Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Mollie Hemingway
JANUARY 8, 2018
In the second season of the TV show “24,” President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is removed from office for failing to launch a war against three Middle East countries purportedly behind a nuclear attack on U.S. soil.
Palmer has reason to doubt his intelligence agencies’ assurances of who was behind it, and it turns out the attack was orchestrated by a cabal of business and military leaders who want to launch a war for personal gain. The means by which Palmer is removed from office during the 4:00-5:00a hour on Day 2 is the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a portion of which reads:
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide… to the Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Palmer’s chief of staff explains, “it seems there are people, cabinet members, who question whether you’re fit to continue as chief executive.” The conniving vice president says in the cabinet meeting putting the president on trial, “What I intend to show is a pattern of erratic behavior since this crisis started.” Using half-true innuendos and rumors as well as deliberately false information, he convinces enough of the cabinet to depose Palmer. In other words, Palmer is the victim of a bloodless coup.
Now, “24” was so over the top that its dramatic twists became something of a punch line. How preposterous to imagine that a president’s handpicked cabinet would vote to oust him in a palace overthrow! But that fantasy land is precisely what some of the mostly unelected opposition hopes to see happen with President Trump as part of the more-than-a-year-long temper tantrum against the results of the 2016 election.
In the last debate of 2016, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would accept the election results, and he said “I will tell you at the time.” Hillary Clinton responded to Trump by calling his remark “horrifying.” The general media environment was to react with unabashed horror for at least 72 hours.
Trump’s comments were wrong — undermining confidence in the electoral process is unbecoming of a political leader of this great nation. But it’s doubtful that even Trump would have done a tiny fraction what his unelected opposition has done to undermine and overturn the results of the election had he lost. Even if he had thrown a year-long temper tantrum, he would not have been aided and abetted in it by a majority of the media or other members of the establishment.
Since his surprise win, the country has been subjected to attempts to delegitimize Trump’s election by blaming “fake news” for tricking voters into supporting him, or a year-long obsession, still noticeably unsubstantiated, with the idea that he conspired with Russians to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. We’ve heard people desperately attempt to keep the Electoral College from voting for him, been told that damaging information from intelligence agencies would keep him from being inaugurated, and that the cabinet should pull a “24”-style move and oust him via the 25th Amendment.
Among those struggling to accept the fact that the American people elected Donald Trump in 2016, the 25th Amendment has been a go-to fantasy for a while, particularly among those who strongly dislike Trump’s less-interventionist foreign policy. Eliot Cohen reached for it in the very first week of the presidency.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker waited until February 10 to say that the cabinet should use that amendment’s provisions since Trump is “so incompetent — or not-quite-right” that he poses a threat. Perhaps most famously, New York Times‘ conservative columnist Ross Douthat went hard for the 25th Amendment solution to what ails him in mid-May.
We’re coming in on the close of an unexpectedly successful first year for Trump, despite the media’s Sturm und Drang against the presidency, Trump’s lack of political allies, and his political naïveté. Trump’s year ended with corporate tax reform passed for the first time in decades. Individual tax rates were cut for the vast majority of Americans. Regulations have been slashed. Trump changed direction on the Paris Climate Accord, on the Clean Power Plan, and the Iran nuclear deal. Foreign policy has been reoriented, with results including real success against ISIS. He appointed numerous judges to federal courts. Last week, the stock market topped 25,000 for the first time, despite the prediction of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman that the stock market would “never” recover from Trump’s election. It was also the week that Michael Wolff’s gossipy if less-than-true book came out about the early chaotic days of the Trump White House, and the talk of mental unfitness — and accompanying fantasies about ousters — reached ever-new heights.
Wolff was transparent about his desire to raise this point as he went around to media outlets asserting “the story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job” and his hope or belief that it “will end this presidency.” Even as various journalists and media outlets admitted the book was false, that it had made-up quotes and anecdotes, and that it didn’t grasp basics of the Trump White House, they said they believed it was fake, but accurate.
Despite the veracity problems, journalists used the book to ask any manner of guests about mental health concerns. “Meet The Press” pushed out Wolff’s undoubtedly false message about the 25th Amendment without a moment’s hesitation:
At the same time, media leaders of the movement to oust Trump used a book by an academic who has been ranting and raving about Trump and mental fitness for more than a year. She claimed to meet with Democrats and a Republican senator (it turned out she had embellished that last part) to discuss Trump’s fitness. This was used for segment after media segment discussing the same.
Politico got the ball rolling with “Washington’s growing obsession: The 25th Amendment.” The not entirely stable “Morning Joe” has been obsessed about a 25th Amendment removal for months, and here’s MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeting outa New York Times article that quotes the academic who is trying to get Trump ousted. Here’s that New York Times article. It mentions a 25th-Amendment ouster five times. It being a day ending in -y, the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin was talking about a coup.
CNN host Brian Stelter used to oppose questions about the health of politicians when the politician was named Hillary Clinton, but he’s been on a tear about Trump’s mental health since at least February, more so recently, making claims of not being comfortable slightly hard to buy:
The Yale psychiatrist everyone is promoting is quoted in a Vox interview saying people should “contain” Trump against his will, force him to undergo an evaluation, and have him declared unfit, adding “many lawyer groups have actually volunteered, on their own, to file for a court paper to ensure that the security staff will cooperate with us. But we have declined, since this will really look like a coup…”
Yes, removing a president by force tends to look like a coup. Nevertheless, CNN and other media outlets are mainstreaming this conspiracy plot. Here’s The Atlantic getting in on the action:
Trump is unlike any previous president of the United States. Voters knew this when they chose him over Hillary Clinton. And there is nothing about Trump now that suggests his mental state is any different or worse or dangerous than when voters elected him, or when they first encountered him on gossip pages and in reality television decades ago.
To suggest otherwise is to undermine the democratic election of presidents, and to do so would be far more damaging to the country than anything Trump’s actually done. It is particularly noteworthy that members of an elite are calling for his ouster when Trump’s election was partly in response to anger at mismanagement by members of the media and political establishment.
Talk of mental health and a 25th Amendment removal, “by force if necessary,” is talk of a coup, just as it was in the TV show “24.” Responsible parties should consider how this is perceived by the part of the electorate they rarely speak to and cease.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
What Marin will look like if SB827 passes.
On January 4th, 2018, California State Senator Scott Weiner announced a series of proposed housing bills. By far the most attention has been directed at Senate Bill 827 (SB 827), which would override local zoning controls on height, density, parking minimums, and design review on properties within a certain distance of major public transit infrastructure.
I was really interested what that would look like on the ground in California, so I spent a few days attempting to make a map that would show how SB 827 would affect zoning as currently proposed. Please note that I am not an expert in this area, and that this map should only be used as a beginning point for the policy discussion around the bill and not for making any important decisions. I cannot state strongly enough that there are multiple errors with this map, due to missing and incorrect data, probable misinterpretations of the proposed law as written, bugs in my software, and multiple other reasons.
See the website and amazing urban map HERE
The pink area represent 85 feet height limit and eight stories. (For comparison, Wincup is only five stories.)
The pink area represent 85 feet height limit and eight stories. (For comparison, Wincup is only five stories.)
Friday, January 12, 2018
This song was written in 1960 by Housewife and Activist Malvina Reynolds to protest the overdevelopment of Daly City, CA. It's message is a warning to YIMBYs and Plan Bay Area who want to destroy places like Marin County for high density housing. They pretend it is for "social justice" and "combat global warming" but in the end it is about developers making money from the Tech Boom. When the quality of life in the Bay Area is destroyed, where will you go?
Daly City, CA
Thursday, January 11, 2018
In the mid 1930s four Marin women in lives of comfortable circumstance, who did not have to take on the task of saving Marin’s natural resources, did so. Sepha Evers, Caroline Livermore, Portia Forbes and Helen Van Pelt, environmentalists before the term was coined, shook the powers that be to start a movement that eventually saved many of Marin’s open space treasures – and founded an organization that still carries on their activist tradition.
The four women, members of the Marin Garden Club, became alarmed that completion of the Golden Gate Bridge would make Marin an easy car commute from San Francisco and bring an influx that would jeopardize the county’s open hills and valleys.
Calling themselves The Citizens Survey Committee, they raised $2,500 to pay for a planning study that produced Marin County’s first set of planning maps and a report to guide the county’s future growth. Many of the report’s recommendations had to do with the preservation of open space “before it was too late.”
The Marin Independent Journal wrote in editorial alarm in January 1934: “Our picnic spots are nearly gone. ‘No Trespassing’ signs are posted all over. We must act if we believe in building for the future. Papermill Creek, inviting bay beaches, from Tiburon to Santa Venetia, must be saved. No community on earth is more favored than Marin with the wealth and beauty of potential playgrounds. If we don’t acquire some of these lands, the opportunity will surely slip away from us.”
MCL’s first conservation battle was Mount Tamalpais State Park. Together with groups such as the Tamalpais Conservation Club, MCL worked to expand the park from its beginning nucleus of 200 acres in Steep Ravine. From Mount Tam MCL turned westward, envisioning a major park effort that would preserve the County’s western shore. MCL efforts created Tomales Bay State Park and assisted in the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. MCL also fought to save the Marin headlands and Richardson Bay and helped to purchase a number of other park and natural resource areas in both east and west Marin.
One of the most dramatic chapters in MCL history was the battle to stop 879 acres of Richardson Bay from being filled - by bulldozing the Tiburon hills and depositing the fill into the bay - and turned into a town for 10,000 people. The regulatory agencies that would have halted such a tideland development did not exist in 1949 when this proposal came forth. MCL leaders worked their political and fundraising magic to bring together a coalition of local forces to defeat the development and effect purchase of the property. It took a decade but in 1958 clear title on lands from Belvedere to Strawberry Point established the sanctuary that is now known as the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
Richardson Bay Audubon Center
Another of MCL’s most publicized achievements was thwarting plans for commercialization of Angel Island when it was declared surplus by the federal government and negotiating to have it added to the state park system instead. The island is the site of military installations and immigration encampments dating back to 1775 and home to abundant and diverse animal and bird life. When the government decided to abandon it after World War 2, MCL jumped in to underwrite interim fire and police services rather than let it go on the auction block for private development, and then led the charge to fold it into the state park system. When Angel Island became a park in 1954 MCL worked for another 14 years to ensure that its master plan precluded commercial enterprises and protected its wildlife and habitat areas.
“We really saved that from becoming a cheap Coney Island, which a Nevada firm hoped to develop,” MCL leader Caroline Livermore said later about the campaign to preserve Angel Island.
In the early 1960s MCL worked with the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Canyon Ranch to defeat plans the Bolinas Harbor District had to build a resort hotel and yacht harbor complex in Bolinas Lagoon. It was a scheme that seems bizarre today: dredging mud from the upper section of the lagoon and placing it on Kent Island to increase the size and height of the island to make it possible to build a hotel, parking lots, an office, a helicopter pad, docks and other facilities. MCL worked for a year and a half to assemble funds to buy the island and arrange to have it given to the County. The island passed into the public domain by a vote of the Board of Supervisors which took place only hours before the Harbor District was going to file a condemnation suit to block the County’s action.
MCL worked in 1972 for the passage of a measure to create the Marin County Regional Open Space District. In the late 1970s MCL campaigned vigorously to protect sensitive areas of California’s coast from offshore oil drilling.
The early 1970s were also the time of Marin’s battles with logging. Events leading to Marin’s ordinance regulating logging began in November 1968 when MCL learned that an Oregon logging firm had purchased timber rights to a ranch on Bolinas Ridge. MCL leaders went to battle, the logging firm wound up in court and eventually was restrained from lumbering due to environmental and public health issues. In 1971 Marin enacted a ordinance regulating logging, which, however, became moot in 1982 when regulation of timber harvesting was turned over to the California Department of Forestry.
The League’s Water Committee’s efforts contributed directly to defeat of a peripheral canal in 1982 – a massive political effort to divert Northern California water to the Southland and a threat that continues to periodically raise its head. MCL President Ted Wellman served as Chair of the Marin County Unit of the California Coalition against the Peripheral Canal and was a major force in halting the water diversion plan at the ballot box.
Increasingly, MCL found that it was important to help develop public policy relative to environmental issues and work toward implementing that policy. This involves constant research, careful evaluation and preparation of position statements.
Today MCL takes stands on government proposals, development projects and ballot propositions. Its citizen watchdog committees are monitoring dozens of projects at any one time and their members constantly appear before governmental bodies to encourage decisions that protected the environment.
Each year, MCL honors local environmental activists at the Annual Dinner with the Marin Conservation League Environmental Awards. Past winners have included Peter Behr and Elizabeth Terwilliger.
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 02:12:00 PM
The purple areas in Berkeley will be upzoned if the Skinner-Wiener SB827 passes and is signed by Governor Brown.
State Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are again lusting after our remaining affordable neighborhoods on behalf of their developer patrons, who are fronted by the astroturf YIMBYs:
As reported by Liam Dillon in the L.A. Times:
“A dramatic increase in new housing near transit stations could be on its way across California under new legislation proposed by a Bay Area legislator. Subject to some limitations, the measure would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses allowed to be built within a half-mile of train, light-rail, major bus routes and other transit stations, and block cities from imposing parking requirements. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, said the state needs the housing to address affordability problems, maximize recent multi-billion-dollar transit investments and help the state meet its climate change goals.’Here’s a link to the bill, authored by Scott Wiener and co-authored by our own State Senator Nancy Skinner:
SB 827, as introduced, Wiener. Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus.
Transit-rich is the new buzz word in the title, and how ironically apt it is. This bill effectively removes all local planning controls in areas served by transit, opening up enormous swaths of our historically low-income urban neighborhoods (think southwest Berkeley) to gentrifying market rate development.
And no, it won’t make the current residents, especially renters, rich—but it will certainly make rich developers richer. That's who get the housing bonus.
This plan doesn’t seem to have been reported in the Bay Area press as yet, but Damien Goodmon, founder and Executive Director of Los Angeles’ nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition, already has their number. He’s posted a stinging denunciation of the bill’s backers and its effect on low-income residents on the organization’s web site. I was intending just to link to it, but so much of the analysis also applies to the urban East Bay that I’ll quote most of it:
“Like the Colonizers before them, YIMBYs claim the 'Hood as Theirs!
“The bill is backed by group that calls themselves YIMBYs, which stands for "Yes in my backyard." Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement/supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in or are new to as "theirs." It's NOT their backyard - it's ours. And we're not about to give it up. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!
“YIMBY groups are the very definition of "astroturf" - fake grassroots organizations backed by a corporate industry. The overwhelming white 30s-somethings-led groups push to remake our community of established institutions and organizations led by people of color. They aren't long-time residents of places like our South Central.
“That's why they could care less about the predatory lending that led to the greatest evisceration of Black wealth in decades - it wasn't their grandma whose mortgage became unaffordable overnight.
“They don't talk about or prioritize legislation to address modern-day redlining (Blacks are being denied home loans and refinancing in our community that are being granted to Whites with the same credit score and incomes), because they're not the ones being discriminated against.
“They never discuss the role of foreign money, Wall Street investors and rampant speculation in driving up land values that has made the communities our parents bought into completely unaffordable to even working middle-class Black people today.
“They never propose solutions to fight the expansion and rise of Wall Street landlords like Blackstone, the largest private equity firm in the world, which in one day bought up 1,400 homes in Atlanta, because YIMBYs are largely funded and supported by the real estate investor industry.
“YIMBYs are completely indifferent and nowhere to be seen on the strategies of protection and preservation of our dwindling affordable housing stock, because they're not being asked to move-in their cousin who makes less than $30K a year and was harassed out of their $850/month two-bedroom in Baldwin Village by the new corporate landlord who can now collect $2,200/month for the unit.
‘As just one example, not a single major YIMBY group has expressed strong support for what will be the biggest mobilization of housing justice groups in Sacramento this year - next week's Assembly Housing Committee hearing on AB 1506 - the bill to repeal the horrible Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which all housing justice groups in the state consider the top legislative goal for 2018.
“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.
“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”
I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.
What in the name of heaven is Berkeley’s state senate representative Nancy Skinner’s name doing on this horrendous bill along with Wiener’s? We haven’t done the same research on her contributors that Damien Goodmon’s group did on Scott Wiener’s backers, so we don’t know if developers are funding her the same way they are him, but it’s time to find out.
And what does all this mean for Berkeley? Thanks to Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Thomas Lord for spelling it out for us on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition list-serv:
“Scott Wiener has proposed SB827 which I am guessing will sail through both houses and get an easy signature from the governor. You must see the attached map to really appreciate it.
“Odds are, your street - your block - will be upzoned. Every place with purple shading on the map. “
“Oh, and, by the way -- the areas on the map that are not shaded? AC Transit will have land use authority over those. For example, all they have to do is decrease the peak commute schedule for the 88 bus from 15 minutes to 5 minutes and then all along Sacramento street will be upzoned.
“What do I mean by upzoned? I'll quote this bill which puts every low income household on the chopping block:
(b) Notwithstanding any local ordinance, general plan element, specific plan, charter, or other local law, policy, resolution, or regulation, a transit-rich housing project shall receive a transit-rich housing bonus which shall exempt the project from all of the following:
(1) Maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio.
(2) Minimum automobile parking requirements.
(3) Any design standard that restricts the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code.
(4) (A) If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.
(B) If the transit-rich housing project is within one-half mile of a major transit stop, but does not meet the criteria specified in subparagraph (A), any maximum height limitation that is less than 55 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 45 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 55 feet or 45 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.
(C) For purposes of this paragraph, if a parcel has street frontage on two or more different streets, the height maximum pursuant to this paragraph shall be based on the widest street.
“ Another aspect of this: it creates a much greater incentive than ever before to empty and demolish rent controlled buildings in Berkeley. Berkeley charges some fees for this but they are peanuts compared to the potential windfalls.
“Why will a bus service [AC Transit] have land use control over land use?”
A good question, and it sheds light on something I’ve been wondering about.
Within the last year, two new bus lines, 80 and 81, have been added to Ashby Avenue, with a stop right in front of our house. When our kids were at Berkeley High, we much appreciated the old 65, which took them from home to school in 15 minutes, but that’s been long gone. These new lines are part of a circuit which seems to go to the El Cerrito Plaza mall and the pricey 4th Street shopping area, neither one of which appeals much to me.
Evidently, these lines are not filling any huge demand for others either.
Since the service started, we’ve observed that very often there’s not a single passenger on these buses, and we have literally never seen more than two on any bus, day or night, since we’ve starting watching for them.
AC Transit does not publish figures on operating costs per passenger mile, but the cost of transporting these few passengers in lonely splendor on huge gas guzzlers must be astronomical. We've been wondering why these lines keep on going.
However, though I don’t want to go all conspiracy theory on you, it’s not hard to conjecture that the mere existence of these two routes in the next five or ten years, if SB827 passes, will dramatically increase the land values on Ashby for the benefit of speculative developers. The west end in particular, now devoted to nice well-maintained small single family homes, many minority owned, and small rental apartment buildings, will certainly be targeted for Build It Bigger market-rate projects as bad as the one on the corner of Ashby and San Pablo (which by the way was originally promoted as affordable housing, though it's now rented at market rates. )
A little history: The old “red-line” in southwest Berkeley used to be Grove Street, now re-named Martin Luther King Way. Minority residents had a mighty hard time buying or renting homes east of Grove, with the collusion of development and real estate interests, so as a result they clustered on the city’s west side.
The area was home to Berkeley’s substantial Japanese-American population until they were interned during World War II, when African-Americans who migrated to the Bay Area to work in defense manufacturing bought or rented there. As a result Berkeley’s vaunted diversity tends to be concentrated in the southwest quadrant of the city, along with a substantial percentage of our rent-controlled units.
If Berkeley’s control over its zoning is lost through the passage of the Skinner-Wiener SB827 bill, it’s highly probable that well-paid commuters to San Francisco jobs will soon gentrify southwest Berkeley, which is tantalizingly convenient to the Ashby freeway entrance. This will have the effect of forcing current residents to move to distant places like Antioch, Pittsburg and even Tracy, from which they will need to drive long distances to reach poorly paid service jobs in the urban core.
At the very least, passage of this bill could motivate residents in all kinds of areas, including the rest of Berkeley, to oppose the extension of rapid transit to their neighborhoods, which in the long term would have detrimental consequences for those who already live there and do need right-scale bus service.
This is a knotty topic which deserves a book of its own, for which we don’t have time or space here. Better to just reprise Damien Goodmon’s call to arms:
“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.
“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”
When Your Renderings Suggest the Black Population Has Been Abducted by Aliens, It May Be the Least of Your Problems
A look at the TOD proposal for two lots at Exposition and Crenshaw.
I should be focused on the content of the staff report regarding the mixed-use project proposal from WIP-A, LLC, a subsidiary of Watt Companies, for two Metro- and L.A. County-owned lots (below) at the South L.A. intersection of the Expo and (under-construction) Crenshaw/LAX Lines as part of Metro’s joint development program.
There certainly is a lot to be said about it.
- Of the 492 residential units planned for the lots at the intersection of two rail lines – one of which was sold to South L.A. residents as their connection to jobs – only 73 (the minimum 15 percent required by Measure JJJ) will be designated as affordable. Those affordable units will be reserved for families earning under 50 percent of the area median income (families of four must earn $45,050 or less to qualify, but also earn a minimum of around $30,000 or approximately three times the proposed rent);
- The project will also feature 47,500 square feet of commercial and retail spaces, including restaurant spaces intended for locally-owned and operated businesses and a grocery store (Watt Companies owns the Slauson/Crenshaw and La Brea/Rodeo properties, both of which are home to a Ralphs grocery);
- The project will feature open plazas, a bike hub, and car-share connections;
- And, in line with Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development Guidelines, Watt would commit to having a business incubator-type space as well community-serving spaces.
And there is something to be said about the fact that, at a meeting of the Executive Management Committee this Thursday, staff will recommend Metro enter into a 6-month interim Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with the developer before entering into the standard 18-month ENA.
A standard ENA gives the developer the space to further develop their plans, work out the terms of a Joint Development Agreement, work out ground leases with Metro, and pull together the appropriate construction documents before the project gets the full approval. The interim ENA would allow for Metro and the developer to communicate directly “about project scope and team composition, and to have an open dialogue with community stakeholders before committing to a long term ENA,” according to the staff report. It would also require the developer “to identify and enter into a letter of intent with a community-based organization for its participation in the development of the project, including the opportunity for an economic interest” during the first three months of the ENA period. [Scroll down for full text of the report.]
The more prevalent use of the interim ENA option is thanks, in great part, to the uproar over way Metro tried to rush what appeared to be a gentrifying and non-community serving project for Mariachi Plaza through official channels without even a minimum of community engagement. The community, particularly some very activist youth and their mentors, demanded that Metro do better by communities.
At what will essentially serve as the gateway to the historic Crenshaw community, it is just as imperative that the community have a chance to engage the project and the developer as much as possible.
Truth be told, however, I found it really hard to stay focused on some of those details after spotting the rendering Metro tweeted yesterday (also found at the top of article).
It that made me think that six months might not be nearly long enough for the Metro, the County, and the developer to get things right with the community.
That image portrays a historically black community as a white mecca.
White people stroll, white people bike, white people regale each other with fascinating tales as they cross the street with fashionable purses, white people gaze at the tracks in deep thought and talk on the phone, and white people keep their distance from the lone black person wearing what appear to be cargo shorts across the way.
There seems to be some awareness that the overwhelming whiteness of this vision is problematic: the same rendering submitted to the Metro board for consideration includes some black cyclists (below, see also: PDF of Attachment C).
Which could be a step in the right direction if a) it didn’t appear that the women had been lifted directly from a brochure on equity in active transportation (ahem, behold); b) there were more people of color who resembled people I actually see in the community; c) I didn’t actually recognize the woman on the right as Ayesha McGowan, a badass cyclist on a quest to become the first female African-American professional cyclist; and d) the image didn’t seem so devoid of any indications that these people are in a historically black neighborhood on a historic street adjacent to an important church that is deeply rooted in the community and at a corner that used to provide both really good community eats and services to folks trying to transcend the damage done to the community by white flight and disenfranchisement.
Which raises the question: where is the actual community that lives there now?
Where are the impeccably dressed churchgoers? Where are the black families? Where are the elders? Where are the black and Latino students, artists, and entrepreneurs? Where are the low-riders, area fixie riders, and folks biking out of necessity? Where are the black and Latino workers and job seekers? Where are the vendors? And where is that gentleman from the Nation of Islam that sells bean pies near Rodeo?
Are we planning for them?
The image suggests we might not be.
For one, Metro chose a for-profit developer over three teams that included affordable housing developers and promised more affordable units, including one offering 51 units at 30 percent AMI (and 300 fewer parking spaces). It also declared that the proposal by the Crenshaw Corridor Venture, LLP (helmed by the West Angeles Community Development Corporation) while very competitive, scored relatively low “in proposed development program/vision and financial offer” by promising nearly $40 million less in rent over the duration of the lease. Meaning that Metro eschewed nurturing a potentially more community-serving project in favor of one that was more lucrative. [See Attachment B: Procurement Summary]
Obviously, it is difficult to compare projects’ respective viability or potential without the actual proposals in hand. But it is still possible to say that with all the changes coming to the corridor that have the potential to fuel gentrification, including the revamping of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (at the King Blvd. station) and the construction of District Square (next door), it is disappointing that there isn’t more of an effort to secure more affordable housing for transit-dependent folks at the actual stations.
As of now, the Plaza project is reluctantly offering ten percent of its 961 units as affordable (only five percent will be reserved for those at or below 50 percent AMI) and the District Square project, which is expected to have 200 units, will also likely have just the minimum of affordable units, at best. There are a few affordable housing projects slated for that stretch of Crenshaw, but most are designated senior housing. Working-class families will likely have to look elsewhere.
For another, the lack of representation in images tends to signal either a lack of engagement with the community in the planning process or the lack of a deeper understanding on the part of the planners or consultants of who the community is and what its aspirations might be.
Too often, it means both.
In Boyle Heights, the rendering touting the transformation of Mariachi Plaza (above) not only erased the very Mariachis for whom the plaza was named, it replaced them with so many picnicking white people on a previously non-existent grassy knoll that there wasn’t room for the plaza’s current users: the Mariachis, the skaters, the dancers, the families, the community vendors, or the grassroots groups that do food distributions to community members in need.
What little trust Metro had had with the community was effectively shattered.
The project was so inappropriate and the uproar was so intense that Metro ended up having to start over from scratch – a process that has been underway for almost three years, at this point.
The graphic for the Rail-to-River project – the conversion of the Slauson corridor rail right-of-way from Crenshaw to the Blue Line (and eventually to the river) into a path for walking, cycling, skating, and relaxing – also hints at the struggle Metro has had getting planning with communities like South L.A. right (above).
When I first started covering the project in 2013, I was explicitly told by Metro and the consulting team that Metro was limiting its engagement with the community so as not to raise residents’ hopes in case funding didn’t come through.
What that meant in practice was that they studied the feasibility of the project they felt was needed – an “active transportation corridor” people could use to connect to transit on foot or by bike. There was very little consideration of what a project would look like that was more in line with what the corridor communities wanted or how they would be likely to use it.
There will indeed be those that use it to commute across South L.A., especially by bike and by skateboard, and to connect to transit.
But the dearth of opens spaces and safe public places where families and friends can gather, exercise, and relax means the most frequent users of the path are likely to be joggers and exercise station aficionados, families out for a walk with small kids, young kids learning to ride bikes, youth seeking safe and smooth places to skateboard with friends, area low-rider and other groups staking out neighborhood meet-up spots, and existing vendors (many of whom have been there a decade already) looking to grow their clientele while continuing to serve as eyes on the street.
To its credit, Metro has worked to be more transparent and responsive on the project over the last two years. But because it began designing in a vacuum, the effort to adapt that original sterile vision to the cultures, needs, and aspirations of the communities that live, work, move, and hope to recreate along it has remained somewhat hit or miss.
Even where Metro has made a genuine effort to partner with local groups representing lower-income communities of color, as it recently did with bike-share, those groups have continued to feel tokenized, misunderstood, and undervalued. [See video above; an in-depth look at the bike-share partnership with Metro coming later this week.]
Metro, they have argued, has been unwilling to hear and incorporate the full range of their concerns into planning. All of which has made them feel that their communities – the core of Metro’s transit ridership – are less likely to be properly served. And all of which has caused them to raise questions about the extent to which Metro can be counted on to help guard against displacement and gentrification as it continues to build out its system.
This may seem like quite the tangent to go on based on a couple of images. But it’s not.
These aren’t the first images that have erased the physical, cultural, social, or economic presence of particular communities, nor will they be the last.
The images we use are aspirational – they tell us something about what we hope a space can be and who it will attract. The whiteness of the figures used signals newness, upward mobility and disposable income, safety, civic engagement and vibrancy, and the notion that the space is open to all (where a black- or brown-populated space might signal the project was “for” a specific group, type of activity, or culture). For private investors tracking public investment in disenfranchised communities, in particular, these sorts of images help prime the area for speculation and facilitate its rebranding as one that is “up and coming” and ready to be remade.
The shortage of folks of color and those with varying shapes, sizes, abilities, occupations, incomes, and gender identities who can be placed into renderings suggests we aren’t ready to tackle those biases – either in the way we think about what constitutes a community or what vibrancy really means.
Perhaps more telling, it suggests we aren’t interested in recognizing and celebrating the communities that are already in our urban cores and that we do not value all that they contribute to the life of our cities.
But being able to present renderings that are truer to the communities we build for also means more than dropping in the occasional Ayesha McGowan – awesome and fierce as she may be.
For public agencies like Metro, in particular, it means historically disenfranchised communities must be the starting point, not the thing to be sanitized or molded to fit a project after the fact.
In the case of joint development projects like this one, where Metro and the County own the land but will lease it to a developer, both entities have a responsibility to make sure that engagement is ongoing and meaningful. And that we end up in a much better place than we are starting from with a much better and more community-serving project.
The proposal for an interim ENA with this developer goes before the Executive Management Committee for approval this Thursday, November 16, at 11:30 a.m. Should it be approved, the interim engagement period prove fruitful, and the project be found to be acceptable to both Metro and the community, Metro will seek a standard 18-month ENA to allow the design and preparation for construction to move forward. Find the project-related documents here.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
The Mize Family's Mickey Mouse Christmas House and The Nisja's Bear Christmas House receive special recognition. Camp and Pool Rates discussed, Fire Department and Park and Rec reports. updates on FEMA storm repairs, Fraud policy first reading.