Opinion Power To Speak: Who’re You Calling a NIMBY?

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Posted October 5, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns
By Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D.

The author is chair of The Transit Coalition, a grassroots public transportation advocacy group. He’s also led both the Planning and Transportation committees of the Mar Vista Community Council.

Without a logical or moral defense of overdevelopment, apparently one can always resort to bullying and belittling those who would stand up against it.

After years of fighting for the Expo Line, a Metro rail connection to LAX and a countywide transportation system, I am the last person who should be called a NIMBY. I’ve been disparaged in public, faced considerable opposition and my family has suffered, to boot, in the fight to build a better Los Angeles. So allow me the indulgence of being offended by Charles Rappleye’s Sept. 22 column, “NIMBYs Gone Wild.”

Like the rest of the all-volunteer Friends4Expo Transit, the grassroots group who advocated and fought for the now-built and successful Expo Line, I never got paid for my efforts. And like the rest of Friends4Expo, we never, never, NEVER wanted overdevelopment that would be environmentally-unsustainable, neighborhood-destroying and dangerous for our health.

There is a difference between being open to compromises, variances and appropriate rezoning that accommodates our water shortage and a lack of affordable housing … versus blatant, biologically-dangerous and physically-unsuitable overdevelopment that allows a few well-heeled developers and contractors to “win the lotto” at our expense.

Having approved many a development with variances in my 15 years on and off the Mar Vista Community Council Board, and being a big fan of both affordable housing and walkable streets, there is plenty of opportunity for more housing.

But in case Mr. Rappleye has forgotten, we’re in a drought. Our air quality is at risk. Our streets, sidewalks, sewers, electrical grid and other infrastructure are all in disrepair.

And income inequality is worsening in our city, while affordable housing and family-friendly neighborhoods are both in very short supply.

Recreational parks for children and their families, anyone?

Industrial parks for employment, anyone?

How about general plans for regions (such as the Palms/Mar Vista/Del Rey General Plan) that haven’t been updated for decades, despite their legal mandate to be updated every 10 years?

Hence we need the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative to be voted on next spring.

We also need to support and pass Measure M for more transportation funding this November — no NIMBYism from me, or from just about every transportation advocate who is also anti-overdevelopment.

So when Mr. Rappleye attacks Mr. Weinstein and the supporters of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, he also attacks all those Westside and other neighborhood councils who fought, and still fight, for more mass transit, more affordable housing and a better quality of life for ourselves and our children.

It is not NIMBY to be anti-overdevelopment. And despite the distractions and obfuscations put forth by the initiative’s opponents, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will allow for variances as well as for legally-acceptable developments.

What the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative opposes is overdevelopment.

What it offers instead is appropriate development.

We could virtually double our affordable housing with standard two- to three-story apartments and condos throughout the city, and do so in a legal and relatively speedy timeframe.

But to demand five- to 12-story (or more!) behemoths throughout the city will not only give rise to unlivable “housing projects,” but also create new traffic gridlock of the kind that the Expo Line was supposed to help mitigate.

So go ahead, Mr. Rappleye, attack Michael Weinstein all you want.

Just remember you’re also attacking the majority of hardworking taxpayers in this city — those who have the compassion and temerity to oppose their neighborhoods being destroyed so “the 1%” get even richer at our collective expense.


3 Comments


  1.  
    LA Developer

    As a developer and owner of apartment buildings, i HOPE you get this passed. What this will do is create pressure on the current housing stock and make rents go up and make existing projects way more valuable, and then the city will rezone all the properties to higher densities, so that the rest of our large projects are by right. Sweet move guys! 6k-8k units of housing being built in a city of 4m, and you call the “overdevelopment”. The reason that rents are sky rocketing is because people like you don’t understand supply & demand.




  2.  
    Marcia Hanscom

    Los Angeles zoning today now allows for 300,000 to 1 million units of new housing to be built without breaking the zoning rules, depending on whose study you read. That’s huge, huge capacity, thanks to the fact that LA housing zoning is very liberal, even though it dates back decades.

    The overdevelopment underway in Los Angeles is almost exclusively luxury housing, and these often internatinoal developers are creating a luxury housing glut of 15% vacant ghost condos, penthouses and out of reach $3,500 units. These are investors parking their money in LA’s safe harbor. They often buy a piece of land speculatively that does not allow dense luxury housing, then get their local city council member to agree, during a backroom meeting, to help them flip the zoning — “spot zoning” — to help them get rich. It works like a dream and it is horribly distorting LA’s housing market, gaming the land, and driving working class poeple out of areas the developers decide to “gentrify.”

    These developers have so much profit built into their massive luxury megadevelopments that they can actually withstand 30% vacancy rates for years. Clearly, this “developer” who wrote in is the one who does not understand supply and demand.

    The Chief Economist of Zillow does, and she says on the Real Deal real estate website that LA must stop its frenzy of luxury housing overbuilding and build for the bottom one-third because the region is creating a dangerous mismatch.

    The California Legislative Analyst Office report predicts that luxury housing statewide will “trickle down” to median income renters … in 25 years, after it becomes aged. Far too long for LA’s evicted renters to wait, now that the luxury developers have forced them into the streets – or doubling up into families’ homes or moving out of the area. Even worse, in Los Angeles there is zero evidence of trickle down from luxury housing built 25 years ago.

    Only rent stabilized housing has stayed affordable over the decades, and city hall is approving the teardowns of 1,000 to 1,500 rent stabilized units per year, according to the Los Angeles Times.




  3.  
    Kenneth Alpern

    Thank you, Marcia! It’s all been about luxury housing, and those crying about the building boom for affordable housing are either lying through their teeth or trying to fool the rest of us. Lots of these monstrosities have vacancy rates that are astronomical (perhaps half or more, or so I’ve been informed).

    So while we’re in “anti-mansionization” mode for single-family homeowners we’re OK with spot-zoning…riiiiiiiight? Puh-leeze! “Elegant Density” is not the creation of an eyesore or a crudhole, and is not about neighborhood transformation (to the worse). Expo Line…great! Overdevelopment…NOT great!

    And if we pursue 2-4 (preferably 2-3) story projects, we’d have people buying them up because people want HOMES, not beehives. Apartments and condos and houses, not “units”.

    And any project kept down to 3-4 stories, preferably (2-3), suddenly the construction costs, hassles of parking and mitigation, and beautification of a sustainably-densified neighborhood goes up. The neighborhood stays nice not only for those living there already, but for those moving in to the new housing. And variances are by FAR more easily granted by all.

    It really is a darned shame that we have to fight City Hall just to get it to obey our City bylaws, but the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is just that: update the Community Plans, and make sure that zoning/planning laws that are there for our environmental protection and to allow for sufficient infrastructure are adhered to.

    WHY is it so doggone hard to obey reasonable laws, folks?





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