Is Los Angeles Ready for 30/10?

Not a one trick pony, LANU has also been involved in city budget negotiations.
Not a one trick pony, LANU has also been involved in city budget negotiations.

As a city, is Los Angeles ready to create communities that best integrate with the new transit system promised by Measure R and the 30/10 proposal?

According to a group of community activists calling themselves “LA Neighbors United” (LANU), the answer is “no.”  The coalition of neighborhood activists are incensed by changes to the city’s planning code that they claim will make it easier for projects to gain approval even if they do not meet the requirements of the local, city-approved, neighborhood plan.  As a result, LANU has written to the Federal Transit Administration urging them to halt funding of L.A.’s transit expansion projects until the city has the planning codes in place to support all of the planned transit expansion projects.

The changes to the code were passed on consent at Wednesday’s meeting of the City Council.   You can read the ordinance and committee reports here

In short, their point is that if we rush transit expansion before the proper planning codes and zones are in place; we’ll end up with sprawl development patterns around transit stations which would undermine transit ridership and the promise of a new Los Angeles.  And if the city is actually undermining those plans, then it shouldn’t be rewarded with an accelerated transit expansion plan.  Or, put less succinctly, from their letter to the FTA:

The proposed law makes no effort to target growth, including population and housing development, around transit corridors generally or Measure R funded transportation projects specifically.  Rather, the new system would perpetuate the City’s historically Wild West approach to anything-goes-anywhere planning, regardless of proximity to transit, and in clear violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Such an approach, which effectively decouples land use planning from transportation planning in the City of Los Angeles, is reckless, conflicting and incoherent.  It jeopardizes the ability of Measure R projects to perform as anticipated.  It also undermines Southern California’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets to be set under a new state law.

Proponents, most of whom happen to be in the construction and real estate industry, claim the new codes will simplify the project.  However, by “simplifying” they mean that it would enable the city  change zoning within Community Plan areas without a public outreach in the form of a formal Community Plan update.  Even if LANU and its allies are correct, there’s nothing in the ordinance that would prevent the city from rezoning to encourage dense, walkable, transit oriented developments.  But then we run in to the issue that Metro is still working on standards for their T.O.D.’s, and some of the constructed projects have already been found lacking when it comes to integrating with the existing community.  Former City Planner Dick Platkin explains what LANU wants at Ron Kaye L.A.:

What Los Angeles needs is real implementation of its existing and future adopted city plans, not misleading ordinances which claim to implement the General Plan and Community Plans, but which, at best,  do nothing of the sort.  Furthermore, at worst, they may actually sabotage the very plans they claim they are implementing.

Another article outlining objections to the changes can be read at today’s City Watch.

While its hard to argue with their argument that the city could be doing more, much more, to promote transit oriented communities, but is it worth risking 30/10 if the City won’t bend?

Meanwhile, transit expansion advocates are continuing to hope that the new Republican controlled House of Representatives is supportive of the Infrastructure Bank and other plans that would make 30/10 a reality.  But with another group joining the Bus Rider’s Union in formal opposition to the project, it appears that the backlash against 30/10 may be growing.

11 thoughts on Is Los Angeles Ready for 30/10?

  1. Are these guys the new BRU? What contorted logic… let’s stop building mass transit until we can change building code. That’s like saying let’s stop breathing until the air is cleaned up.

  2. I don’t know if “guys” is the best noun for the group, as far as I can tell it’s just Cary Brazeman doing an effective job of civic engagement thanks to his decades of PR experience.

  3. I should create my own advocacy group. It will be called “All of LA United (no objections) for Increased Development”

  4. I always distrust people and groups like LANU that criticize proposals generally without giving any specific critique. If you think the Community Plan Implementation Overlay is a bad tool, you have some obligation to point to specific language that could lead to a specific bad result.

    This is demagoguery, not discourse.

    The Westside subway extension will go from the office and residential towers of Koreatown, with two stops near the existing and planned residential and office towers of the Miracle Mile (and walking distance to the largest apartment complex west of the Mississippi), then a station near a clump of office buildings at La Cienega, and then downtown Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood. The subway is going where decades of development (whether planned or not) has created nodes of very high residential and employment density. To suggest that the transit route and land use are not aligned is farcical.

    This is Tea Party nonsense.

  5. These areas were already upzoned due to the pending construction of the SR2/Beverly Hills Freeway. Century City was designed to be tied into that freeway directly with ramps.

    And when/if these NIMBYs kill the Westside Extension, then that freeway needs to finally be built.

  6. Thanks, Streetsblog, for constructively contributing to this dialogue!

    Yes … you got it right: We want land use policy that supports transportation policy … such as a land use overlay for Measure R projects … an overlay for the Wilshire Boulevard subway (so we get quality, not crap, on Wilshire) … or a focus on boulevard revitalization. But not spot zoning with anything-goes-anywhere!

    The new CPIO Districts have the potential to be helpful if they are targeted. I’m hopeful and optimistic that they will be … that Los Angeles will rationalize its land use policy so we can make the transit even more successful … and that we will find the funding to finish the Subway to the Sea. Now that would be incredible!

    -Cary Brazeman

  7. Well, these people don’t speak for me. 30/10 should go full steam ahead!

    It’s not like the City’s existing zoning code is going to be completely changed by this. When you read their letter to the FTA, it’s clear that what this is about is fear of density in parts of the City not immediately adjacent to rail, not “supporting transit”.

    There is a need to build walkable, transit-supporting neighborhoods in many parts of the City, not just those parts immediately adjacent to existing or funded rail stations. This has to be done in a way that respects community concerns, but doesn’t bow down to every NIMBY objection either.

    People need to make their voices heard on this so that local elected officials don’t just hear from people who are afraid of change.

  8. Cary Brazeman is a shill for Ron Kaye. They’re L.A.’s very own Tea Party movement (both of them). They are not pro-transit. They are not pro-planning. They are not coming clean about where their money is coming from. (How can you trust people who take out full page ads like they’re giving them away and won’t say who they really represent?)

    They have nothing to offer but fear and ignorance. I hope the Republicans sue them for copyright infringement.

  9. I think I like Chewie’s balanced approach best. We all know that transit isn’t built in a day or a year. Let transit building go forward, but then citizens had better push to get the city to update its zoning and development regulations to require appropriate density and actual orientation toward the transit facility in a transit-oriented development. Yes, it’s easy to get transit-adjacent development that doesn’t really take advantage of the transit availability, and sometimes NIMBYs prevent appropriate density. But show a little backbone, LA, and do TOD right.

    Just position a TAD or a TOD that is too low density (and some might say sprawling, but I think that’s a mis-use of the concept) as wasted opportunity, and talk to the public about the obvious economic advantages of keeping the city as compact and convenient as possible. A fairly simple dollars and cents pitch to the citizenry would be useful.

    Stop transit to review building codes so that we’ll have better transit-oriented development? That doesn’t sound like a smart way to coordinate transportation and land use planning better. Why not undertake both transit construction and law-making simultaneously? I think LA is big enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. Make it happen!

  10. I want to see who is on LANU’s board, and the board of the Beverly West Residents Association. Or is it just a one man show? Seems like all one person to me…

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