, sidewalks, libraries, and parks are taken-for-granted. Why not, therefore, restore former HUD and CRA public housing programs to shelter the overcrowded, rent gouged, and unhoused?
(Dick Platkin is a retired Los Angeles city planner who analyses local planning issues for CityWatchLA. He is a board member of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA). Previous columns are available at the CityWatchLA archives. Please send questions and corrections to [email protected].)