Shhh! LA’s Got a Housing Crisis

A few months ago, the City Council held an all-day session to address the Los Angeles Transportation Strategic Plan. It was at this all-day, one topic session that a couple of Councilmembers had epiphanies and began to ponder, “Do you think that Transportation and Land Use are related?” One Councilmember went so far as to ask “Why do we have separate departments for Planning and Transportation?” The only response was the sound of crickets in an otherwise silent Council Chambers.

The focus then shifted from Transportation to Planning as Zev went on the war-path with the SB1818 controversy. Standing in the middle of the most congested regions in the country, breathing some of the most toxic air in the country and surrounded by a constituency with one of the lowest rates of homeownership, Zev states with no sense of irony, “I’m not going to stand by and allow my accomplishments to be reversed.”

Through is all, the Department of City Planning kept working away on the Draft Housing Element Update Draft Housing Element Update, (pdf) part of the State mandated General Plan for the City of Los Angeles.

The acknowledgements run for 4 pages and indicate that people from throughout the “City Family” participated in the development of the Housing Element as well as many members of the community, most if not all representing non-profits or developers or real estate companies or architects or other professionally related housing specialists. (It’s good to be represented by professionals!)

Hmmm! What about the regular public. The ones who simply rent or buy, walk to work or commute cross town, the ones who look at housing as being either “affordable” or “not affordable.” Where they involved in the process? Was the public invited to participate in the development of the Housing Element?

Word on the street is that the answer is “No!” One of the participants from the City Family indicates that attempts to involve the “public” by opening up the meetings were met with resistance.

Ah well, at least the public has the opportunity to attend one of the SEVEN Housing Element Workshops held throughout the City, one in each of the SEVEN Planning Commission areas. (The last workshop (pdf) was held on 4/24 in West LA)

The Workshops were lightly attended and the tight layout of the room (pictured) indicates that not much of a crowd was expected. The Department of City Planning deserves credit for providing refreshments, although the amount of food again belies the lack of commitment to a meaningful turnout.

Even more disturbing that the less than open development process and the completely ineffective community outreach is the resulting work product. A quick review of the land that is highlighted for development on the Targeted Growth Maps reveals the broad strokes that were used when preparing the document.

On paper from high altitude, the choices might make sense but close examination reveals lots that include inaccessible hillside, schools, libraries and single family homes with swimming pools! What criteria leads the Planning Department to paint targets on inappropriate properties throughout the City and then call that a solution to the Housing Crisis?

One of the members in the NC Planning Class referred to the Draft Housing Element as another “top-down Planning sham slapped together to satisfy a requirement.”

Jane Blumenfeld, when asked about the purpose of the Draft Housing Element, responded that there are three: to avoid legal exposure, to gain opportunities for funding and to avoid losing existing funding.

Jane continued by explaining that we have two choices, “We can plan or we can let it happen.” She continued by explaining that it is the goal of the General Plan and the Housing Plan to link jobs and housing while preserving communities and neighborhoods and industrial land and to accomplish all of this by looking for underutilized land and developing it for housing.

Well, that sounded great! Too bad there was only one person there to hear it!

The City of Los Angeles has a housing goal:

To create for all residents a city of livable and sustainable neighborhoods with a range of housing types, sizes and costs in proximity to jobs amenities and services. In keeping with decades of federal Housing Acts and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that declared housing as a human right, the City will work towards assuring that housing is provided to all residents.

If you have comments on this goal, the Housing Element or any related Planning issues, email the Neighborhood Council at info@whcouncil.org.

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