“Plan Bay Area” Will Drive Housing Prices Higher, Intensify Traffic, and Increase Air Pollution

sfDevelopment constraints will lead to unaffordable housing

The proposal’s regulatory overreach will have detrimental consequences for Bay Area residents and the metropolitan economy. The proposed Plan Bay Area would allow little or no new development beyond the urban fringe, where cities have grown naturally since the beginning of time. Similar, though less draconian constraints on urban fringe development have been employed for 40 years in the Bay Area.  The result has been to more than double house prices relative to incomes, making home ownership affordable only to the affluent. Even after playing musical chairs with the lives of seven million current residents and a million additional residents who could move here by 2040, Plan Bay Area says that people will drive cars just about as much as they do now.  But its critical to note that much of this traffic would be concentrated around the priority development areas, which would intensify traffic congestion and air pollution and its relative health impacts. Continue reading

Stockton Officials’ Lousy Decision-Making Led to Bankruptcy

The bad decisions are all too easy to describe. Back when times were better, Stockton embraced a combination of overly generous compensation packages for city employees and excessive debt spending—not only on pension bonds but also on bonds to pay for redevelopment projects, which were supposed to revive the downtown area. Stockton was awash with the revenue that poured into their treasuries during the boom when home prices were so high and squandered tax dollars to embark on ill-conceived development projects, including subsidized stadiums. They predictably failed. The biggest problem for Stockton and other cities such as Mammoth Lakes, which followed Stockton into bankruptcy on Monday, wasn’t the property bubble but what they did with the revenue. The real question is whether officials in other California cities will learn anything about fiscal discipline and stop blaming unforeseen economic consequences for their own bad decisions.

Full article

It’s Time for an Alternative Vision!

Here’s the unveiling of the HOLLYWOOD COMMUNITY PLAN UPDATE – ALTERNATIVE VISION submitted by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Planning Entitlement Review Committee. This is worth careful consideration as we go forward. What do we really want? What’s a good fit for the Hollywood of today and for years to come? Check it out!

Alternative Vision

 

Transit Oriented Development a Huge Failure

Mayor Villaraigosa’s promise of “elegant density” is falling flat on its face. The labor union Unite Here Local 11 has drawn attention to troubled sales at the new W Hollywood Residences, and warns buyers and real estate agents of the luxe condos’ sharply declining prices. According to county assessor figures only 29 out of 143 units have sold since the condo/hotel project opened in May 2010.

Transit Oriented Development a Huge Failure

 

Staying the Same: Urbanization in America

The recent release of the 2010 US census data on urban areas
shows that Americans continue to prefer their lower density
lifestyles, with both suburbs and exurbs growing more rapidly
than the historic core municipalities. This may appear to be at odds
with the recent Census Bureau 2011 metropolitan area population
estimates, which were widely miss-characterized as indicating exurban
(and suburban) losses and historical core municipality gains. In fact,
core counties lost domestic migrants, while suburban and exurban counties gained domestic migrants.

Staying the Same: Urbanization in America published at NewGeography.com

 

PLUM to Hear Hollywood Community Plan Again on April, 17, 2012

Today was an enlightening view of how many neighbors and leaders can vote against their own self interest because Planning has given them a zoning or hillside slope density gift. This highlights the need for people in all parts of Hollywood to hold together. If this plan is bad for one part of Hollywood, it’s bad for us all. If a gift is given of a special zoning F.A.R. for one block, this doesn’t mean that the overburdened infrastructure won’t find its way to your front door. In these next three weeks, let’s see if we can unify around a good plan for Hollywood – one that will make this community better, more open, free from gridlock, and a great place play, work, and to raise children. Here’s the first article out since the hearing today:

L.A., Council Committee Delays Vote on Zoning for Hollywood

Published on March 27, 2012 by L.A. Now

A key Los Angeles city planning committee on Tuesday put off a vote on a controversial plan to bring denser development to parts of Hollywood.

City Councilman Ed Reyes, who chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, said he felt  lawmakers needed more time to digest the issues raised during a long afternoon hearing on the proposal.

If approved by the full council, the plan would raise size limits on buildings in some parts of the region and offer incentives to developers who build near bus and subway stops. Los Angeles officials say the new guidelines are part of the city’s long-term strategy of concentrating growth around transit hubs.

But not everyone shares that vision of L.A.’s future. Of the dozens of people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, more than half were against the plan. Hollywood is already crowded enough, opponents said, and many complained that the plan is based on inaccurate projections of population growth.

Although condos and other new developments in central Hollywood have drawn new residents there in recent years, census figures show the larger region lost about 6% of its population over the last decade.
City officials based their new plan on population forecasts from the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which show Hollywood with 244,602 people in 2030 — about 23% more than the 2010 census count of 198,234.

City planner Kevin Keller defended the plan at Tuesday’s meeting. He pointed out that the plan also protects historical neighborhoods, places new limits on building density on steep hillside lots and calls for street-level improvements in Hollywood’s central corridor to help make it more pedestrian-friendly.

He noted that contrary to many people’s fear, the plan would lift height limits in only a few places, and will lower them in others. But the changes to density allowances mean that on many lots in the blocks surrounding Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards, developers will be able to build more square-footage than before. Large projects will still trigger an environmental review, Keller said.

Reyes said his committee would take up the issue again in three weeks.

by Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall for L.A. Now

The End of the Single-Family-Home

The following article will help explain the extreme folly of the Hollywood Community Plan. This HCP promotes the same type of cramped, vertical housing that people understandably reject.

Don’t Bet Against The (Single-Family) House

by Joel Kotkin, February 29, 2012

Nothing more characterizes the current conventional wisdom than the demise of the single-family house. From pundits like Richard Florida to Wall Street investors, the thinking is that the future of America will be characterized increasingly by renters huddling together in small apartments, living the lifestyle of the hip and cool — just like they do in New York, San Francisco and other enlightened places.

Many advising the housing industry now envisage a “radically different and high-rise” future, even though the volume of new multi-unit construction permits remains less than half the level of 2006. Yet with new permits at historically low levels as well for single-family houses, real estate investors, like the lemmings they so often resemble, are traipsing into the multi-family market with sometimes reckless abandon.

Today the argument about the future of housing reminds me of the immortal line from Groucho Marx:Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes? Start with the strong preference of the vast majority of Americans to live in detached houses rather than crowd into apartments. “Many things — government policies, tax structures, financing methods, home-ownership patterns, and availability of land — account for how people choose to live, but the most important factor is culture,” notes urban historian Witold Rybczynski.

Homeownership and the single-family house, Rybczynski notes, rests on many fairly mundane things — desire for privacy, need to accommodate children and increasingly the needs of aging parents and underemployed adult children. Such considerations rarely enter the consciousness of urban planning professors, “smart growth” advocates and architectural aesthetes swooning over a high-density rental future.

Just look at the numbers. Over the last decade— even as urban density has been embraced breathlessly by a largely uncritical media — close to 80% of all new households, according to the American Community Survey, chose to settle in single-family houses.

Now, of course, we are told, it’s different. Yet over the past decade, vacancy rates rose the most in multi-unit housing, with an increase of 61%, rising from 10.7% in 2000 to 17.1% in 2010. The vacancy rate in detached housing also rose but at a slower rate, from 7.3% in 2000 to 10.7% in 2010, an increase of 48%. Attached housing – such as townhouses – posted the slightest increase in vacancies, from 8.4% in 2000 to 11.0% in 2010, an increase of 32%.

The attractiveness of rental apartments may soon be peaking just in time for late investors to take a nice haircut. Rising rents, a byproduct of speculative buying of apartments, already are making mortgage payments a more affordable option in such key markets as Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Urbanist pundits often insist the rush to rental apartments will be sustained by demographic trends. One tired cliché suggest that empty nesters are chafing to leave their suburban homes to move into urban apartments. Yet, notes longtime senior housing consultant Joe Verdoon, both market analysis and the Census tells us the opposite: most older folks are either staying put, or, if they relocate, are moving further out from the urban core.

The two other major drivers of demographic change — the millennial generation and immigrants — also seem to prefer suburban, single-family houses. Immigrants have been heading to the suburbs for a generation, so much so that the most diverse neighborhoods in the country now tend to be not in the urban core but the periphery. This is particularly true in Sunbelt cities, where immigrant enclaves tend to be in suburban areas away from the core.

Millennials, the generation born between 1983 and 2003, are often described by urban boosters as unwilling to live in their parent’s suburban “McMansions.” Yet according to a survey by Frank Magid and Associates, a large plurality define their “ideal place to live” when they get older to be in the suburbs, even more than their boomer parents.

Ninety-five million millennials will be entering the housing market in the next decade, and they will do much to shape the contours of the future housing market. Right now many millennials lack the wherewithal to either buy a house or pay the rent. But that doesn’t mean they will be anxious to stay tenants in small places as they gain some income, marry, start a family and simply begin to yearn for a somewhat more private, less harried life.

In the meantime, many across the demographic spectrum are moving not away from but back to the house. One driver here is the shifting nature of households, which, for the first time in a century are actually getting larger. This is reflected in part by the growth of multi-generational households.

This is widely believed to be a temporary blip caused by the recession, which clearly is contributing to the trend. But the move toward multigenerational housing has been going on for almost three decades. After having fallen from 24 percent in 1940 to barely 12 percent in 1980, the percentage topped over 16 percent before the 2008 recession took hold. In 2009, according to Pew Research Center, a record 51.4 million Americans live in this kind of household.

Instead of fading into irrelevance, the single-family house seems to be accommodating more people than before. It is becoming, if you will, the modern equivalent of the farm homestead for the extended family, particularly in expensive markets such as California. This may be one of the reasons why suburbs — where more than half of owner-occupied homes are locatedactually increased their share of growth in almost all American metropolitan areas through the last decade.

Some companies, such as Pulte Homes and Lennar, are betting that the multi-generational home — not the rental apartment — may well be the next big thing in housing. These firms report that demand for this kind of product is particularly strong among immigrants and their children.

Lennar has already developed models — complete with separate entrances and kitchens for kids or grandparents — in Phoenix, Bakersfield, the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles and San Diego, and is planning to extend the concept to other markets. “This kind of housing solves a lot of problems,” suggests Jeff Roos, Lennar’s regional president for the western U.S. “People are looking at ways to pool their resources, provide independent living for seniors and keeping the family together.”

But much of the growth for multigenerational homes will come from an already aging base of over 130 million existing homes. An increasing number of these appear to being expanded to accommodate additional family members as well as home offices. Home improvement companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot already report a surge of sales servicing this market.

A top Home Depot manager in California traced the rising sales in part to the decision of people to invest their money in an asset that at least they and their family members can live in. “We are having a great year ,” said the executive, who didn’t have permission to speak for attribution. “ I think people have decided that they cannot move so let’s fix up what we have.”

These trends suggest that the widely predicted demise of the American single family home may be widely overstated. Instead, particularly as the economy improves, we may be witnessing its resurgence, albeit in a somewhat different form. Rather than listen to the pundits, perhaps it would be better to follow what’s before your eyes. Don’t give up the house.

Click the following link for the original article with live reference links:  JoelKotkin.com

 


The CRA/LA is Dead, But Corruption is Alive and Well

by Richard Lee Abrams, Published in CityWatchLA.com, Friday, February 3, 2012

Date line: February 1, 2012 Today shall be a wonderful day for all of Los Angeles; in fact the entire state should rejoice.  The vilely corrupt CRA/LA is dead.

Rejoice quickly as corruption is alive.

This morning (Wed 2-1-12) Miki Jackson wanted to show to the City Council a nice poster that she had made to celebrate the death of the CRA/LA, but the city council said, “No, no poster.”  Although Ms. Jackson reminded the city council about the first amendment, they were un-moved.  Speech, of which they disapproved, would not be allowed.

The city attorney advised the city council that the United States Constitution protects free speech and the council could not censor Ms. Jackson’s sign.  Astounded and aghast to learn that there was such a law which allowed a citizen to show a sign, the council finally allowed Ms. Jackson to display her sign.  Is it true that some councilmembers covered their eyes with their hands lest they be blinded by such blasphemy?

On the very day that the Corrupt Redevelopment Agency finally died, the council persisted in its arrogant hubris of trampling people’s fundamental rights.

This impingement on the fundamental right of free speech exemplifies how the council views our basic liberties.  It whimsically ignores them.

Right now councilmember La Bonge is continuing to wage his war against the constitutional right of free travel.  Despite the US Constitution, the California Constitution and state statutes and cases which say it is unlawful to gate a public street so that only a few people have access, LaBonge presses ahead with his efforts to gate various cul de sacs in the Hollywood Hills.  There is Solar Drive, and there is Ledgewood-Mulholland, and there is Deronda Drive.

The City has been sued, CCLA and HELP v City of Los Angeles, Case # BS 130-014, but LaBonge presses onward in his quixotic quest.

Let’s take a peek at the statute Labonge ignores:

Vehicle Code, § 21101.6.  Notwithstanding Section 21101, local authorities may not place gates or other selective devices on any street which deny or restrict the access of certain members of the public to the street, while permitting others unrestricted access to the street.

Some laws are incomprehensible, but this law is clear.  The city may not put a gate across a street and then allow selective access to only some residents.  The City lost a landmark lawsuit on its prior violation of this constitutional right of free travel. See Citizens Against Gated Enclaves v. Whitley Heights Civic Assn. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 812

Let’s see what LaBonge’s Motions say.  Council Motion # 11-1222:

*  Gates to be installed to effectuate the closure of the area

*  Keys to the gates be provided to all adjoining property owners . . . Council Motion # 10-1039 commits the same transgression.

*  That the gates to be installed to effectuate the closure of the area . . .

*  That keys to the gates to be installed be provided to all adjoining property owners . . .

From reading the vehicle code and from reading LaBonge’s motions, it looks as if LaBonge quoted the language about what is unlawful and made that the basis of his motions.  Although a city may not selectively gate a street, LaBonge does not care and the City Attorney squanders precious resources defending LaBonge’s unconstitutional behavior!  According to the City Attorney, the city ordinances take precedence over state statutes and the state constitution.  No wonder the city council wants to muzzle Nikki Jackson.   I thinks a city council motion can trump the Constitution!

The same arrogant hubris which allowed Garcetti and LaBonge to down size the 2 acre Regional fire station 82 to only ½ acre on the grounds that a full fire station was too expensive and which allowed them to sanction giving $52 Million to Billionaire Eli Broad while not allowing the children in Hollywood to have a community park is the same corrupt approach to governance which tries to silence Miki Jackson and tries to give away public streets to the friends of Tom LaBonge.

While we can all celebrate the death of the CRA/LA, that epitome of crony capitalism, let’s remember, the council is still inherently a lawless body which will do anything it pleases without regard to state law or the constitution.

(Richard Lee Abrams is an attorney in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com ) –cw

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Tags: City Council, First Amendment, First Amendment Rights, CRA, Tom LaBonge

 

CityWatch

Vol 10 Issue 10

Pub: Feb 3, 2012

Now It’s the Public’s Turn to Kill Off the CRA


01.16.2012

Richard Lee Abram

by Richard Lee Abrams

MY TAKE – “No system can survive corruption and incompetence.”  Too bad that statement is false. The Corrupt Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) has survived since 1948 until the California Supreme Court killed it on December 12, 2011. That’s 63 years of harm.

This was the first chance the Supreme Court had in the last 63 years to kill the CRA’s, since no Governor had the guts to sign a bill terminating this essence of Crony Capitalism. In 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 26 which abolished the CRA’s statewide, but he could get AB 26 through the legislature only by making a Faustian bargain. He had to also sign AB 27 which would allow certain CRA’s, like the one in Los Angeles, to return from the grave like a zombie feeding on tax dollars.

After AB 26 was law, the billionaires ran to the Supreme Court crying “Save us. Save us,” but in a move no one anticipated, the California Supreme Court redeemed its last 25 years of championing the 1% over the 99% and it killed off the old CRA’s and it aborted the new CRA’s by declaring AB 27 unconstitutional.

Now, it’s the voter’s turn to act to make certain that the corrupt Legislature does not once again bring back the CRA’s, but first to recap why the CRA’s epitomize crony capitalism.

During its long life, the CRA/LA did many horrible things. The worst thing was the siphoning of billions of property tax dollars away from the general fund into the CRA/LA’s own bank accounts.

Until Prop 22, which the voters passed in November 2010, the City Council had the power to dip into these CRA funds for the benefit of the public, but the corrupt City Council refused to touch the CRA funds. Instead, all councilmembers lied to everyone saying that the city had no money, when in fact the City had hundreds of millions of dollars in its CRA bank accounts. These funds were set aside to coddle millionaires and billionaires like CIM Group and Eli Broad.

Currently, the CRA/LA owes over $3 Billion ($3,028,921,563.93). That means, the Los Angeles taxpayers owe this much money for all the gifts that the CRA/LA has given to millionaires and billionaires over the years. In 2011 alone, we paid $422,272,560.01 on that $3 Billion debt. The CRA is why the City is broke.

Let’s see how much harm the CRA has caused us Angelenos. Because so much cash went into the CRA, we were unable to keep up our infrastructure. As we know, “a stitch in time saves nine.”

For example, in 1980, the City agreed to take care of the trees and sidewalks but it soon it ran out of money the funds to do so. Now the backlog is $1.5 Billion just to repair those sidewalks. If the CRA had not taken the tax revenues all these years, then the sidewalks would have been repaired before a condition became serious. It takes a lot more money to correct a 15 year old problem than a 2 year old defect.

But wait, it gets worse. The City now proposes not only to dump the $1.5 Billion repair costs on to property owners, but also to charge owners a 40% surcharge on the repairs.

Here’s another nefarious way CRA has seriously hurt Angelenos, and you’ll hear a lot more about this in the coming months – ending Prop 13. There will be lies, large lies and humongous lies about need to end Prop 13. Prop 13 operates in reverse to CRA. While the CRA was taking more and more taxes away from city government, Prop 13 has been giving more and more money to city government. Prop 13, however, placed California on a diet by restricting how fast the property taxes would increase, but in return it gave us something extremely valuable – stability.

The reward of Prop 13 is that owners who stay put in their local communities have low property taxes. Society benefits when people stay 20, 30, 40 50 years and identify with their community. When property does change hands, the buyer makes an open-eyed decision whether to buy this retail store or this home with the re-assessed property tax.

Thus, under Prop 13, property taxes increased in a reasonable fashion based upon the individual decisions of each new property owner. With the CRA, however, the city’s tax base shrunk each year and no one had a say in the disappearing tax revenues. The CRA with its Kelo eminent domain could take any property within its area and remove it from the tax rolls, leaving everyone else to shoulder the burden of the infrastructure.

Societies hold together when each part does its share. With property taxes, all the owners agree to dump thousands of dollars into the “tax pot” and in return, the city will maintain the services we need for a decent life; police, fire, roads, sewer, parks, libraries, etc. When certain huge landowners do not contribute, the social compact is broken. It is worse than their getting a free ride. Their huge projects over-burden the infrastructure leaving us to pick up the tab or forgo upgrades.

Bunker Hill, for example, will have evaded about $1 Billion in property taxes when it expires in 2022. Yet, this foolish project is perhaps the greatest cause of clogged freeways and bad air in the city.

Before Bunker Hill, Los Angeles was decentralizing itself. It takes but a moment’s reflection to realize that only a fool or a crook would reverse the natural trend and construct a huge urban core so that thousands upon thousands of workers from a 5,000 sq. mile area would be converging on one point!

The only people who would develop a super high density urban core would be people who owned property at the core. Everyone else is the loser!  But, that is exactly what the CRA forced upon Los Angeles. Almost one hundred years ago in its 1915 Traffic Study, the City explicitly warned about the greed of property owners who will demand extreme density to make money for themselves while degrading the entire city. Hence, we have Bunker Hill and the recent CRA Hollywood disasters and a city that cannot provide basic services.

The CRA is a ‘government owned construction company’ with no need to heed market forces nor to give any thought to quality of life. It builds on one principle – whatever makes the most money for the developers who fund the city councilmembers. That means super high density within a very limited space. And, the profits come mostly from gifts of taxpayer’s dollars, while the projects are free market fiascos.

Without the CRA, developers would have had to build where people wanted to go, and for most people that means – ease of access. Sitting in a car for an hour is not ease of access. Riding a bus or subway is not ease of access. Without the CRA, commercial centers would have been dispersed throughout the basin. It is the free enterprise principle of Supply and Demand.

We have known for decades that Angelenos flee density. Hollywood is a perfect example how its excessively dense CRA projects caused an exodus so that Hollywood lost 6% in one decade while the less dense parts of the City gained population.

Did anyone have the foresight way back in the 1950’s not to concentrate in one area?  Yes. The county court system. It did not locate all the courthouses downtown. Instead, it spread them throughout the county. From Pomona to Santa Monica from San Pedro to Newhall and all places in between, we have courthouses.

The CRA builds according to how much loot it can make for a developer, which means super high density in a centralized location. The Courts evenly distributed their facilities so they were accessible to the people.

The Governor did his part, the Supreme Court did its part and now we come to The Voter. Now is the time for the public to contact their assembly members and senators and tell them not to extend the CRA and not to revive it under a different name. 

INFO: Contact the Governor’s Office here.
Look up your State Representatives here.

(Richard Lee Abrams is an attorney in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com ) –cw
CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 5
Pub: Jan 17, 2012