Taking Zev to Task

DensityZev Yaroslavsky has been on the road for some time now, extolling the virtues of a slow growth approach to development and railing against the excesses of LA’s implementation of SB1818.

The upside of the resulting debate over density and development might simply be the fact that we’re having the debate. For too long transportation and traffic congestion have been discussed and addressed as if they existed in a vacuum, unrelated to housing and employment.

Just this past February, a City Councilmember stood before the council during the all-day Council Session on Transportation, had an epiphany and declared “I think land use issues and transportation issues are related. Why do we have a separate Planning Department and a separate Transportation Department? Why don’t they work together?” (They are housed in separate buildings, the better to work independently?)

Which brings us to the ensuing battle over housing, affordable housing, density, development and over-development.

As Zev fights to position a slow-growth balance between transportation infrastructure and land use development, he is being taken to task by New Urbanists and others who contend that Zev represents the “homeowner aristocracy” and acts at the expense of everyone else.

Marc Haefele calls Zev LA’s “Anti-Density Warrior” and finds him short on solutions to the city’s affordable-housing crisis.

Steven Leigh Morris writes of LA’s “Density Hawks” and follows Zev as he challenges the Mayor, the Council and the Planning Department on zoning, density, transportation, parking, affordable housing and development in general.

As the debate continues, the Planning Department reports that the city of Los Angeles “must build 113,000 new housing units by 2014 to meet the needs of a growing population without worsening the shortage of affordable homes.”

Through it all, Zev stands in the middle and reminisces of the days when he served on LA’s City Council and engaged in vigorous and boisterous civic debate with city and community leadership. “There should be a debate!” he exclaims as he addresses members of the community.

“Don’t sell yourselves and your power short. The outrage meter that used to exist is not as great – it doesn’t register as high anymore like it used to with neighborhood groups,” he warned.

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