Let L.A. Be L.A.

by Joel Kotkin – published 7-30-2012 in City-Journal.org
Unrestrained high-density development doesn’t become the City of Angels.

Victor’s Restaurant, a nondescript coffee shop on a Hollywood side street, seems an odd place to meet for a movement challenging many of Los Angeles’s most powerful, well-heeled forces. Yet amid the uniformed service workers, budding actors, and retirees enjoying coffee and French toast, unlikely revolutionaries plot the next major battle over the city’s future. Driving their rebellion is a proposal from the L.A. planning department that would allow greater density in the heart of Hollywood, a scruffy district that includes swaths of classic California bungalows and charming 1930s-era garden apartments. The proposal—which calls for residential towers of 50 stories or more along Hollywood Boulevard, where no building currently tops 20 stories—has been approved unanimously by the city council and will now probably be challenged in court.

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SaveHollywood.org is currently suing the City to prevent it from being destroyed. The facts and the law are on our side but we will have to show it in court. Lawsuits are costly. We need your financial support to save the Hollywood we all love. Now is the time to act. Please take a moment to use the “Donate” button or write a check to SaveHollywood.org to make it a success.

Why are people suing the City over the Hollywood Community Plan?

There are some falsehoods floating around that the people who have sued the city are NIMBIES who do not want development in their backyards and their views from the Hills destroyed.

If people read the three lawsuits, they will see the falsity of such charges. (see side bar under Learn More and Share)

Setting aside the legalese, the core problem is corruption although that word does not appear in the lawsuits. Los Angeles in general and Hollywood in particular has been subjected to extensive corruption and incompetence over the last decade. The Hollywood Community Plan was another product of such corruption and incompetence.

The basic fraud of the Hollywood Community Plan is to state that Hollywood has been experiencing dramatic growth and we need to build for 250,000 people in 2030. That claim is completely false, but the City made it in order to deceive people into approving extremely lax zoning rules so that developers could build any project while excluding community input. Had the Hollywood Community Plan told the truth that Hollywood has experienced a 20 year decline in population and there is no fact from which to assume that the downward trend will reverse it, then building for 250,000 residents would be a fool’s goal. Building poorly planned projects is a feature of Crony Capitalism nationwide. When one builds with public funds, the losses are socialized while the profits are skimmed from the front end.

When the Hollywood Community Plan was drafted, one must remember that the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) existed and it was siphoning off hundreds of millions of incremental tax dollars each year and then underwriting these projects, none of which pay one cent in incremental property tax dollars. Thus, it did not matter if the projects harmed Hollywood as long as the developers got paid and the City was on the hook for many of the loans.

Using US Census data, Hollywood’s population will be only 190,000 or fewer people by 2030. That is 60,000 less people than the Hollywood Community Plan envisions for 2030. Had Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan told the truth about how much the CRA projects had already harmed Hollywood, people would have seen the corruption and incompetence for themselves. Thus, the Plan lied over and over and over again.

The danger of corruption cannot be understood unless one realizes the role that the CRA played. Because the CRA was diverting millions of incremental property tax dollars into its own coffers, the City was perpetually broke. In 2009, 2010, and 2011 the City would pretend that it had no funds and would declare the need to fire people and cut salaries, but all the while it had hundreds of millions of dollars in its CRA bank accounts and the City Council had the power to use these funds to keep the libraries and parks open, to keep the fire department at full force and to up-grade the fire department. (Saying that the LAFD was deficient is not a criticism of the fire fighters. They were and are victims just like us, only more so.)

Rather than taking money away from the developers by using CRA funds to improve the LAFD’s response times, Garcetti as Council President presented bogus emergency response data to the City Council saying that LAFD was doing so great that they could cut the LAFD budget by $200 Million. As the charts show, the LAFD response times have been deteriorating. Falsified response data gave the Council members “deniability” for the harm that would follow. But, we have to ask ourselves what motivation would the LAFD have to falsify statistics in order to reduce their budget? Just who was it that solicited this false data?

As a result of the response data fraud, the CRA gravy train continued, while Angelenos died. Eli Broad got $52 Million for a parking garage next to his art museum, while some father somewhere died of a heart attack because the paramedics could not reach him in time. More children are without grandmothers; others have been seriously burned. The City Council knows that we cannot point to any particular person and prove that he or she died because the paramedics reached the home in 7 minutes rather than 4 minutes. At least, the City Council hopes that we cannot pin it on them. That type of investigation would require a criminal Grand Jury with subpoena power.

We become upset when gang bangers drive by and indiscriminately shoot from car windows killing an innocent child or teenager or mother or father. There is no moral difference between reducing the ability of the emergency responders to reach people than randomly shooting at a crowd of people. The gang banger often does not know whom he killed nor does he care. The same was true for the Garcetti City Council. They did not care who died or was maimed as a result of their reckless and wanton behavior — just as long as they evade responsibility and the developers got their loot.

Unexpectedly, the citizens fought back and abolished the corrupt CRA’s (DoD 2-1-2012) and now more citizens are fighting back again by suing the City over the fraudulent Hollywood Community Plan.

The Hollywood Community Plan wanted to bring 60,000 more residents to Hollywood while degrading fire protection, while hamstringing paramedics, while leaving the LAPD under-sized with antiquated equipment, and while traffic became worse. There was no plan how to handle the extra stress on our water mains or how to provide water for 60,000 more people except to tell Hollywoodians to stop watering their lawns.

The people in the Hollywood Hills and the people in the Hollywood Flats are fighting to make certain some toddler does not die after falling into a swimming pool, so that some 70 year old woman doesn’t needlessly die of a heart attack, and so that scores of people do not lose their homes to fires because there are not enough fire trucks or firemen. It may be dramatic, but it is true. We are fighting for our lives and the lives of our loved ones against the corruption which has turned City Hall into a Temple of Crimogenics.

That is why there are three lawsuits against Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan.

LAFD Fire Data Charts

Video of Hollywood Sign Fire

 

A Big Lie

Over the behind-the-scenes objections of the honest city planners and with a disregard for the advice of the City Attorney, on June 19th the City Council adopted the corrupt Hollywood Community Plan (HCP).

The HCP is based on two material frauds:

1) Hollywood Must Build for 250,000 ppl in 2030

The Plan insists that in 2005, Hollywood’s population had increase from 210,794 ppl in 2000 to 224,426 ppl. Hollywood’s population was not 224,426 ppl in 2005.  In 2005 Hollywood’s population fell to about 206,000 ppl and by 2010, it had fallen to 198,228 (US 2010 Census). There has been an accelerating exodus from Hollywood starting in 1990, and there are no facts to show that after the decline began, it reversed itself and started to increase only to drop again.

2) The City Studied All Reasonable Alternatives

It did not study the mega-Sizing Alternative of building for 250,000 ppl, the mini-mega-Sizing Alternative of building for 244,000 ppl, the adverse impact of increasing population density beyond 21,000 ppl/sq. mile nor the No Project Alternative. The HCP did not even mention, let alone study, the Down Zoning Alternative which was required due to the fact that Hollywood has been losing population since 1990. In the thousand or so pages of the HCP, the DEIR, the FEIR and the attachments, there is no detailed examination or analysis of anything, only conclusions which support the mega-Sizing desire of Garcetti.

LA City Hall: A Temple to Crimogenics  by Richard Lee Abrams – City Watch 6-26-12

How Did Garcetti Get the Hollywood Plan Sooooo Wrong?

By Richard Lee Abrams –

By ignoring the facts and relying on fiction, myths, and lies, Garcetti’s
beloved Hollywood Community Plan was wrong by 37,000 residents as of
2010 and its population projection for 2030 is overstated by 60,000
persons. That’s right, Garcetti wants Hollywood to prepare for about
250,000 people in 2030, when the more likely population will be 190,000…Read full article: Garcetti Got it Wrong

The Hollywood Community Plan Update – a Fiasco in the Making

By Dick Platkin –

Published in CityWatchLA.com –

THE CITY – The Update of the Hollywood Community Plan is not only opposed by every neighborhood council and resident group in Hollywood, but also by city planning professionals like myself.  I was part of the team of Los Angeles city planners who prepared the General Plan Framework in the mid-1990’s, the adopted citywide plan which public officials, like Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge, claim the Update implements. (Link)
In fact, the Update totally conflicts with LA’s General Plan.  It is nothing more than the city planning version of the fantasy film, Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond that magically materialized high caliber baseball teams and games.

The politicians promoting this “plan” believe that a slew of mega-projects in Hollywood will propel economic growth.  Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why the General Plan Framework is strongly opposed to such real estate bubbles.

First, Hollywood’s public infrastructure and services cannot support super-sized projects, a barrier clearly documented in the Update’s Final Environment Impact Report.

Second, there is no evidence that the upscale tenants, shoppers, and residents required to make these mega-projects succeed will ever materialize.  LA is no longer a boomtown, but an old, deteriorating city, mired in poverty, inequality, and decay.  Instead, like the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, the new skyscrapers encouraged by the Update will languish until their developers are forced to beg for public handouts to avoid bankruptcy.

If City Hall really wants to revitalize Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles, it must provide amenities, not green light financial speculation.  This city desperately needs code enforcement, bans on supergraphics and billboards, undergrounded utility wires, good schools, extensive transit and bike lanes, more parks and community centers, repaired streets and sidewalks, and an urban forest.

This ought to be the clear local lesson from the Wall Street financial crisis that began in 2008 and has yet to be resolved.

(Richard Platkin is a veteran planning professional and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com) -cw

Richard (Dick) H. Platkin, AICP