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

 

L.A.F.D. Admits Exaggerating Response Times

Los Angeles Fire Department officials on Friday admitted to The Times that for years the agency put out data that made it appear that firefighters were arriving at the scene of emergencies faster than they actually were.

L.A. Times 3-10-2012

The statistics snafu comes as the department is facing increased scrutiny over how budget reductions have affected service.

The dust-up began Thursday, when candidate Austin Beutner complained in a Huffington Post column that recent Fire Department budget cuts have sent response times for medical emergencies soaring. Beutner laid the blame on the City Council members who approved the cuts, singling out mayoral rivals Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry. He also criticized another opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, for failing to scrutinize the effect of the cuts.

Relying on Fire Department reports presented to lawmakers, Beutner said that in 2008 the department responded to medical emergencies within five minutes 86% of the time. After the cuts, the department last year met that standard just 59% of the time, he said.

Following Beutner’s critique — and a Times inquiry — the department made an awkward admission: Data showing it did so well in the past were simply wrong.

Federal guidelines call for first responders to arrive on scene in under five minutes 90% of the time. But a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, officials explained, which improved the record. Retired Capt. Billy Wells, who crunched the data with a hand calculator, said he followed the department’s long tradition of using a six-minute response standard.

Wells’ successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he reluctantly continued using the flawed formula for a time because he didn’t want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance. “I didn’t want to touch that [extra] minute because I knew the data would take a dump,” he said.

Corrected data generated by a new computer system shows that in 2008, the department actually hit the five-minute goal only 64% of the time, officials said. By last year, that number had fallen to about 60%.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said his department’s performance is pretty good, given the 16% reduction to its budget in recent years, which has led to the elimination of firetrucks or ambulances at about one-fourth of the city’s 106 fire stations.

Unsafe Skyscrapers for Hollywood

Did you know that the Hollywood Community Plan proposes amendments to the Fire/Building Code (public safety) to allow High-Rise Buildings with NO Emergency Helicopter Landing Facilities?

“If this provision in the Hollywood Community Plan survives,” Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Michael K. Woo said in an email last Friday, “then that will be very significant.”

“The City Planning Commission action on the Hollywood Community Plan included an amendment which would encourage a more spectacular skyline in Hollywood,” Woo said, “by allowing mid-rise and high-rise building to have more visually striking, three-dimensional building tops such as the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building in New York, the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco, or City Hall” – constructed in 1928, nearly a half-century prior to the 1974 Code update – in Los Angeles.”

There’s only one problem: If you are trapped on an upper floor in a life-threatening fire you will have no escape!

For the full article, go to:

Laws That Shaped L.A.: Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland?

 

The Dilemma

By James O’Sullivan

The update to the Hollywood community plan is posing a real dilemma for neighborhood councils. Long used to dealing with liquor licenses and individual projects in their areas, this update deals with the entire community plan area and many Neighborhood Councils are stuck within their self-imposed boundaries while others are not. The issue will be whether to approach the plan update from their individual boundaries or examine the plan holistically to determine the impact up zoning will have on the entire area. An extra added challenge is that what happens in Hollywood doesn’t stay in the Hollywood! The impacts of this plan for better or for worse will not be contained within the Hollywood boundary.

If these neighborhood councils follow the charter, there will be no dilemma. The charter is very clear in that it gives to neighborhood councils the responsibility to monitor city services. However there is already friction between neighborhood councils primarily in the hills and those in the flats. This is unfortunate because city infrastructure is not separated that way. When a water pipe breaks on Hollywood Boulevard, there is a good likelihood that it will affect service in upper Beachwood Canyon as well as Melrose Avenue. If you need an ambulance up on Outpost and the roads down below are clogged with commuters or partygoers, the fact that your streets are passable may be of little consequence if the ambulance is delayed.

 

High winds up in the hills or fires that race up the canyons threatened power services of those living far below. So individual neighborhood councils may on paper experience very little change in this new Hollywood community plan update but they still have to look at basic services and how this new update will affect police, fire, water, power, sewers, streets, libraries, parks, and all of the components of the city’s infrastructure system. I would argue that the Hollywood neighborhood councils have an obligation not only to their residents and businesses but also to the plan areas beyond their boundaries. Already some of Hollywood’s infrastructure services are not self-sufficient and the city cannibalizes resources from other community plan areas to service Hollywood. A recent Case in point is the rescue ambulance removed from Rancho Park and placed in Hollywood for 3 days during Halloween 2011. This effectively left sections of Century City in the West Los Angeles community plan area without a rescue ambulance. Hollywood’s neighborhood councils must monitor city services.

This is the heart of the debate over the Hollywood community plan update. It is not about tall buildings, transit oriented districts, the CRA, or any number of other issues being debated today. They are important issues but the core issue is our infrastructure. Do we have enough? Do we need more? Are serious environmental impacts adequately addressed in this new plan update or is the city taking the field of dreams approach? Build it and they will come! Or not.

Sadly this is the Field of dreams with no good ending. If you read the Statement of Overriding Considerations (SOC) in the Final Environmental Impact Report, you will see that this plan acknowledges that it will cause an increase in Green House Gasses in Hollywood but blames that on commuters traveling through Hollywood and not all the new development this plan endorses. The SOC acknowledges that there could be issues with police, fire and other services and promises to do nexus studies and hire more police and fire should there become a need. Does anyone seriously believe the City has the money to do that? Or to build new facilities if needed? Listing mitigations for serious environmental impacts without funding is a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. The City knows this but typically they take the position that they can do whatever they want and if you don’t like it, sue them! We don’t want to do that. What we want is a government that is responsive to the people and not special interest.

So this is the crux of the of the dilemma Hollywood’s Neighborhood Councils will face. The Charter created them and charged them with bringing government closer to the people and monitoring City services. Will they do that or take the approach – we got ours, you need to get yours?  I honestly don’t know. Each Neighborhood Council will have to choose between approving this plan with all its Environmental deficiencies or tell the City to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that protects the lives and safety of those that live, work and play in Hollywood.

Posted at FixLosAngeles.com