Bay Area rebellion attacks housing mandate

Corte Madera, a town of 9,200 people tucked away in the Marin countryside, has rebelled against the Association of Bay Area Governments over California’s housing mandates.

“For us this is about local control,” said Ravasio. “We are a small town. We want to remain a small town, which is why people moved here in the first place. We should be allowed to do that and control growth and grow in a way that makes sense for us. And not have it mandated to us by the state or a regional authority like ABAG. Which is what’s been happening, Which is why we took this step.”

It remains to be seen whether the roar from this mouse echoes throughout the Bay Area and eventually the rest of the state. If it does, it could be the first rebel yell in a new Civil War. Or perhaps it should be called the War of Sacramento Aggression.

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City Planning Dept: Don’t Confuse Us With the Facts. We Have Our Minds Made Up

City planners, relying on Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) projections that there will be an additional demand for multi-unit housing have proposed upzoning for more density in Hollywood. However, the factual data proves that most people don’t want it.

The American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 11.8% preferred multi-unit housing while Los Angeles has an existing stock of 39.6%. The 2011 Community Preference Survey commissioned by the National Association of Realtors found that only 8% of the respondents favored a central city environment. There is a wide gap between the utopian vision of the SCAG projections and reality. The Hollywood Community Plan should be based on reality.

If Smart Growth is so Smart, How Come No One Wants to Live There? – by Ed Braddy for CityWatchLA.com 4/5/2012

More Americans Move to Detached Houses – by Wendell Cox for 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

 


Why They Built the Pruitt-Igoe Project

(The pattern of Corruption and Incompetence we see in Hollywood’s woes is not new. This article shows how the same philosophy of “elegant density” created one of America’s worst Redevelopment nightmares, and the HCP is a blueprint to bring the same disaster upon Hollywood. – Richard Abrams)

by Alexander von Hoffman, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University.

St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe housing project is arguably the most infamous public housing project ever built in the United States. A product of the postwar federal public-housing program, this mammoth high-rise development was completed in 1956.

Only a few years later, disrepair, vandalism, and crime plagued Pruitt-Igoe. The project’s recreational galleries and skip-stop elevators, once heralded as architectural innovations, had become nuisances and danger zones. Large numbers of vacancies indicated that even poor people preferred to live anywhere but Pruitt-Igoe. In 1972, after spending more than $5 million in vain to cure the problems at Pruitt-Igoe, the St. Louis Housing Authority, in a highly publicized event, demolished three of the high-rise buildings. A year later, in concert with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it declared Pruitt-Igoe unsalvageable and razed the remaining buildings.

Pruitt-Igoe has lived on symbolically as an icon of failure. Liberals perceive it as exemplifying the government’s appalling treatment of the poor. Architectural critics cite it as proof of the failure of high-rise public housing for families with children. One critic even asserted that its destruction signaled the end of the modern style of architecture.

Yet for all the criticisms, little is known about why Pruitt-Igoe was designed as a massive high-rise project in the first place. One popular theory blames the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier, and his influential conception of a modernist city of high rises. Another points to segregationist policies aimed at confining African-American residential areas to the inner city. Perhaps the most widely accepted theory holds that the federal Public Housing Administration’s (PHA) restrictive cost guidelines for public-housing construction required the construction of a megalithic high-rise project.

An examination of what really happened in St. Louis, however, reveals that the essential concept of Pruitt-Igoe arose from the desperation of civic leaders to save their city by rebuilding it, a bricks-and-mortar type mayor who sang “I’ll take Manhattan,” and an ambitious young architect with no place to go but up.

As they surveyed their city at the end of World War II, St. Louis’s business and political leaders had reason to be anxious. The city was one of only four in the United States to have lost population in the 1930s. In 1947 the City Plan Commission devised a comprehensive physical plan to bring people back to St. Louis. The plan designated the DeSoto-Carr neighborhood, the eventual site of Pruitt-Igoe, as “extremely obsolete” and provided detailed site plans for its reconstruction. The commission proposed clearing the area and constructing “two- or three-story row type apartment buildings” and a large public park.

The election of Joseph Darst as mayor transformed these plans. Elected in 1949, Darst typified the new breed of big-city mayors who came to power in the postwar period. These mayors distanced themselves from the old-style political bosses and looked for support from downtown business interests. They campaigned for the revival of their aging cities and promoted large-scale physical building programs that included highways, airports, and especially downtown and neighborhood redevelopment. Darst, in particular, considered the low-rise projects built by his predecessors to be ugly. Instead, he greatly admired the new high-rise public housing projects that New York mayor William O’Dwyer had shown him on a visit to that city.

Under pressure from Darst to move forward, in January 1950 the St. Louis Housing Authority revived the City Plan Commission’s redevelopment scheme for the DeSoto-Carr neighborhood. Meanwhile architects George Hellmuth and Minoru Yamasaki — who had been hired at Darst’s insistence — persuaded the authority to adopt modernist-style high-rise designs for public housing. The first of these was Cochran Gardens, which later won architectural awards. This was followed by a much larger-scale plan for Pruitt-Igoe which, when completed, contained 2,870 dwelling units in 33 eleven-story buildings.

These structures were no anomaly. Instead, the Pruitt-Igoe project was the product of a larger vision of St. Louis government and business leaders who wanted to rebuild their city into a Manhattan on the Mississippi. Other redevelopment schemes of the time, for example, placed middle- and high-income residents in buildings that actually rivaled Pruitt-Igoe in height and scale.

There is, moreover, no evidence that redevelopment plans intended to make an all-black, all-poor enclave at DeSoto Carr, which had been a poor area housing both whites and blacks before it was razed. An early scheme would have produced a majority of middle-income black residents. The final plan designated the Igoe apartments for whites and the Pruitt apartments for blacks. Whites were unwilling to move in, however, so the entire Pruitt-Igoe project soon had only black residents.

Nor is there any truth in claims that PHA cost limits forced the authority to increase the project’s scale. On the contrary, building contractors inflated their bids to the point that public-housing construction costs in St. Louis were 60 percent above the national average. When the PHA would not raise its unit cost ceilings to accommodate the contractor bids, the city responded by raising densities, reducing room sizes, and removing amenities.

Ultimately, the massive, destructive, and expensive effort at re-development that produced Pruitt-Igoe failed to stem or even notice-ably slow the city’s decline. From 1950 to 1970, the city’s population fell by 234,000 people, and its share of the St. Louis metropolitan area’s population plummeted from 51 percent to 26 percent. This sad fact adds what may be the largest failure to the formidable list of failures associated with Pruitt-Igoe: even if it had been built as proposed, Pruitt-Igoe, the child of a grandiose vision that failed, probably would have failed anyway.

[bold type added to article by SaveHollywood.Org]

 

 

Author was Alexander von Hoffman is an urban historian. This piece is excerpted from his working paper, “Why They Built Pruitt-Igoe.” For information on how to order the paper, visit the Taubman Center Publications Page.