Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Golden Swan



The Golden Swan


Once upon a time, there was a swan / goose that had striking golden feathers. This swan lived in a pond. There was a house near this pond, where a poor woman lived with her two daughters. The people were really poor and were leading a tough life. The swan found that the poor mother was passing a hard time with her daughters.

The swan thought, “If I give them one after another my golden feathers, the mother can sell them. She and her daughters can live in comfort with the money raised from it”. After thinking this, the swan flew away to the poor woman’s house. On seeing the swan inside the house, the woman said,” Why have you come here? We have nothing to offer you”.

The Swan replied, “I have not come to take anything, but I have something to give you. I know your condition. I will give my golden feathers one by one and you can sell them. With the money raised through it, you people can easily live in comfort”. After saying this, the swan shed one of her feathers and then flew away. This became a regular feature and from time to time, the swan came back and every time left another feather.

Like this, the mother and her daughters were happily leading their life by selling the feathers of the golden swan. Each golden feather got them enough money to keep them in comfort. But the mother became greedy to get all the feathers as soon as possible. One day, she said to her daughters, “Now, we will not trust this swan, possibly she may fly away and never come back. If this would happen, we will be poor again. We will take all of her feathers, when she will come the next time”.

The innocent daughters replied, “Mother, this will hurt the swan. We will not cause any pain to her”. But the mother was determined to catch hold the swan the very next time she comes. Next time, when the swan came, the mother caught her and pulled out all of her feathers. Now, the golden feathers of the swan changed into some strange feathers. The mother was shocked to see such feathers.

The Golden Swan said, “Poor Mother, I wanted to help you, but you wanted to kill me instead. As per my wish, I used to give you the golden feather. Now, I think there is no need to help you. Now, my feathers are nothing more than chicken feathers for you. I am going from this place and will never come back”. The mother felt sorry and apologized for the mistake committed by her. The Golden Swan said, “Never be greedy” and flew away.

Moral: Excess greed brings nothing.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Are we running out of resources?

You’re a Criminal in a Mass Surveillance World – How to Not Get Caught

You’re a Criminal in a Mass Surveillance World – How to Not Get Caught

You’re a Criminal in a Mass Surveillance World – How to Not Get Caught
Sometimes you just get lucky.
I was in Amsterdam when the Snowden story broke. CNN was non-stop asking politicians and pundits, “Is Edward Snowden a traitor?” Those who said he betrayed America also said something else: Mass surveillance is only an issue if you’re a criminal. If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to fear.
The Snowden story hit me upon my return from – of all places on earth – the Secret Annex of the Anne Frank House. The Secret Annex is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. It was during this period of hiding in terror that Anne wrote her world-famous diary. In it she confided, “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.”
Anne Frank House then and now
The “Anne Frank House” — then and now
I say I was lucky because the cosmic unlikeliness of my Secret Annex visit coinciding with Snowden’s mass surveillance revelations led to some revelations of my own. My understanding of law, criminality, and mass surveillance coalesced into a horrifying picture.
It turns out we’re all criminals in a mass surveillance world. The only question is whether we’ll get caught. Let me explain.

What Makes a Criminal?

Merriam-Webster defines crime as “activity that is against the law.” Law is defined as a “set of rules made by the government.” Thus a criminal is someone who breaks government rules.
The law as a whole is an ever-expanding collection of rules that politicians (“lawmakers”) decree and occasionally repeal. Laws are as moral as the politicians who make them.
Simply put, laws are the rules politicians make up, and criminals are people who break them.
It floored me to realize: Anne Frank was, in fact, a criminal. She was a fugitive of the law.
We can express outrage at the designation since Anne did nothing wrong. And we can debate which rules of any particular regime are tolerable or repugnant. But our opinions don’t change the fact that “criminal” is a government-defined standard imposed on us, the governed.
A law-abiding citizen was obligated to turn Anne into the police. To assist her was a crime. In America the Fugitive Slave Law obligated law-abiding citizens to turn in runaway slaves, and assisting them was punishable by 6 months in jail and a $28,000 fine (in today’s dollars).
In early colonial America masturbation, blasphemy, and homosexuality werecrimes punishable by death. Virtually any act you can think of has been criminalized by one regime or another. Being a law-abiding citizen only means you comply with whatever rules politicians have imposed on you.
Throughout history we observe only a slight overlap between the endless supply of laws governments impose on people and the handful of acts we all agree are morally wrong: theft, assault, rape, murder.

The American Crime Complex

To understand why we’re criminals requires a basic overview of how law is created and enforced.
Every law hatches a new crime with an associated punishment. A law is both an order and a threat, for if a law carries no threat of punishment, it’s not a law. It’s a suggestion. Politicians mince words by using different labels for their rules – laws, regulations, statutes, bills, acts, ordinances, et cetera – but they all fundamentally mean the same thing: Obey or be punished.
Every year American politicians create thousands of new laws. They are incorporated into volumes consisting of hundreds of thousands of pages of legalese. The laws are grouped into “codes” such as the CFRUSCIRS Code, and codes for every state. These codes, along with the Constitution,executive ordersratified treatiescounty and city ordinances, and rulings from district courts to the Supreme Court comprise U.S. law as a whole.
Although the law is incomprehensible to the governed, ignorance of the law is not a defense when you’re prosecuted by the government.
Suspicion of committing even the most trivial crime subjects you to arrest at the discretion of a law enforcement officer. The Supreme Court has ruled that it’s legal to arrest people for crimes such as driving without a seatbelt orhaving unpaid parking tickets. Arrest can result in imprisonment for months or years without ever being convicted of a crime.
In America the punishments for not obeying politicians’ rules may include monetary fines, property confiscation, imprisonment (including de factorape and torture), and execution.
The application of these punishments is wildly inconsistent and often horrifically arbitrary. The minimum sentence for first degree murder in Illinois is 20 years, but in Indiana it’s 45 years. Compare 20 years for murder with 15 years for having sex on a beach. Or 5 years for stabbing a man to death. Or 5 days (yes, days) for raping a 14-year old girl. Victimless crimes often carry far harsher sentences than raping and killing people, such as 25 years for selling painkillers to a friend.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that it’s legal for prosecutors to threaten you with catastrophic punishment – even life imprisonment – for a minor crime if you don’t forfeit your right to a jury trial. (In the landmark caseprosecutors secured a life sentence for forging an $88 check because the defendant refused a plea bargain.)
Because prosecutors wield such enormous power, almost everyone takes a plea bargain. Getting your day in court is a myth perpetuated in TV shows and movies. Innocent people often agree to plead guilty and suffer the punishment rather than risk having their lives destroyed. The system isrigged against you, and your chance of conviction at trial is around 90%.
This government prosecutor explains to new prosecutors that the goal of jury selection is to pick people who “are as unfair and more likely to convict than anybody else in that room.”
Given this set of facts, it’s no surprise that millions of Americans today are caged and millions more are on probation or parole. The “land of the free” is the most imprisoned nation in the world on both a total and per capita basis. The prison-industrial complex is booming.
Read the full article HERE

Hubertus Knabe: The dark secrets of a surveillance state



Tour the deep dark world of the East German state security agency known as Stasi. Uniquely powerful at spying on its citizens, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the Stasi masterminded a system of surveillance and psychological pressure that kept the country under control for decades. Hubertus Knabe studies the Stasi — and was spied on by them. He shares stunning details from the fall of a surveillance state, and shows how easy it was for neighbor to turn on neighbor.

China Clamps Down With ‘Grid Management’ To Monitor Citizens


China Clamps Down With ‘Grid Management’ To Monitor Citizens


A group of journalists supports the pro-Democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, Peking,A group of journalists supports the pro-Democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, Peking,
China has long led the race to build infrastructure that enables the implementation of Technocracy, and we see this fruit today by its reversion to so-called ‘grid management’ of blocks of citizens. This will allow continuous and personalized surveillance of every citizen to insure their loyalty to the government, and their compliance with all the myriad rules created by unelected and unaccountable Technocrats.
In the teeming city of Guangzhou, 12,000 grid administrators are being hired where each will have monitoring responsibility for 200 families. Within six months, each administrator will be expected to know all pertinent details on the individuals within those families. Monitoring technology, such as cameras and facial identification, the Internet of Things, eavesdropping, etc., will enable such detailed knowledge.
But surveillance capabilities don’t end there.
Last year it was revealed that China was setting up a massive “social credit” scoring system where citizens will be assigned a score between 350 and 950 that reflects their ideological subservience to the government. In other words, dissidents will be duly accounted for and then shunned and shamed into compliance. Those who refuse to comply will be on the government’s short-list for removal from society.
Only two companies are responsible for creating and running this social credit mechanism: Alibaba and Tencent, which run all of the social networks in China. According to an investigation by the ACLU,
  • “In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like, such as about the Tienanmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse.
  • “It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them. Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create.
  • “Anybody can check anyone else’s score online. Among other things, this lets people find out which of their friends may be hurting their scores.
  • “Also used to calculate scores is information about hobbies, lifestyle, and shopping. Buying certain goods will improve your score, while others (such as video games) will lower it.
  • “Those with higher scores are rewarded with concrete benefits. Those who reach 700, for example, get easy access to a Singapore travel permit, while those who hit 750 get an even more valued visa.
  • “Sadly, many Chinese appear to be embracing the score as a measure of social worth, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.”
Furthermore, China is leading the world in pre-crime technology, or “predictive policing.” One tech journal notes,
“It’s ‘precrime’ meets ‘thoughtcrime.’ China is using its substantial surveillance apparatus as the basis for a “unified information environment” that will allow authorities to profile individual citizens based upon their online behaviors, financial transactions, where they go, and who they see. The authorities are watching for deviations from the norm that might indicate someone is involved in suspicious activity. And they’re doing it with a hand from technology pioneered in the US.”
Any surveillance technology company operating within Chinese borders are required by law to assist in this effort, to wit, they “shall provide technical interfaces, decryption and other technical support and assistance to public security and state security agencies when they are following the law to avert and investigate terrorist activities”.
Apple may fight the FBI over decryption in the U.S., but they will not have that luxury in China.
The state-owned defense contractor China Electronics Technology Group is charged with developing the software that will sift through all online data, activities, financial transactions, work data, behavioral data, etc., to predict which citizens will perform “terrorist” acts.
It could not be more obvious that China is accelerating its race toward total citizen domination, where every aspect of life is observed, analyzed and then corrected according to rules enforced by the Skynet-like system of dictatorial control.
In short, China is perfecting command and control surveillance technology that is already being “exported” to the rest of the world, including the United States and Europe. Big Data and Total Awareness Society is the heartbeat of Technocracy as described in my book, Technocracy Rising: The Trojan Horse of Global Transformation.
According to the Technocracy Study Course (Scott & Hubbard, 1932), three of the seven top requirements given were,
  • “Provide a continuous inventory of all production and consumption
  • “Provide a specific registration of the type, kind, etc., of all goods and services, where produced and where used
  • “Provide specific registration of the consumption of each individual, plus a record and description of the individual.” [p. 232]
The technology available in 1932 was not able to meet these requirements, but it is available today, and herein lies the danger of Technocracy: Will you settle for being micromanaged to the extent seen in Huxley’s Brave New World? Will you be OK with taking orders from unelected, unaccountable and untouchable Technocrats?
If your answer is “No”, then you had better take to the streets before they all turn into a likeness of Tiananmen Square. That’s where its headed.

Saturday Night Music Ska

Friday, January 19, 2018

Marin Supervisor Damon Connolly on sb827 and Marin housing on January 9, 2018

Here is what Board of Supervisors President Damon Connolly thinks about Senator Wieners SB827 and other housing laws.

Damon's full January 9, 2018 address

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Amazon Announces Shortlist for New HQ; Abandon Hope All Ye Who Live in These Cities




Amazon Announces Shortlist for New HQ; Abandon Hope All Ye Who Live in These Cities

How the hell did Brogden, Pennsylvania, and Anderson, Virginia, not make the list?

Amazon, the mega-site that controls more and more of our daily life by giving us stuff we want at low prices, has announced a shortlist of cities that it's considering as the location for its "HQ2," or second headquarters. The list includes the following cities, culled down to 20 from over 200:
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York, New York
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Washington, D.C.
A decision on the $5 billion project is expected by the end of the year. Be happy if your hometown is not on the list, which promises to be the century's biggest crony-capitalism deal. Without any inside information, I'd say Toronto and D.C. are the top two, simply because they are in the eastern time zone and seats of growth and power. Toronto is the coolest city in North America, simultaneously foreign but familiar. Both the provincial government and Canada's federal government will do whatever it takes to land it and, unlike a lot of the Rust Belt cities vying for the prize, they've got deep pockets. The Washington area is a region that's among the very wealthiest in the United States because, as all readers of The Hunger Games understand, the Capital District always brings home the bacon. Being on the opposite side of the continent from Seattle and within walking distance of legislators who control all sorts of tax codes and labor laws has got to very attractive, and that's even before local goverments bend frontwards and backwards to accommodate Amazon. Texas is a strong bet too, given that state's economic and population growth and relatively low cost of living.
All the finalist cities have been going bananas in offering the online giant all sorts of subsidies, tax breaks, and bribes. Dallas is saying the HQ2 would have bullet-train station, for instance, while Newark and New Jersey are promising $7 billion in tax breaks. Southern California is talking a billion dollars in subsidies and Philly, home to long-suffering sports fans, really nasty people (love them all), and great food, is talking about 28 million square feet spread over several linked sites.
Which brings me to quite possibly the best Reason TV video of all time (IMAO). From the feverish minds of Austin Bragg and Andrew Heaton, here's "Desperate Mayors Compete for Amazon HQ2." This is life-changing.

CA Legislators Weary of Waiting, Move to Override Local Planning Depts … Including LA

CA Legislators Weary of Waiting, Move to Override Local Planning Depts … Including LA

CASEY MADDREN 08 JANUARY 2018



PERSPECTIVE--Over the past year or so our legislators in Sacramento have let it be known that they aren't happy with the pace of development in California's cities. As housing prices continue to rise, traffic continues to worsen, and the reality of climate change becomes ever more apparent, the Senate and Assembly have decided that local jurisdictions aren't doing their job and that the State needs to intervene.

In 2017 the Legislature worked feverishly to pass bills that would restrict local authority over land use. Now they're starting off 2018 with SB 827, a radical effort to override local planning, claiming it will ease the housing crisis and get more people riding public transit. In reality, it will do neither.

SB 827 is the brainchild of State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). It would exempt residential projects that include a percentage of low-income housing from local zoning restrictions if the project is within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop or 1/4 mile of a high-quality transit corridor. This means that local requirements regarding height, density, floor area ratio, and design review would no longer apply. The idea is to promote high-density residential construction along transit corridors. Wiener and many others argue that this would not only ease the housing crisis by producing new units but would also encourage transit ridership, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

SB 827 is meant to further Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), a policy that state agencies and local jurisdictions have been pushing for years. In theory, TOD seems like a great idea, and the fundamental principle is sound. If you focus residential development along transit corridors it makes access to trains and busses easier, thereby taking cars off the road and cutting GHG emissions. What's not to like?

But there's a big difference between theoretical outcomes and cold, hard reality. The Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) embraced TOD long ago, and invokes it frequently when arguing for high-rise projects anywhere near a transit corridor. So how has that worked out? Not so good. Despite the fact that thousands of new units have been built along LA's transit corridors over the past decade, transit ridership is lower than it was 30 years ago, and it has declined for the past three years running. This is especially disturbing when you realize that LA County (the area served by the MTA) has added over one million residents during that same period. It's not just that transit ridership hasn't increased, it hasn't even kept pace with population growth.

Don't take my word for it. Check out the recent report released by UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies, "Transit Ridership Trends in the SCAG Region.” (SCAG stands for Southern California Association of Governments.)

While the report covers all of Southern California, the data show that LA is leading the region in lost transit ridership. So as City Hall approves one skyscraper after another, making the claim that TOD will save us all, the number of people actually taking busses and trains has plummeted.

The report provides much valuable insight into what's happening on the transit landscape. While local and regional officials have enthusiastically promoted large scale development, claiming that these projects are transit friendly and will reduce traffic, in reality, per capita vehicle ownership in the SCAG region has risen dramatically since 2000. During the 1990s the region added 1.8 million people and 456,000 household vehicles, or 0.25 vehicles for every new resident. But from 2000 to 2015 the region added 2.3 million people and 2.1 million household vehicles, or 0.95 vehicles per new resident.

But that's just Southern California. Maybe things are going better up north? Not really. With the fervent support of Bay Area officials, developers have been having a field day in San Francisco and beyond, building thousands of new units and claiming the increased density will boost transit ridership. But here's a quote from Vital Signs, a web site maintained by regional agencies which provides info on Bay Area transit:

"While featuring one of the nation’s most extensive public transit systems, the Bay Area has not experienced significant growth in transit ridership over the past few decades – with residents primarily shifting between bus and rail modes. This has resulted in crowded conditions on BART and Caltrain, while suburban buses have lower utilization than in years past."

The site highlights the fact that per capita transit ridership in the Bay Area has declined by 11% since 1991. And while many have touted the fact that an increasing number of San Francisco households are car free, that doesn't mean people aren't using cars. A recent report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority showed that people are making 170,000 trips via Uber and Lyft on weekdays. This amounts to 570,000 vehicle miles driven by Uber and Lyft cars on a typical weekday. Bottom line, in spite of all the TOD boosterism by San Francisco officials, lots of people are still using cars to get around.

So while state and local officials have been telling us for years that that high-density development will get people out of cars and onto transit, that hasn't happened. But what about housing? Even if SB 827 might not deliver on transit ridership, wouldn't it still ease the housing crisis by generating lots of new units?

We do need to build housing, but creating new units isn't going to ease the crisis unless they're accessible to middle-income and low-income Californians. While SB 827 makes the inclusion of affordable units one of the criteria for removing restrictions, the percentage of affordable units isn't likely to make a significant difference. Generally, density bonus incentives are offered on projects that include between 10% and 20% affordable housing. This means that the rest of the units are "market rate" (i.e. really expensive) and most likely to attract the demographic that owns and drives cars.

To make things even worse, research is showing that new development along transit corridors has been causing gentrification and displacement. The Urban Displacement Project, a joint effort by UCLA and UC Berkeley, recently released a gentrification map of LA. This research shows that high-density development near transit lines has pushed housing costs up and pushed low-income residents out of Chinatown, Highland Park, East LA and Hollywood. And anyone following the LA real estate scene knows that as soon as the MTA's Crenshaw/LAX Line was approved investors started diving into communities like Leimert Park and Inglewood. The result? More gentrification and displacement.

Putting all this together, it's hard to see how SB 827 will deliver any benefits either in terms of housing or transit ridership. And it's important to be specific about the reason why. It's not that TOD is a bad idea in itself. The problem is that despite all the talk, state and local policy has not been geared towards producing new housing that will increase transit ridership. In reality, what local governments have been doing is using the TOD argument to promote unchecked development.

In LA, City Hall has been shredding local zoning and offering developers generous entitlements while arguing that this will ease the housing crisis and promote transit ridership. The DCP has been telling us that they're planning for a new TOD era where people won't need cars. But what they've actually produced is a tangle of new planning initiatives, none of which mean anything because the City Council will sweep aside any zoning regulations in place for developers that have enough clout at City Hall. And the bottom line is that housing costs continue to rise while transit ridership continues to fall.

SB 827 will only exacerbate the situation. In cities across California we're seeing high housing costs, homelessness, worsening congestion, and declining transit ridership. The only way to solve these problems is through real planning. Creating plans that truly serve the needs of our urban communities is difficult, complex work. It means starting with hard facts rather than wishful thinking. It means doing neighborhood outreach instead of backroom deals. And it means engaging with communities in long, difficult discussions where all stakeholders have a chance to be heard.

The folks in Sacramento want us to believe we can forget about doing the hard work that planning demands and solve our problems with a quick and easy shortcut. Don't believe it. SB 827 will not solve the housing crisis or get more people on transit. It will only continue to fuel the speculative development binge that's crippling California's cities.

If you have a problem with Sacramento overriding local planning control, better contact your representatives in the State Senate and Assembly quickly. If last year's legislative session is any indication, developers and their lobbyists will be pushing hard for the passage of this bill. And it couldn't hurt to also call your local city officials to tell them you oppose SB 827. There's only one way for California to solve its problems, and that's through real planning. There are no shortcuts.



(Casey Maddren is a native Angeleno, and currently serves as president of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (www.un4la.com). He also blogs about the city at The Horizon and the Skyline.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The “Build More Market Housing” Quack Miracle Cure


The “Build More Market Housing” Quack Miracle Cure for Los Angeles

DICK PLATKIN 11 JANUARY 2018



PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation.


This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.

To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they really wanted to increase transit ridership and address the housing crisis, but they are totally mute on these options. As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their “build more market housing” miracle mantra for LA’s urban ills.

Increasing Transit Ridership through the following is not on their to-do list:
Reduce fares, such the UK’s program to allow those over 60 to ride subways and busses for free, is a perfect model for LA. For that matter, the pols could look closer to home. Between 1982-85 METRO used Proposition A funds to reduce bus fares to 50 cents. As a result, ridership quickly rose. But neither politician nor their kindred spirits ever calls for fare reductions. Apparently, they cannot be used to promote real estate speculation.
Shorten headways. In cities like New York and London, some riders use mass transit apps, but it is seldom necessary because they know the next bus or subway car will arrive within minutes. Unlike LA, long headways and unreliable bus schedules are not an issue in those cities. 

Make stations appealing. In transit-oriented cities like New York and Tokyo, subway stops have stores and amenities, unlike LA, where passengers cannot even find a bathroom or a newspaper vending machine.
Make bus stops comfortable. In LA, most bus stops only offer a sign or a “bum-proofed” bench. But, if every stop had a bus shelter, the bus riding experience would be vastly improved, especially during rains and heat waves. 

Transform the neighborhoods around transit stations into Transit Oriented Districts/Communities. These include comprehensive planning and municipally funded public improvements for mini-parks and play grounds, enhanced street and pedestrian lights, bicycle lanes, boulevard trees, sidewalk repairs, zebra-striped cross walks, intersection punch-outs, and ADA curb cuts.
At subway stations and adjacent neighborhoods METRO and LADOT could add facilitiesfor buses, cars, vans, taxis and ubers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Los Angeles could carefully monitor the transportation-related behavior of local residents and the demographics of transit passengers to determine which programs work and which do not.

Programs to address LA’s housing crisis:

The programs for fixing LA’s housing crisis are also well known, but are predictably ignored by the build-more-market-housing growth machine of real estate investors, building industry lobbyists, neo-liberal academics, Democratic politicians, and groupies. Their goal is to sweep away zoning and environmental laws that developers don’t like, not spend public money on unprofitable affordable housing projects. This is why they never call for the following:
Restore discontinued Federal housing programs, such as public housing projects, as well as 236 and 221d(3) subsidized apartments.
Vastly increase the funding for Section 8 housing. In Los Angeles, over 600,000 people want Section 8 housing, but only 400 people per year mange to get vouchers and move into affordable units.
Restore the Community Redevelopment Agency’s funding for affordable housing programs.
Transform LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance into a Rent Control This requires ending vacancy decontrol; applying rent control to all housing, not just rental apartments built before 1978; and restricting rent increases to the real cost of living.
Restore and establish public social service programs that treat homeless people afflicted by drug addiction and mental illness.
Increase wages in order to reduce economic inequality, a leading factor responsible for homelessness, overcrowding, and rent gouging.
Carefully monitor changing housing conditions, as mandated by the General Plan Framework, to determine which housing programs are effective and which are not.

But, instead of these obvious programs, Sacramento and LA’s City Hall have only provided us with real estate-related programs. hey may have different names, but they are united by a single purpose. Their goal is to sweep aside zoning and environmental laws disliked by real estate developers, so they can build what they want, where they want, regardless of the consequences. These ordinances include the following, with more on the way from the build-more-market-housing crowd’s current Wunderkind, Scott Wiener.

Pay-to-Play is still a reliable way for developers to build what they want because City Hall approves 90 percent of their applications for zoning waivers and General Plan amendments

Community Plan Updates are appended with lengthy land use ordinances that up-zone and up-plan hundreds to thousands of parcels at one time.

Density Bonuses are the local application of Senate Bill (SB) 1818, which allows, with no effective right of appeal, the waiver of many zoning provisions if developers promise to include a small percentage of low income units in their buildings. This ordinance is now being supplemented by a draft Value Capture Ordinance that would expand the zoning waiver options. Since neither ordinance contains any on-site inspection requirements, there is no way for the public or the City to verify that any of the new units are affordable and that their tenants are officially registered low income Angelinos.

Transit Priority Areas (TPAs) implement SB 743 in Los Angeles. This State law and its local implementation ordinance applies to nearly all of Los Angeles west, south, east of the downtown because all local parcels are located within a half-mile from an existing or proposed rail or bus stop. In those areas residential, mixed-use, and employment centers are exempted from two California Environmental Quality Act’s impact categories: parking and esthetics.

Transit Oriented Communities, the implementation of Measure JJJ, allows increases of up to 80 percent in the number of permitted units in exchange for an undefined inclusion of affordable housing units. Like similar programs, it, too, does not require any on-site inspections to confirm the presence of dedicated affordable units or qualified low-income tenants. Like Transit Priority Areas and the proposed Senate Bill 827, described below, this Los Angeles ordinance also applies to neighborhoods that are up to a half-mile from a subway and light-rail station or a quarter-mile from an Express bus line.

Transit Neighborhood Plans are intended to reduce zoning requirements at light and heavy rail stations, such as the Expo Line. While they are supplemented by streetscape plans, these off-site improvements are only unfunded guidelines. They are not backed up by any public funds covering the design, construction, operations, or maintenance of any streetscape features.

Re:code LA will eventually expand the list of permitted uses on most private parcels by eliminating the need for a variance to build non-permitted uses. Furthermore, even though re:code LA is billed as a zoning simplification program, it has already replaced the existing R-1 zone, which applies to about three-quarters of all single family homes in Los Angeles, with 12 alternate zones.

The Pitfalls of Scott Wiener’s Perfect Storm: The perfect storm headed toward Los Angeles is based on proposed legislation sponsored by State Senator Scott Wiener. His draft SB 827 bill grants a cost free and highly lucrative zone variance to private parcels up to a half-mile from a subway station and a quarter-mile from an express bus line. Any parcel in these “transit rich” areas that has received a “housing opportunity grant” will then qualify for the elimination of zoning provisions for design, building mass (Floor Area Ratio), some building height, and parking.

More specifically, in practice Wiener’s bill allows apartment projects that apply for an on-menu or off-menu density bonus -- as low as 5 percent -- to evade most zoning requirements in perpetuity. Since the City of Los Angeles automatically grants all density bonus applications, rejects all appeals, and never dispatches an on on-site inspector, this legislation will become a cornucopia for those who own private parcels zoned for apartment buildings. The value of their properties will soar. They can then sell them at an enormous financial gain, dodging new property taxes because of Proposition 13. As for new housing construction, most flippers could care less. What a deal!

While no one yet knows SB 827’s final provisions, we can already foresee its other major pitfalls:

Pitfall #1: Senator Wiener and his fan clubs have not given the slightest thought to the additional public infrastructure and public services that new transit-adjacent buildings and residents require. When the number of residents increases in areas near subway station and bus stops, these neighborhoods will need more garbage pick-ups, street sweeping, schools, parks, recreation centers, senior centers, libraries, emergency services, and so forth. The water mains, gas and sewage lines, and storm drains also need upgrading, as well as infrastructure for electricity and telecommunications. But since no planning or public funds are allocated through SB 827 for these many categories, we can expect a dramatic decline in the quality of life if/when the bill becomes a catalyst for new market-driven apartment buildings.

Pitfall #2: SB 827 does not include any on-site inspection programs. Angelinos will have no way to verify that the pledged affordable units that trigger de facto zone variances and a resulting real estate bubble are based on actual affordable units and low-income tenants.

Pitfall #3: We will also have no way to know, if as claimed by Senator Wiener, his financial backers, and his disciples, that people who move into new, transit-adjacent market and luxury housing will routinely abandon their cars to walk up to a half mile to catch a train station or bus. Furthermore, if this behavioral information is eventually collected, I predict that most well-off tenants will continue to drive their fancy cars for most trips. If so, SB 827 contains no repercussions if the new tenants seldom use transit or if the affordable units are soon rented out at market rates.

Pitfall #4: SB 827 would gut many transit corridor Specific Plans in Los Angeles, such as those on Ventura/Cahuenga Boulevard, Crenshaw Boulevard, and Colorado Boulevard, as well as the Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Specific Plan. Years of planning that went into these transit corridor plans, that involved local communities and that integrate transportation and land use planning, would be summarily dumped. Since this legislation automatically purges Specific Plan provisions for height, FAR, design, and parking, it moves LA in exactly the wrong direction. These transit corridor Specific Plans should be the model for future planning in Los Angeles, not discarded by a real estate industry bill in Sacramento.

Pitfall #5: Because SB 827 treats transit corridors as accessories to real estate speculation, it will heavily politicize transit planning. Developers will heavily lobby transit agencies to ensure that the corridors they want to gentrify will be upgraded to express bus service or rail. At the same time, some communities interested in protecting low-rise apartment buildings already housing frequent transit users would be forced to bizarrely lobby for downgraded transit service. After all, if their bus service falls below 15-minute headways, then SB 827 would not apply, as well as Transit Priority Areas and Transit Oriented Communities.

Pitfall #6: SB 827 ignores the many proven public programs -- described above -- that would actually boost transit ridership and address LA’s housing crisis.

My conclusion about SB 827, by itself, and in combination with the land use ordinances I reviewed above, is that it is one of the dumbest pieces of planning legislation I have encountered in over three decades of city planning. Like all miracle cures, it won’t work. It might make some landowners and landlords rich, but it will not increase transit ridership or reduce the cost of housing.



(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angele city planner who reports on planning controversies in Los Angeles. Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Regional Planning Czar finally admits he was WRONG about housing and transit

Micro Apartments- Revenge of "Socks"



Time to re think the micro apartment idea.

Editor's Note: In Marin County the new standard for micro apartments is 220 square feet or roughly the size of a one car parking spot.  See Can we build cities out of apartments the size of a parking space?

I remember in my college days, there was a guy in the dormitory that we called, "Socks".  He was so named because his room stank of dirty socks.    His personal hygiene was less than optimal and his diet consisted of Domino Pizzas and beer. Though he was friendly, he lived alone because no one could stand to live with him.  He never dated.  His room was the standard size but "Socks" room seemed impossibly small and cramped. 

When I see articles about "micro apartments",  I often think of "Socks".  How would you like to move in to your expensive eco-friendly apartment only to find "Socks" as your next door neighbor? Even if you were a ultra neat, germaphobe,  your next door neighbor, "Socks" would foul your air, imposing his slovenliness into your life.

No micro apartments for me, thank you.  I will deal with the longer commutes and enjoy a little sunshine.  My Prius gets me to work just fine with less hassle and faster than a bus.

Now, fresh from the hearing on Public Nudity,  the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are considering a 150 square foot minimum apartment size.  They are capping occupancy to two people per apartment.

Sounds like an interesting way to get rich.  Subdivide small apartments into tiny micro apartments. Furnish with Ikea cabinets, granite countertops, sleek european style fixtures and a flatscreen and murphy bed and Voila! Triple your money.

Not good public policy, though.  More people in smaller places mean more stress on the public infrastructure-water, sewer, police, fire, traffic, garbage. More people=more pollution.
Patrick Kennedy in the living area of his SmartSpace apartment, the sofa turns into a bed. Developer Patrick Kennedy has built a prototype micro-apartment in a Berkeley storage warehouse.  Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle / SF


More photos and story  SF Supervisors Back Micro Apartments