Wednesday, March 20, 2019

LA Tenants Union Take on YIMBYism

Dropping the Hammer on YIMBYism

LA Tenants UnionFollow
Mar 19

This statement is from a group of organizers associated with the LA Tenants Union, DSA-LA, and/or the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, in response to an event hosted by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on March 19, 2019 titled “The Growing YIMBY Movement.” We also organized a protest inside/outside of the event.

As Angelenos committed to housing as a human right, we are disappointed that the Hammer Museum would provide a fawning and uncritical platform to Sonja Trauss and other spokespeople of YIMBYism. It is not simply that we disagree with their ideology, or recognize it as an astroturf campaign; YIMBYs undermine the true movement for housing justice and tenant power.

“Yes In My BackYard” advocates a deregulatory, trickle-down framework for housing policy that does more harm than good. The thread uniting YIMBYs is that we should just “build baby build” to solve our housing crisis, despite abundant evidence — including studies by MIT academics and the Federal reserve, in addition to historical evidence from cities that have pursued this approach — showing that merely adding market-rate supply does not lead to lower housing prices, but rather spurs gentrification and displacement. By empowering the real estate industry, which has long served as a vanguard of structural racism and segregation, YIMBY policies hasten the construction of cities only accessible to the rich.

YIMBYs view the nightmares of housing and homelessness as a matter of supply and demand, ignoring the basic human right to shelter. Indeed, what they don’t fight for speaks volumes. YIMBYs do not support communities of color that have been fighting a permanent housing crisis for decades. YIMBYs do not support empowering and protecting tenants through policies like right to legal council, just-cause eviction, and rent control. They overwhelmingly ignore the possibility of increasing supply with public or social housing. They do not support redistributions of power and wealth. Fundamentally, they are not on the side of the working class and people of color, and they are not guided by a commitment to housing as a human right.

They have also been notably quiet on the subject of vacancy and speculation. They continue to ignore that there are 100,000 vacant homes in San Francisco and 268,000 vacant homes across the L.A. metro area. These staggering numbers can only fail to be relevant to those who are steadfastly committed to housing as a profit-making commodity.

Their deference to the free market is why someone like Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD in the Trump Administration, feels comfortable enthusiastically declaring himself a YIMBY.

With advocates in the Trump White House, the Governor’s Office, and the chair of California State Senate’s Housing Committee, the YIMBYs are not at all a “grassroots movement,” as the Hammer event ridiculously describes them. From the beginning, YIMBYs have benefitted from robust funding from the tech and real estate sectors. In 2015 Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman helped get YIMBYism off the ground with a $100,000 donation to a Sonja Strauss-led group. According to a more recent investigation by In These Times, among the YIMBY PACs that disclose their donors, over half their money comes from employees of tech or real estate firms.

Indeed, last March, the LA Times wrote that “California YIMBY has raised more than $1 million and has a registered lobbyist on its payroll. The group hopes to collect another $1.5 million this year, Hanlon says. He estimates that about 90% of the money has come from technology executives.” This was reported before a $1 million donation from the tech company Stripe.

Despite occasional claims to the contrary, YIMBYs do not support the burgeoning tenants movement, and do not take the problems of gentrification seriously. Last year the YIMBYs relentlessly pushed the upzoning bill SB 827 in the face of vehement statewide opposition from tenants groups and anti-gentrification organizations rooted in communities of color that were arguing the bill would intensify displacement. This year, they are again allying with anti-tenant groups like the California Apartment Association (the landlord lobby who have been leading the fight against rent control in California for years) and various Chambers of Commerce to push essentially the same bill.

Prop 10 is another good example. This was a massive priority for tenants and the biggest push for an expansion of rent control in California in decades, yet the YIMBYs were nowhere to be found. Instead, they ignore or downplay the need for tenant protections with their laser-like focus on increasing market-rate supply.

Sonja Trauss, the invited speaker to this event, has gone out of her way to represent the most nefarious qualities of the aggressively anti-poor, anti-immigrant, and anti-POC mindset of YIMBYism. She has claimed that gentrification is actually a net good for urban land equity because it’s “the revaluation of black land to its correct price.” She has also cited Edward Banfield, who popularized racist ideas like culture-of-poverty theory and broken-windows policing, as a “huge influence.” Even worse, Trauss has has compared Latinx anti-gentrification activists fighting to block luxury development in their neighborhoods to Trump supporters who demonize immigrants.

YIMBYs often claim that all opposing them are reactionary NIMBYs opposed to low-income housing and diversity. This framing forecloses and ignores — intentionally, we think — ideas from the volunteer-run, tenant-led housing movements who are often their critics. We support more housing, as long as it’s affordable for the poor and the working class. We want social housing for all, whether owned by the state or by communities. We thus call ourselves PHIMBYs, advocating “Public Housing In My BackYard.”

YIMBYism is a dangerous ideology that is funded by the powerful to serve the powerful. We, as advocates for tenants (not housing units), for the human rights of working, poor, and people of color, must push back and provide alternatives to their narrow views. We hope this statement and our action does so, and invite you to join us.

Who is the REAL race provocateur?

The more I think about it, the more it appears this march was an attempt to deliberately provoke a response at a community celebration of our Little League kids. Noah Griffin is very media savvy, having served Nancy Pelosi and other politicians. He knows the power of visual imagery. The desired effect didn’t happen though when people ignored them except for a few passing motorists. The news media must have been disappointed. There are no gangs of racists defending the Dixie name. The ONLY time I have seen a confederate flag in Marin is when Noah Griffin held one up for this photo for the Marin IJ and other news media.
Who is the REAL race provocateur? Have the Change the Name folks considered how trashing our neighborhood in the eyes of the world, actually CREATES the hostile environment that they claim to be against? I want to change the name of the district too but we must not allow the hateful rhetoric destroy our community.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

WHITE ELEPHANT Maintenance Shed Plans are now online

See bigger size image HERE

Stop the White Elephant.  Sign the Petition HERE

The project is HUGE for our tiny park  
It is twice the size of neighboring homes and THREE TIMES the size of a similar facility at McInnis Park completed in 2018. McInnis Park is 26 times the size of Marinwood Park and employs triple the staff.

The Project VIOLATES the Miller Creek Watershed
The project violates the Miller Creek Stream conservation setback of 120' feet as required by Marin County.  The unusual side entrance requires a 15' corridor in the center of the building wasting 1/3 of the space.   It will require trucks to turn around in the meadow several hundred feet to the East.  Open space and recreation area will be needlessly destroyed by this inefficient design.  

The Project is Ridiculously EXPENSIVE
The initial estimate for this project was for $ 50K for a customized prefab unit as is the standard for maintenance facilities everywhere.  Once the Marinwood CSD hired former CSD Director, Bill Hansell as architect, the project ballooned in size and scope.  Already the CSD has spent an estimated $35 k in "consulting fees" for Mr. Hansell, the custom project is estimated to cost at least ten times initial estimate due to the custom architectural features insisted by Mr Hansell. The project will cost MORE than ANY PROJECT that the Marinwood CSD has undertaken since completing the park.   

And as of February 2019 according to the financal audit, the Marinwood CSD is FIVE MILLION DOLLARS in debt.

This is the most outrageous and expensive project in Marinwood CSD History.

Fortunately, we can still have a new Maintenance facility for far less if we scale back the project to a simple garage/workshop like McInnis Park. 

Let's spend our money improving Marinwood Park for seniors and children, refurbishing the trails  refinishing the pool, improving programs and paying our staff instead.

Sometimes ambition makes us blind to the reality we face.

Tracey Ullman - "Not Everyone Thinks Exactly the Same As You Do" Support Group

Marinwood CSD Meeting March 12, 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019

When Wall Street Is Your Landlord

When Wall Street Is Your Landlord

With help from the federal government, institutional investors became major players in the rental market. They promised to return profits to their investors and convenience to their tenants. Investors are happy. Tenants are not.
rSnapshotPhotos / andrea crisante / kai celvin / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

FEB 13, 2019

In 2010, at the height of the foreclosure crisis, the federal government watched nervously as hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes. Empty houses blighted neighborhoods, their shades drawn, their yards overgrown. Without some kind of intervention, federal officials worried, the housing market would continue in its free fall, prices would keep dropping for existing homeowners, and the economic recovery, already tenuous, would be imperiled.

But who would fill these empty homes? Few Americans were in a buying mood, and for those who were, mortgages were harder to come by than they had been before the crash. So the government incentivized Wall Street to step in. In early 2012, it launched a pilot program that allowed private investors to easily purchase foreclosed homes by the hundreds from the government agency Fannie Mae. These new owners would then rent out the homes, creating more housing in areas heavily hit by foreclosures.

“There was this glut of foreclosed properties in parts of the country, and inadequate demand from the traditional home-buying population and even traditional investors,” Meg Burns, who was at the time the senior associate director of the Office of Housing and Regulatory Policy, told me. “We were trying to influence demand.”

It worked. Between 2011 and 2017, some of the world’s largest private-equity groups and hedge funds, as well as other large investors, spent a combined $36 billion on more than 200,000 homes in ailing markets across the country. In one Atlanta zip code, they bought almost 90 percent of the 7,500 homes sold between January 2011 and June 2012; today, institutional investors own at least one in five single-family rentals in some parts of the metro area, according to Dan Immergluck, a professor at the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University. Some of the nation’s hardest-hit housing markets were finally stabilized.

The investors argued that they could be good landlords—better, in fact, than cash-strapped small-timers. According to Diane Tomb, the executive director of the National Rental Home Council, a trade group established in 2014, single-family rental companies “professionalized” a sector traditionally run by mom-and-pop landlords, bringing with them 24/7 responses to maintenance requests and a deep pool of capital they can spend on homes.

They also projected they could make money, which no one had done on a large scale in the home-rental business. “We wanted to rescue these neighborhoods and create a long-term, permanent income stream for our shareholders,” says Frederick Tuomi, who was until recently the president of Invitation Homes, which is now the largest single-family rental company in the nation. (Tuomi is currently on a temporary leave of absence to care for a family member.)

Wall Street analysts and potential shareholders, however, were skeptical. Maintaining thousands of homes of different sizes, ages, and conditions across an entire metro area seemed like a logistical nightmare. “How can you operate and create scale in that situation?” Sam Zell, the billionaire real-estate investor, told CNBC in 2013. “I don’t know how anybody can monitor thousands of houses.” When the new rental companies started offering shares to investors on the public market in late 2012, the response was tepid.

But housing trends were on the side of the investors: America was becoming a renter nation. According to census data, between 2007 and 2017, the United States added less than 1 million households in owner-occupied homes, but 6.5 million in renter-occupied homes. Many families wanted to live in a spacious house in a good school district, but could no longer afford to do so as owners. The homeownership rate bottomed out at 62.9 percent in 2016, down from a high of 69 percent in 2005.

Read: The never-ending foreclosure

Of course, the trends that favored these new landlords were largely produced by a financial crisis that Wall Street had itself abetted. That some of the same investment firms that had played a part in the housing crisis were now poised to profit from it made for a dismal irony. But if the new companies could deliver on their promises of making home rentals easy, affordable, and worry-free, perhaps everyone could win: The companies could return a profit, the housing market could be shored up, and houses that had lain fallow after the crash could once again be happy homes.

That’s not what happened. I talked with tenants from 24 households who lived or still live in homes owned by single-family rental companies. I also reviewed 21 lawsuits against three such companies in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta devastated by the housing crash. The tenants claim that, far from bringing efficiency and ease to the rental market, their corporate landlords are focusing on short-term profits in order to please shareholders, at the expense of tenant happiness and even safety. Many of the families I spoke with feel stuck in homes they don’t own, while pleading with faraway companies to complete much-needed repairs—and wondering how they once again ended up on the losing end of a Wall Street real estate gamble.

In 2011, rene and Erica Valentin were living with their two young children in a small two-bedroom apartment in suburban New Jersey. They had been saving for years to buy a house. But then Rene, now 42, was laid off as a district manager at Best Buy, and the couple decided that the only way they would ever be able to afford to buy was in a cheaper market.

Erica, now 34, applied to be an engineer at AT&T in an Atlanta suburb. When she got the job, the family picked up and drove south, moving into a two-bedroom apartment near the city center. They pinched pennies as Rene’s job search stretched into its second year. By the time he finally found a position in 2014—again at Best Buy—the family still couldn’t afford to buy. But their daughter, Sophia, was about to enter first grade, and the Valentins wanted her in a good school district and not to have to share a room with her brother. So they decided to rent.

A real-estate agent showed them around Lawrenceville, a sprawling suburb 30 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, where the homes are large and the schools are good. Every house they saw was owned by the same company, Waypoint Homes, which they told me the agent explained was a professional rental company, with 24/7 maintenance, quarterly check-ins, and deep pockets to spend on repairs.

They settled on a 2200-square-foot house on a quiet street. From the outside, it didn’t look like much—vinyl siding, black shutters, brick detailing. But it had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, walk-in closets, and a large, fenced-in backyard, all for just $1,373 a month. Soon enough, they were installing a tire swing in the backyard, hanging art on the walls, and putting up curtains in the kids’ bedrooms—dark blue for Antonio, light blue for Sophia. They paid their rent using Waypoint’s online platform, impressed by how far technology had progressed from the days of dropping a check in the mail. The property wasn’t theirs, exactly, but they finally felt like they could settle down.

As the valentins were nesting, America’s new corporate landlords were looking for efficiencies. The companies set about standardizing flooring and appliances, which would, in theory, lower costs and make life easier on maintenance workers. They established centralized call centers to handle tenant communication, and installed smart locks so that potential renters and maintenance staff could let themselves in to look around or do repairs.

At the same time, the industry was consolidating. Investment groups created companies to manage the homes: Blackstone established Invitation Homes; Cerberus created FirstKey Homes; Colony Capital created Colony American Homes. And then those companies started merging.

In 2015 alone, Colony American Homes merged with Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust, Cerberus Capital Management acquired more than 4,000 homes from BLT Homes, and American Homes 4 Rent said it was acquiring American Residential Properties in a $1.5 billion deal. By 2017, two major players, Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent, controlled nearly 60 percent of the market.

On calls with investors, those two companies touted their cost-cutting measures, which often involved pushing responsibilities onto tenants. In 2016, Jack Corrigan, the chief operating officer of American Homes 4 Rent, told investors that the company hoped to reduce spending on repairs, maintenance, and “turn costs”—preparing a home for a new tenant—from $2,500 per home to $1,600. That same year, Colony Starwood cut property-management costs 25 percent from the previous year; one of its money-saving innovations was to use videos and chat software to show tenants how to fix minor problems, so they wouldn’t have to request repair staff for a clogged garbage disposal or a leaking toilet.

The obligation to repair their own rental wasn’t the only responsibility passed on to tenants. I reviewed one Colony Starwood lease from 2016; it was 34 pages long and specified that tenants were responsible for landscaping, “routine insect control,” replacing air filters in their central air systems once a month, repairing broken glass (regardless of how it was broken), and repairing and maintaining sewer and sink backups. American Homes 4 Rent started levying “trip charges” if maintenance staff were sent out to homes to assist with repairs that the tenants should have performed themselves, David Singelyn, the company CEO, explained at a 2015 investor forum. Some companies began requiring that tenants buy renter’s insurance to cover the property itself, rather than just their belongings, a clause lawyers in some states say is unenforceable.

As the industry started to grow, the major players all described their desire to standardize and improve the business of being a landlord. But even to the companies’ employees, the effort to become more efficient started to look more like craven attempts to squeeze tenants. “It shouldn’t be just about making money, but that’s what it turned into,” Shanell Hanson, who was a property administrator for Colony American Homes in an Atlanta suburb from 2014 to 2016, told me. Hanson said the company had six maintenance workers for 2,100 homes in the area she managed. Residents would frequently call with substantial problems: Sewage was overflowing, or the house was full of mold. But with such a small staff, Hanson could rarely deal with the problems quickly. And the law was on the corporations’ side: If tenants want to seek financial remedy for a landlord not keeping the property in adequate condition, under Georgia law, they have to take the landlord to court, a costly and lengthy process. “It’s almost impossible to do without an attorney,” Lindsey Siegel, an attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid who works on housing issues, told me.

Hanson said she was instructed by a supervisor not to answer the phone when certain tenants called. “Her response would be, ‘We’re not fixing that, just don’t call the tenant back,’” Hanson said of the supervisor. Hanson said she was fired when she reported the company to OSHA because she worried that the homes were in such poor shape that the conditions for the maintenance staff she supervised were dangerous.An Invitation Homes rental sign in a suburban Georgia neighborhood (Alana Semuels / The Atlantic)

In 2017, Invitation merged with Starwood Waypoint, the company that itself had merged with Colony American in 2015. Invitation said it could not comment on individual employees (or the alleged OSHA complaint), but that company policy protects whistle-blowers from retaliation, and that the company does not tolerate unsafe working conditions for maintenance workers. A spokeswoman added that the events Hanson alleges occurred when the company was under different ownership. (Fred Tuomi, the longtime Invitation CEO, was a senior executive at Colony American beginning in 2013, and headed the company as it merged with both Starwood Waypoint and Invitation.) Invitation also said that any employee not returning tenants' calls was not following its company policy.

Many other single-family landlord companies were cutting corners on maintenance and repairs. “As the corporation got bigger, it just got worse, in terms of what we had to work with and how we had to deal with problems,” a former Los Angeles leasing agent who worked for Waypoint between 2015 and 2017 told me. (She spoke on the condition of anonymity because she still works in real estate.) Regional teams received bonuses for keeping costs low, she said, which incentivized them to skimp on spending. Instead of responding to tenants personally, supervisors would send calls for maintenance to out-of-town call centers—which would in turn assign maintenance workers dozens of repairs in a day, not realizing that Los Angeles traffic could mean that relatively short distances could take hours to traverse.

Another former Waypoint leasing agent, in Florida, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because she is still in the real-estate field, told me that the company stopped replacing shower-curtain rods and changing locks when tenants moved out. When Waypoint learned that it was spending $5 million annually on paint, local managers were told to just touch up the walls rather than repaint them, giving the interiors a splotchy, unfinished appearance, she said. At one point, a mandate came down from a field manager that the company was going to do everything it could to not to return security deposits to tenants. “It wasn’t a company policy, and you will never find it in writing, but it was a verbal thing passed down to field project managers,” she said.

Charles Young, who was named the chief operating officer of Starwood Waypoint in 2015 and now serves in that position for Invitation Homes, told me that the company never told staff to avoid returning security deposits. Tuomi, of Invitation, said that while the companies may have been “horribly inefficient” at first, they’ve gotten better at responding to problems as they’ve gotten bigger, with the help of technology and more experience. Invitation launched an advance-scheduling and route-optimization program last year to improve the efficiency of its maintenance staff, according to Kristi DesJarlais, an Invitation Homes spokesperson. The company told me repeatedly that complaints about the early days of the single-family rental industry are no longer valid.

Rene and erica valentin’s problems with their rental home began almost immediately. Their pipes would periodically break, sending a stream of water onto their living-room carpet. Sometimes the water would be boiling hot—their kids once stepped in it and burned their feet, they told me. Getting someone to come fix the pipes was always a production. Erica said she would call, or file a complaint online, and it would take days, sometimes weeks, before she received a response. Repair workers would come and replace small sections of broken pipe, but Waypoint never investigated why the problem persisted. They didn’t replace the soggy carpet, either; a faint mildew smell started to permeate the house. The contractors Waypoint sent seemed, to the Valentins, unqualified—one didn’t have a car and had to call his mother to drive him to Home Depot to pick up a part. “You would expect this type of behavior from a one-person landlord who’s a jerk, but a big multimillion-dollar company—how do you treat your tenants like that?” Erica said. “They have the money to fix things.”

The Valentins thought about leaving, but moving is expensive, and they were still saving up to buy a house. They also worried that breaking a lease would ruin their credit. So they stayed, and the problems mounted. Their air-conditioning stopped working; the family waited eight sweltering Georgia summer days for a repairman, who told them that the

Finally, Happy News from City Hall: Council Motions Oppose Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill SB50

Finally, Happy News from City Hall: Council Motions Oppose Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 50


PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In 2018, Los Angeles, like most California cities, formally opposed SB 827, the YIMBY California/Senator Scott Wiener bill to upzone (i.e., unplanned unappealable increases in the height, size, and density of privately-owned parcels). Because their opposition to SB 827 was carefully supported by detailed studies, the bill went down to quick defeat.

As reported previously in CityWatchLA, YIMBY California, again working through Senator Wiener, has resurrected SB 827, but with a new name, SB 50, along with cosmetic changes that camouflage the bill’s even more threatening impacts on California cities.

City Hall’s response is not yet clear, but hat’s off to Councilman Paul Koretz for his Dec. 12, 2018, City Council motion directing the Department of City Planning to determine the impacts of SB 50 on Los Angeles, and his follow-up February 27, 2019, Resolution calling on the City of Los Angles to formally lobby against SB 50 in Sacramento.

So far, there is no evidence that City Planning has yet analyzed the impact of SB 50, although the City’s Legislative Analyst (CLA) submitted a two-page report to the Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUM) on March 7, 2019. This report concluded: “Opposition to SB 50 is consistent with the City’s policy to oppose legislation that constrains its local control.”

What remains, however, is a final action by the City Council on Councilman Koretz original motion and resolution. Furthermore, the December 12 motion identifies five specific research questions that may, or may not, be eventually answered by the Department of City Planning. These questions about SB 50 impacts on Los Angeles include the following:
LA’s land use regulatory process and zoning?
Historic Preservation Overlay Zones?
Affordable housing incentive programs, such as Transit Oriented Communities (TOC)?
Community Plan Updates?
Proposed concepts of major transit stops and job-rich areas?

There is no reason to dawdle in answering these questions, especially because the bill is quickly worming its way through the State Senate, supported by a sophisticated public relations campaign. This is why other cities – unlike Los Angeles -- are moving quickly to analyze and oppose SB 50: in particular San Francisco and Palo Alto.

Real estate scams, large and small: More importantly, the answers to Councilman Koretz’s questions also apply to the local versions of SB 50, in particular the Transit Neighborhood Plans that City Planning is now preparing, with support from Council Offices, including Paul Koretz’s Council District 5. These mini-SB 50s are based on the same free market logic of SB 50. They will, therefore, have similar, unintended impacts on Los Angeles neighborhoods: unplanned, over-height, over-sized “Wienervilles.” Like SB 50, these real estate projects will be disconnected from City Council-adopted planning goals and policies, including their basis in carefully documented demographic trends, large amounts of existing untapped zoning capacity, and nearly tapped out public services and infrastructure.

If the City Council adopts Councilman Koretz’s motion and resolution – which is likely -- it will place itself in the awkward position of simultaneously opposing and supporting legislation that awards the owners of private parcels highly valuable and untaxed up-zones for their commercial lots, without even a head fake to the legally required planning or monitoring process.

The bottom line is that SB 50 and its local counterparts, like Transit Neighborhood Plans, are fancy real estate scams based on the same spurious free market assumptions and the same beneficiaries: commercial property owners and real estate developers. Furthermore, if adopted, both SB 50 and its local counterparts will fuel gentrification, without ever meeting its three politically-concocted goals:

- Increasing transit ridership.

- Increasing affordable housing.

- Reducing Green House Gases.

The likely impacts of SB 50 on Los Angeles: Note: As SB 50 changes and more research becomes available, some of these findings may be updated. 

Land use regulatory process and zoning? Since most of Los Angeles qualifies as being transit rich or jobs rich, legally adopted land use regulations -- Plan Designations and Zone -- would become irrelevant under SB 50. Furthermore, Los Angeles General Plan Framework’s Goal 3.3, that changes in zoning must be contingent on a demonstration of adequate public services and infrastructure, would be cast aside. This requirement would be jettisoned, and since SB 50 real estate projects are not discretionary, they also would not be subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). They would, therefore, sail through without public notices, environmental assessments, public hearings, debates and votes by the City Planning Commission and City Council, and appeals from the public.

Likewise, existing neighborhoods that are transit and/or jobs rich would be subject to similar de facto upzoning in which developers could waive existing restrictions on height, mass (FAR), and density. This would allow buildings with a height up to 55 feet, Floor Area Ratios as high as 3.25, with density restrictions (i.e. units per acre), and no or minimal parking requirements.

The current discretionary land use processes to allow carefully-vetted deviations from municipal laws regulating the use of land: zone variances, zone changes, and General Plan amendments, have already been compromised by SB 1818 and TOC Guidelines. In the case of SB 50, this process of land use deregulation will advance to the next step. Local parcels will become exempt from most zoning laws, including overlay ordinances, since developers could avoid land use regulations through an unappealable ministerial (administrative) process imposed on all California cities by the California State legislature through SB 50 and kindred “housing” bills. 

Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs)? SB 50 contains no protection for existing neighborhoods that have HPOZs, Residential Floor Area Districts (RFAs), or one of LA’s 16 new re:Code LA R1 anti-mansionization zones. Unless homeowners go through the laborious process to add their house to the California Register of Historic Resources, they cannot protect their historic neighborhoods from SB 50. 

Affordable housing incentive programs, such as Transit Oriented Communities (TOC)? SB 50 expands LA’s two density bonus programs, TOC Guidelines and SB 1818, by increasing the number of by-right bonuses, areas where these programs could be used, and removing any local right of appeal to communities or individuals who oppose SB 50 zoning waivers. Most importantly, however, SB 50 retains the same critical weakness of the two existing programs. It has no required inspection process to assure that pledged affordable units charge low-income rents and house low-income tenants. It is ripe for abuse, especially because landlords do not have easily accessible databases to determine who is eligible to rent their affordable units, and potential renters have no easily accessible database to determine where the SB 50 affordable units are located. Furthermore, low-income tenants who have obtained a Section 8 voucher cannot use their vouchers for affordable housing created through SB 1818, TOC Guidelines, and SB 50.

Another weakness is that SB 50 has no monitoring program to determine if its upzoning schemes create new housing, if the new housing is affordable or reduces the price of market housing, if the pledged affordable units actually exist, if future SB 50 tenants utilize transit, and if SB 50 apartments reduce Green House Levels beyond existing levels. Nevertheless, SB 50’s long list of incentives to private investors will remain intact, regardless of their actual outcomes, which, as I predict, will be increased gentrification, traffic congestion and air pollution, and economic inequality, supplemented by collapsing public infrastructure and services. 

Community Plan Updates. The New Community Plans program has been underway since 2005, and to push back against Measure S the City Council mandated that LA’s 35 Community Plans and two District Plans (Port and Airport) be subsequently updated on a six-year cycle.So far, however, this update process is listing badly for several reasons.

First, Community Plans apply citywide General Plan elements to local neighborhoods, and nearly all of LA’s mandatory and optional citywide elements are out of date. The program to update them has ground to a halt, and there is no evidence on City Planning’s website that the Department is updating these relics from the previous century. For example the mandatory Open Space element was adopted in 1973, and recent efforts to update it so far consist of several 2017 private and public meetings.

Second, since 2005 about six Community Plans have been fully updated and 16 are now going through an accelerated and truncated updating process. The deadline for updating the remaining Community Plan is 2024, but there is no public information on the update schedule and work program, assuming it exists.

Third, updated Community Plans are implemented through public improvements, called the Capital Improvement Program and appended land use ordinances (e.g. zoning). But, no capital improvement program are attached to any Community Plan, old or “new”, and adopted zoning laws are routinely by-passed through many real estate schemes, such as re:code LA, Transit Neighborhood Plans, density bonus ordinances, and SB 50, all independent of any local analysis or adopted Community Plan policies, goals, or land use designations.

The conclusion is unmistakable. If adopted, SB 50 will hammer the final nail into the coffin of LA’s faltering Community Plan update process. At that point, land use, as legally established through (General) plan designations and zones, will be permanently severed from a careful analysis of under-utilized existing zoning, population and transportation trends, infrastructure capacity, and the California Environmental Quality Act. Turbulent market forces will then become the de facto criteria determining the use of land in Los Angeles. Short-term business decisions will undermine zoning laws, and these actions, in turn, will supplant the General Plan elements and processes required by City of Los Angeles Charter Sections 554-558, and the State of California’s planning laws.

While some investors will undoubtedly make out like bandits, the quality of life in Los Angeles will plummet even more. 

Proposed concepts of major transit stops and job-rich areas. While we soon expect new maps identifying neighborhoods in Los Angeles that are jobs and transit rich (i.e., within a half mile of light rail, heavy rail, and frequent bus lines) maps prepared for SB 827 indicate that most of Los Angeles would be subject to the provisions of SB 50, including the historic core, East LA, South LA, and most of the Westside. In the case of the San Fernando Valley all major transit corridors would include at least half of its neighborhoods, with more folded once Senator Wiener identifies “jobs rich areas.” When this happens, many other Los Angeles neighborhoods will also pop up on SB 50 impact maps. Few Los Angeles communities will remain intact, only governed by General Plan Elements, Community Plans, and City Council-adopted zoning ordinances.

What comes next?

First, this legislation is rapidly moving through the State Legislature, buoyed by a well funded, carefully crafted lobbying campaign. Angelinos and their City Council do not have the luxury to wait for the Department of City Planning to eventually draft a report on the legislation’s impact. Instead, community groups and Council offices should undertake their own independent reviews, and I offer this column as a starting point. Please extend my analysis and make whatever corrections are warranted. This is the best way to determine what will happen in Los Angeles if the California State Legislature adopts SB 50.

Second, City Hall hypocrisy of opposing SB 50, while supporting its local equivalents, like the Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, needs to go. In case anybody is still not clear on their similarity, let me spell it out. They both contend that existing plans and zones block increased transit ridership and the supply of affordable housing. Their solution is deregulation that circumvents adopted plans and zones with up-zoning schemes that increase the value of underlying properties, resulting in new market apartments whose upscale residents will miraculously ditch their cars and switch to buses and subways for most of their trips. Furthermore, both SB 50 and its local equivalents assume that the price, quality, and accessibility of mass transit is irrelevant, while supporting public services and infrastructure are so elastic that examining and monitoring them is unnecessary.

Third, both programs hide behind the same deception. Incentives to developers will “unleash” private investors, whose pursuit of profits will fix serious problems of low transit ridership and over-priced housing through a transit-adjacent building boom. Since this is self-evident to these density hawks, neither proposal contains any inspection and monitoring requirements. As a result, their up-zones would exist in perpetuity, regardless of their actual, as opposed to imagined, impacts.

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning controversies for City Watch. Please send any comments or corrections to Previous articles are available at the City Watch LA archives.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

FABLE: The Monkey and the Crocodile

The monkey has a sweet heart.

Once there lived a monkey in a jamun tree by a river. The monkey was alone - he had no friends, no family, but he was happy and content. The jamun tree gave him plenty of sweet fruit to eat, and shade from the sun and shelter from the rain.

One day a crocodile came swimming up the river and climbed on to the bank to rest under the monkey's tree. 'Hello', called the monkey, who was a friendly animal. 'Hello', replied the crocodile, surprised. 'Do you know where I can get some food?' he asked. 'I haven't had anything to eat all day - there just don't seem to be any fish left in the river.'

'Well,' said the monkey, 'I don't eat fish so I wouldn't know - but I do have plenty of ripe purple jamuns in my tree. Would you like to try some?' He threw some down to the crocodile. The crocodile was so hungry that he ate up all the jamuns even though crocodiles don't eat fruit. He loved the sweet tangy fruit and shyly asked whether he could have some more. 'Of course', replied the monkey generously, throwing down more fruit. 'Come back whenever you feel like more fruit', he added when the crocodile had eaten his fill.

crocodileAfter that the crocodile would visit the monkey every day. The two animals soon became friends - they would talk and tell each other stories, and eat as much of the sweet jamuns as they wanted. The monkey would throw down all the fruit the crocodile wanted from his tree.

One day the crocodile began talking about his wife and family. 'Why didn't you tell me earlier that you had a wife?' asked the monkey. 'Please take some of the jamuns for her as well when you go back today.' The crocodile thanked him and took some of the fruit for his wife.

The crocodile's wife loved the jamuns. She had never eaten anything so sweet before. 'Imagine', she said, 'how sweet would be the creature who eats these jamuns every day. The monkey has eaten these every day of his life - his flesh would be even sweeter than the fruit.' She asked her husband to invite the monkey for a meal - 'and then we can eat him up' she said happily.

The crocodile was appalled - how could he eat his friend? He tried to explain to his wife that he could not possibly eat the monkey. 'He is my only true friend', he said. But she would not listen - she must eat the monkey. 'Since when do crocodiles eat fruit and spare animals?' she asked. When the crocodile would not agree to eat the monkey, she pretended to fall very sick. 'Only a monkey's heart can cure me', she wailed to her husband. 'If you love me you will get your friend the monkey and let me eat his heart.'

The poor crocodile did not know what to do - he did not want to eat his friend, but he could not let his wife die. At last he decided to bring the monkey to his wife.

'O dear friend', he called as soon as reached the jamun tree. ' My wife insists that you come to us for a meal. She is grateful for all the fruit that you have sent her, and asks that I bring you home with me.' The monkey was flattered, but said he could not possibly go because he did not know how to swim. 'Don't worry about that', said the crocodile. 'I'll carry you on my back.' The monkey agreed and jumped onto the crocodile's back.

The crocodile swam with him out into the deep wide river. When they were far away from the bank and the jamun tree, he said, 'My wife is very ill. The only thing that will cure her is a monkey's heart. So, dear friend, this will be the end of you and of our friendship.' The monkey was horrified. What could he do to save himself? He thought quickly and said 'Dear friend, I am very sorry to hear of your wife's illness and I am glad that I will be able to help her. But I have left my heart behind on the jamun tree. Do you think we could go back so that I can fetch it for your wife?'
monkeyThe crocodile believed the monkey. He turned and swam quickly to the jamun tree. The monkey leaped off his back and into the safety of his tree. 'False and foolish friend,' he called. 'Don't you know that we carry our hearts within us? I will never trust you again or ever give you fruit from my tree. Go away and don't come back again.'

The crocodile felt really foolish - he had lost a friend and
a supply of good sweet fruit. The monkey had saved himself because he had thought quickly. He realised that a monkey and a crocodile could never be true friends - crocodiles preferred to eat monkeys rather than be friends with them.

Change the Name activists March in Marinwood

Silent march’ supporting Dixie name change evokes civil rights movement

2-mile walk part of effort to change the name of Dixie School District

By KERI BRENNER | | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: March 16, 2019 at 6:26 pm | UPDATED: March 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm


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A "Silent Parade" makes its way through the Marinwood area of San Rafael, Calif. Saturday March 16, 2019 to draw attention to racial injustice and the need to change the name of the Dixie School District. (Jeremy Portje/ Marin Independent Journal)


After months of loud and raucous public testimony, debates and rallies, proponents of changing the name of the Dixie School District made a large statement Saturday in total silence.

“I think it’s pretty powerful,” said Lisa Doering of San Rafael, one of about 60 sign-carrying adults and children who marched two miles in silence between two schools — both named Dixie — in north San Rafael. “After all the noise and yelling, it’s very powerful to walk along and just think about all of this.”

The event, which was to replicate a 1917 silent march on Fifth Avenue in New York City organized by civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, was to give support to changing the name of the Dixie School District. Proponents say the name Dixie is linked to the racism, slavery and violence of the Confederate South and causes distress for people of color and others who are offended by it.

“Between 1880 and 1960, there were 5,000 lynchings of black folks in our country,” Noah Griffin of Tiburon, a leader of the movement called Change The Name, told a crowd of supporters who gathered in the parking lot of Dixie Elementary School, just off Lucas Valley Road in Marinwood. “We are not a pocket of privilege. We are not exempt from change. We cannot close our eyes and ears to what’s going on across the nation (to remove Confederate symbols). It is our turn to step up and step forward.”

Opponents of the name change, organized as We Are Dixie, said in a statement that the silent march was “completely inappropriate and not community-spirited” and was scheduled to interfere with the Dixie Little League parade which also took place Saturday. The silent march, originally set for 9 a.m. Saturday, was moved to 10:30 a.m. so as not to overlap with the parade.

“The march … has invited outsiders to our community to create further division and turmoil and is planned for the same day as the Dixie Little League Parade,” the We Are Dixie statement said. “It is completely inappropriate and not community spirited, but nothing surprises us anymore with the Change The Name group and their desperate attempts at press coverage and complete disregard for our community.”

According to the We Are Dixie statement, no counter-marches were planned. Aside from a shout of “shut up” from a passing vehicle, the march proceeded peacefully for two miles from the Dixie Elementary School to the tiny, circa-1860s Dixie Schoolhouse, on the grounds of Miller Creek Middle School on Las Gallinas Avenue.

At the schoolhouse, the group posed for a photo shoot — holding up their signs ranging from “#Dixie Must Go” to “Love not Hate” — and then sang several rounds of “We Shall Overcome,” led by Griffin, who was holding a Confederate flag for the photo shoot.

“This was a remarkable experience, for me to be quiet that long,” district parent Bruce Anderson, who walked in front in the march, quipped to the group at the schoolhouse. “Just ask my wife or my son and my grandson.”

Anderson urged supporters to remain steadfast.

“Our diligence still needs to continue, until the board says they’re going to change the name with a vote,” Anderson said.

In recent weeks, the district’s board of trustees has been looking at a process to decide to change the name and select a new one — but has not yet clearly stated its intention one way or the other. A public hearing on two new potential names submitted by petition will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the district office at 380 Nova Albion Way in San Rafael. The proposed names are Sojourner Truth Elementary School District and Live Oak Valley Elementary School District.

Dixie trustee Marnie Glickman, who is leading the change the name effort within the board, said Saturday she was “really proud to be here. I’m really proud of my neighbors.”

She declined further comment. SEE FULL ARTICLE IN The Marin IJ HERE



IN THE EARLY 2000s, the Mexican government launched an ambitious effort to build affordable housing for millions of the country’s most impoverished citizens. The government ultimately spent more than $100 billion on hundreds of sprawling housing developments, but the program was plagued by corruption, poor planning, and shabby construction methods. Even today, many of the developments lack running water or sewer systems.

Mexican architectural photographer Jorge Taboada first noticed these developments springing up in the suburbs around his native Monterrey a few years ago. He was struck by their size and uniformity, which became especially apparent from the air.



"This is a disturbing reality that can’t be seen from the ground level," Taboada says, referencing the developments' cramped, overly monotonous construction. "I discovered these low-income houses that were being built by the thousands in the suburbs of the main industrial cities of Mexico, and I began to document them." Taboada’s works will be exhibited in July as part of a group show at the Hamburg Triennial of Photography.

Taboada trained to be an architect at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in the mid-1990s, later combining that training with his passion for photography to become one of the city’s top architectural photographers. His latest series, “Alta Densidad (High Density),” features large-format aerial shots of housing developments from across the country, taken from helicopters. From above, the endless rows of identikit houses have a SimCity-esque visual aesthetic. And although the images possess a kind of abstract, op-art beauty, Taboada points out that their rigorous geometries reveal an indifference to human needs.

"On one hand I see the beauty of this architecture—the monochromatic landscapes, the fractal forms," he says. "But then I think there are people who live there, and who are suffering the consequences of the depersonalization of housing. Large construction companies, without adequate regulations by the government, built small or nonexistent parks and recreation areas. These are small, concrete cubes, very hot in the summer time, and without backyards. I call them sinister paradises.”

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Blanket Upzoning - A Blunt Instrument - Won’t Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis

Blanket Upzoning - A Blunt Instrument - Won’t Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis

Last April, TPR interviewed UCLA and London School of Economics Professor Michael Storper on how to square urbanism, density, and economic development. Over the past year, Storper, a Professor of Economic Geography whose last published book The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeleshas continued his research on inequality caused by globalization and technology; and, on the impact of housing, zoning, and migration decisions by city-regions on addressing inequality. Rejoining TPR, Storper argues that the bulk of the claims of the trickle-down “housing-as-opportunity” school of thought are fundamentally flawed and lead to simplistic and misguided pubic policy recommendations. In light of the robust conversation around CA State Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposed SB 50, Storper notes that there is no clear evidence that local housing regulation is crucial for differences in home availability or affordability across cities, for inter-regional mobility, and that many have failed to fully consider the impacts of in-migration to economically prosperous cities. 

“The idea that upzoning will cause housing affordability to trickle down within our metropolis, while also setting up Los Angeles and San Francisco as the new golden land for people in less prosperous regions, is just a lot to promise—and it’s based on a narrative of housing as opportunity that is deeply flawed. We have to be very cautious when we use a storyline like that to justify public policy." - Michael Storper
Professor, you recently released new research challenging what you term the “housing as opportunity” school of thought. What is the premise of that school of thought, and what do advocates of “blanket upzoning” to increase supply miss with respect to housing economics?
Michael Storper: The “housing as opportunity” school of thought is a consensus in mainstream housing economics that makes a very ambitious set of claims about the world. First, it claims that the housing crisis in our major prosperous metropolitan regions is principally due to restrictive zoning and regulations. It follows by arguing that that we can solve this crisis through widespread up-zoning, which it claims will increase the supply of housing in these prosperous regions, and that this overall supply increase will have a trickle-down effect by increasing affordability for lower income people and families.  A novel argument then extends to bigger national picture, because this school of thought also claims that such up-zoning in prosperous regions can also solve the problems of less prosperous regions.
The background to this latter claim is that the split between prosperous metropolitan areas and more depressed areas—what many call the “left behind” regions—is greater than it has been for nearly a century. Many parts of the country are seeing lower incomes and fewer opportunities, yet people from those regions aren’t migrating to the prosperous regions as much as they have in the past.
The “housing as opportunity” school of thought says that this decline in migration is due to a lack of housing supply in big cities, such that people can’t find or afford housing in expensive metropolitan regions. And it says that upzoning in big cities would allow more migration in.
Thus, this theory works at two scales: the intra-metropolitan scale and the inter-metropolitan (or national) scale. At both levels, the issue is said to be affordability and the common solution is said to be upzoning. 
So, what does this school of thought miss? Our paper proposes that it misses several things. For one, we don’t think that housing is the major reason that fewer people from “left behind” regions are moving into prosperous metropolitan regions. Instead, we think it’s because of jobs and skills.
The evidence for this is that some people are moving into metropolitan areas—specifically, highly skilled young people. Housing isn’t keeping them out. It’s changing how they are housed—they tend to crowd more people into a unit—but it’s not keeping them out. So, the idea that we’re going to create economic opportunity for people in Ohio, Kentucky, or North Dakota by building housing in LA is pretty unrealistic. It’s also a contradictory argument: if up-zoning were to be attract more of these domestic migrants into places like LA or San Francisco, we would largely negate any contribution to better or more affordable housing for those already here.
Our analysis shows that blanket up-zoning is likely to miss its affordability target, even without attracting in more people from left behind regions. Blanket upzoning is a blunt instrument, whereas people’s housing needs are diverse.  Even if the up-zoning is aimed at, for example, transit-served corridors, it doesn’t mean that all such areas are going to attract housing investment.  This is because, even with transit, people don’t live and work in the same neighborhoods, and there is no evidence that transit changes these patterns in any significant way.  So, when we up-zone around transit corridors, for example, only some locations are likely to attract big increases in housing construction.  These are areas with strong attractiveness.  It will favor those who can pay the price of housing in high-demand areas—marginally improving the housing prospects for highly skilled people at the upper end of the income distribution.
What it’s not going to do is solve the housing crisis for the middle classes and lower-income people.  Even with so-called affordability set-asides, the trickle down effect will be small and could even be negative in the highly-desirable areas, if the set-aside(in the range of 15-25% in current legislative proposals) is lower (or income thresh-holds higher) than the current pattern of lower-income, lower-cost housing in those areas compared to the new housing profile.    This is just one example of the many unintended consequences that proponents of blanket upzoning don’t take into account, and that is why it will fail. 
Elaborate on the research you rely upon to conclude that blanket upzoning will not solve the housing crisis for coastal California’s middle classes and lower-income people.
Our paper reviews the existing literature in urban economics and provides a variety of evidence on how migration impacts city housing prices. We looked at three dimensions of cities—land area, population migration, and changes in housing prices—and showed that there isn’t any consistent relationship among those three variables. Then, we used other data to show that the real factor driving growth in housing prices is the income distribution across cities.
Cities like LA, San Francisco, or anywhere else in coastal California have a strong economic base that attracts skilled people in occupations with high wages. They also have a large population with very low incomes. What drives housing prices up is the strength of the fundamental economic forces that causes the skilled to want to be in big metropolitan areas today.  This force is much stronger than 30 years ago.   The payoff for a skilled person to locating in a big city today (in terms of higher wages compared to locating in other places) is much bigger than in the past.  That is why the skilled continue to crowd into LA and even the Bay Area, in spite of their high housing costs.  It’s also why any increase in supply will mostly benefit them (in terms of better housing choices for them).   That’s fine, but what it is unlikely to do is have a strong trickle-down effect, and up-zoning legislation is largely being sold on the affordability or trickle-down argument.
Professor, in a previous interview with The Planning Report, you noted that “blanket overrides of local planning and zoning laws to authorize density…would give us a combination of displacement and bad urbanism.” Does your new research confirm or conflict with that conclusion? 
recent paper by Yonah Freemark at MIT showed that upzoning in Chicago served to increase land values. We could anticipate that effect, because upzoning means that landowners can count on being able to construct more in the future. But what upzoning did not do in Chicago, and is not likely to do anywhere, is create incentives for housing construction in the areas where middle-class and lower-income people most need it for the prices at which they need it.
That’s the problem with blanket upzoning: It doesn’t actually require housing to be created for these groups. It just allows upzoning itself to be created wherever you want and allows for market speculation to dominate. The market will naturally respond best in areas with the greatest returns on upzoning—mostly places with dense, white-collar employment where high-income people will want to live to be closer to their jobs.
This is how blanket upzoning produces the consequence of displacement. Skilled people with high incomes—those who would benefit most from upzoning—are going to move into upzoned neighborhoods and crowd out the middle- and lower-income people who are living there. This displacement is exactly the opposite consequence of what the authors of upzoning bills claim they want to produce.
The consequence of bad urbanism is related to what I call the “Sao Paulo solution” or the “Mexico City solution”: allowing nonconforming high density to be built in areas with relatively low density. That’s exactly how a lot of cities in Latin America have urbanized—with towers or jumbled densities all over the place, chaotically shooting up all over the place next to single-family homes. Given the land-use patterns in Los Angeles, for example, blanket upzoning would likely give us the same kind of ugly incursions of bad urbanism, without the positive side of higher density, which is clustering, walk-ability, and lively streets.  So many of LA’s neighborhoods were disfigured in the 1960s by the zoning that led to dingbat streets. Do we really want to repeat that?
In your opinion, are proposed laws/public policies that link the upzoning of neighborhoods with intra-city urban transportation corridors an inherently positive step toward achieving more housing affordability, as opposed to displacement, in California?
In this case, my concern is about the method, rather than the general goal. I do think that in the long run, we will see a new generation of people who are less reliant on cars, who want to live in denser communities, and who want to tap into better transit networks. And I think most people agree that that’s a desirable future. The question is: How do you go about doing it?
Transit-oriented upzoning can become a mechanism of displacement. The major area in LA where that is likely to happen is the Crenshaw corridor. Crenshaw community groups had worked out a plan for how they envisaged their communities to evolve—a plan that included greater density. Now, new development targeted to higher-income people is displacing those communities. What concern me are top-down approaches that dictate to a local community how to produce greater density and in exactly what ways. 
Given your research on housing economics, what policy questions should be central to any new legislation seeking to address inequality and housing affordability?
The core debate in California housing policy is with people who think that untargeted upzoning is a lever that will increase supply in vast metropolitan areas and produce widespread affordability while somehow avoiding the problems of displacement and bad urbanism.
But affordability and supply are not the same thing. In big, mature metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, affordability has to be produced through active housing market policy. That means directly targeting affordability and access for every group and every mix of housing.
Bills like SB 827 and SB 50 are essentially about trickle-down economics. The logic is that by creating more aggregate supply, every part of the demand curve—every different group demanding housing—will somehow benefit. I don’t think there’s any evidence in favor of that proposition.
I agree that if what we want is more housing in a lot of different places, then we should create incentives for localities to build that housing—but we have to allow them to figure out how to do so in the way that best addresses their different constituencies. We should set general goals and allow communities to meet them in different ways, rather than imposing centralized solutions.

How do your UCLA colleagues in urban planning and housing affordability assess the housing legislation pending in the California State Legislature? Do they also reject as problematic the thesis that
 untargeted upzoning will increase supply and affordability without displacement and/or bad urbanism? 
I think there is a wide variety of opinions. Everyone’s going to continue looking at all of the legislation that’s out there.
To me, housing is an area where the law of unintended consequences is most powerful. The idea that upzoning will cause housing affordability to trickle down within our metropolis, while also setting up Los Angeles and San Francisco as the new golden land for people in less prosperous regions, is just a lot to promise—and it’s based on a narrative of housing as opportunity that is deeply flawed. We have to be very cautious when we use a storyline like that to justify public policy.
You asserted in your last TPR interview that cities seeking to become economically competitive in the 21st century are “hamstrung by old rules.” What are the old rules or regulations that now hamstring the future prospects of cities? 
The biggest problems are the tax systems that lead municipalities to be competitive with one another—including the Prop. 13 disaster that we’re still faced with—and all the fragmentation and fiscal disarrangement that every little city and every jurisdiction is fighting. 
In closing, let’s pivot to the challenges of providing needed public housing and what policy lessons can be learned from other cities outside of the U.S. 
I don’t think we talk enough about public housing. Public housing has a long and checkered history in the United States because it’s expensive, hard to maintain, and involves all kinds of problems of public administration and bureaucracy. It has a better history in other countries, and we might ask why.
Some cities—most notably London—are experimenting with reconstructing their public housing estates and allowing some market-rate housing to be built there. They’re going in the opposite direction of building private housing and including affordable housing in it. The reason this worked is that they included the residents, and the residents said, “We’ll make a deal. If you give us new and better public housing, and you let us participate in creating high-quality design, then we’re in.”
The key thing here is that the public sector keeps control of the land forever. A city, essentially, is its land—and land is the most valuable resource in a city. When the public sector controls land, it has the ability to weigh in on the future of the city. Now, as cities are changing, that asset—which will only become more valuable and less affordable to the public sector over time—isn’t being given away to the private sector, but is instead being transformed in response to social and economic forces.
There are intelligent ways to do these things that we need to start thinking about. Affordability has to be tackled directly; it’s not going to be created through aggregate supply and trickle-down.
See Article HERE

Marinwood Plaza Cleanup at RWQCB on 3/12/2019

The Clean Up Marinwood Plaza Now committee speaks before the Regional Water Quality Control Board on March 13, 2019.  The committee urges further action despite the softening of enforcement by the RWQCB.  Also speaking were attorneys for Silveira Ranch and Catholic Charities (St. Vincent s)