UCLA Lewis Center Panel Tackles Anti-Development …and Measure S

Joan Ling speaking on the Measure S panel. Photo via UCLA Lewis Center
Joan Ling speaking on the Measure S panel. Photo via UCLA Lewis Center

With the city of Los Angeles’ March 7 election looming, UCLA’s Lewis Center convened a panel of legal and land use experts to discuss the impact of Measure S, called the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative” by its supporters.

The measure is arguably the single-biggest decision voters will have to make in L.A. on the March 7 ballot since Measure S would place a two year ban on changes to zoning for individual projects, essentially placing a moratorium on a significant number of new housing projects, including affordable housing and permanent affordable housing for people struggling with homelessness.

The measure also mandates the city to update its neighborhood plans. Though the city has attempted updates of these plans in the past, they have regularly been stalled by the same litigious anti-growthers that are pushing Measure S.

“The most important thing about Measure S is probably the threat of Measure S,” Jonathan Zasloff, a professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, said to a crowded lecture hall on Thursday.

Though Zasloff is on the record as opposing Measure S, he noted that it had motivated the Los Angeles City Council to commit to making some changes to the city’s planning process. The day of the panel, the L.A. City Council voted unanimously to institute requirements that the city’s community plans be updated every six years.

While there was general agreement that one of the root causes of the discontent that lead to Measure S was Los Angeles’ arcane and outdated planning processes, the panel felt that Measure S is far from the answer.

“The political theory behind the initiative is that it will force reform of the planning system,” Zasloff said.

But his colleague and fellow panelist, Joan Ling, a longtime lecturer in the UCLA Luskin Department of Urban Planning, called the idea “wishful thinking” on the part of the measure’s supporters.

“Particularly in affluent areas, there is no reason why the electorate and the council members would want to reform land use to allow for more density,” she said.

But density near transit with reduced parking requirements with strong protections for existing, especially rent controlled housing, is precisely what is needed to address some of the major problems currently facing in Los Angeles: traffic and housing costs.

Measure S addresses none of those issues and specifically limits the city’s powers to approve variances that reduce required on-site parking. According to a recent transit-oriented development study, U.S. cities build way too much parking. According to the study, even at peak times, L.A.’s Wilshire Vermont Station Apartments parking spots were only two-thirds full. These excessive parking requirements drive up the cost of housing, but Measure S would make impossible to reduce the amount of parking we build going forward.

Michael Manville, assistant professor of urban planning, echoed Ling’s comments.

He noted that despite claims by its supporters, Measure S really won’t help with traffic.

“It ends up being a very small and uncertain reduction in traffic, played against a much more certain cost in housing prices,” he said.

“We’re not going to unbuild the area,” he said, noting that failing to build close to transit and near jobs won’t stop people from coming to Los Angeles, but instead force them farther to the outskirts of the city from where they will have to drive to jobs, actually potentially making traffic worse.

Another aspect of the measure is its two-year ban on changing zone designations for particular sites. Changing a property from an industrial designation to a multi-family designation would be banned for most parcels during the moratorium and potentially longer. Redevelopment of existing residential properties would be permitted however, since no zone changes would be required, a fact that could lead to the loss of older rent controlled housing.

Thursday’s full panel discussion is available above and readers can click here for the UCLA Lewis Center’s write up of the event.

  • 1976boy

    I’m glad to see so much pushback against S. Hopefully it’s effective.

  • Ron Bitzer

    Oh My, City Council acted to update Community Plans!! In January 2015 Bonin, Koretz and Krekorian proposed motions to address the January 2015 LA Times report, “In L.A., Conditions Placed on Developers Go Unheeded” (File 15-0026 & File 15-0020). Result: No action and the motions expired last month.

  • SZwartz

    What a crock of BS — people with a huge vested interest in Measure S’s not passing put together a propaganda festival to spew forth Alternative Facts which would make Maryanne Conway green with envy.

    http://bit.ly/2l0BYI6 February 2, 2017, CityWatch, Alternative Facts’ are Nothing New for Angelenos,

    http://bit.ly/2kZFVfu February 9, 2017, CityWatch, Measure S Does One Thing: It Stops City Hall Corruption, by Richard Lee Abrams

    In 2006, Director of Planning Gail Goldberg told then councilmember Eric Garcetti that he had to stop the practice which Measure S now addresses — allowing corrupt developers to buy whatever zoning they want. As Gail Goldberg warned, Garcetti’s practice of allowing developers to set zoning as they wished on a project by project basis was leading to disaster.
    http://bit.ly/1CxiGep February 7, 2008 LA Weekly, City Hall’s “Density Hawks” Are Changing L.A.’s DNA, By Steven Leigh Morris

    By 2010, disaster hit Gacetti’s council district 13. His corrupt planning, where developer could buy whatever they wanted, had chased so many people and businesses out of his council district 13, that CD 13 ceased to qualify as a legal council district. The proper course of action would have been to simply remove “unlucky 13” as a council district and let it be absorbed by neighboring council districts. A 1925 law, however, requires Los Angeles to have 15 council districts. Thus, the city took portions of Hollywood CD 4 and parts of Koreatown and added them to a re-constituted CD 13.

    The literal destruction of the council district by Garcetti’s allowing developers to buy whatever zoning they desire certainly qualifies as a disaster, but that disaster did not deter the corruption.

    In 2012, Garcetti proposed an update to the Hollywood Community Plan, which the City Attorney had advised Garcetti was fatally defective and would be rejected by the courts. Despite the Planning Department’s stating during the June 19, 2012 city council hearing that it could re-do the Update using accurate data, Garcetti insisted that the Update be approved. Knowing that the Update was defective and would be rejected by the courts, the city council unanimously passed it.

    In January 2014, Judge Allan Goodman rejected Garcetti’s Update to the Hollywood Community Plan as it had been based on “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking” which was so bad that it “subverted the law.” The information presented by Garcetti to the Court was basically the same bogus data which UCLA presented at this propaganda fest. Three years ago after reviewing 70,000 pages of the Administrative Record, the court ruled that the information was bogus. That did not stop UCLA from presenting the same false data as true. One has to marvel as the longevity of Alternative Facts at UCLA — USC’s Sol Price of Public Policy has long ago started publishing accurate demographic data as has the US Census. From what we can tell, neither were allowed to be presented at this conflab of misinformation. Whether it is Trump’s universe or UCLA, Alt-Facts rule.

    Gail Goldberg was correct in 2006 when she objected to the corruption in Spot Zoning. Judge Allan Goodman has ruled that Garcetti knowingly uses false data, and now Measure S is trying to put a moratorium on the corruption which allows developers to bribe their way to any zoning up grade they desire.

    As the LA Times and the City Controller have reported, developers pay a lot in bribe money to get their Spot Zoning. developer Samuel Leung paid hundreds of thousands of dollars with $60,000 for Mayor Garcetti’s “charity,” Developer Rick Caruso paid hundreds of thousands of dollars with $125,000 to Mayor Garcetti’s “charity,” Westfield developers of malls paid Garcetti’s “charity” almost $1 Million.

    http://bit.ly/2ku6kCR February 13, 2017, CityWatch, City Council Tries Derail Measure S … Gambles on a Bogus Proposal to Fool Voters, by Richard Lee Abrams

  • Casey Maddren

    The author fails to mention several important points in this article, and makes at least one statement that is false.

    The author repeats the oft-used argument that Measure S will stop new housing projects, but fails to mention that the vast majority of new units being built in LA are far too expensive for families earning the median income for this area. The author also fails to mention that thousands of units protected by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance have been taken off the market, often by owners who know that they can increase the value of their property by seeking a zone change.

    The author states that attempts to update the community plans have been stalled in the past due to the efforts of “litigious anti-growthers”. Could he be referring to the Hollywood Community Plan Update? This plan was thrown out by a judge who termed it “fatally flawed”, in part because the City inflated the population figures for the Hollywood area by about 10%. Does the author believe it’s possible to do effective planning without even having an accurate assessment of an area’s population?

    The author states that, “the L.A. City Council voted unanimously to institute requirements that the city’s community plans be updated every six years.” In fact, the City Council has done no such thing. The City Council voted to study the possibility of enacting an ordinance that would require regular updates of the general plan and community plans. This ordinance could take years to write, and may never see the light of day. The author should be reminded that Mayor Villaraigosa made a similar promise a decade ago. Not surprisingly, nothing ever came of it.

    The author argues that we should be focussing on transit-oriented development. I wish we were. There are good reasons to build high-density housing ACCESSIBLE TO TRANSIT RIDERS near transit hubs. But that’s not what the City has been doing. Instead, the City has been building high-rises for the affluent, a demographic that is unlikely to use transit often. AS A RESULT OF THE CITY’S CURRENT APPROACH, TRANSIT RIDERSHIP IS LOWER THAN IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO. In fact, the City’s current policies have been a dismal failure when it comes to encouraging transit ridership. And as rents continue to spiral near transit hubs, the low-income families that are most dependent on transit are forced out of the area.

    Yes, parking is a problem. We build way too much of it, wasting valuable space and driving construction costs up, and reducing parking requirements is one of the few proven methods of encouraging transit ridership. Measure S would also make the construction of permanent supportive housing much more difficult. But sadly, the people who oppose Measure S don’t acknowledge that the City’s record on building affordable and permanent supportive housing has been dismal. Why should we think this is going to change in the future? City Hall has shown by its actions that it is much more interested in building housing for the rich than for the poor. And the people promoting the idea that apartments now being offered for $3,000 a month and more will eventually become affordable to most Angelenos seem to have completely lost touch with reality.

    Measure S isn’t perfect, but the planning process in LA is so completely corrupt we need to change it. Now. It’s ridiculous to think that the Mayor and the City Council, most of whom have taken shocking sums of money from developers, are going to reform the system themselves. They’re only going to maintain the status quo, and the status quo has been a disaster for the majority of Angelenos. That’s why I’m voting for Measure S.

  • Bill

    Yes on S!
    No in stacked deck propaganda panels that keep out Measure S side who speak all over town, adding more endorsers every day once all the lies panels like this speed and sadly to college students many of whom live in university housing and are not fighting as Measure S supporters, LA residents and communities are …,displacement and gentrification the 5-10% illegal zone busting developments S addresses and fighting to protect their communities fighting for their lives to stay in their homes buildings and neighborhoods. Maybe the ucla panel would cindider busing the students down to city hall and witness the speakers begging city council to not approve zone changes that convert their residential buildings to hotels or to not demo their whole block of residential buildings to make way for triple unaffordable luxury skyscrapers and share their stories of illegal evictions and what it’s Kline now living I. Their car. No matter to the developer corrupted bribed councilmembers and mayor. They’re ignored, that’s voted to approve one of these residential to commercial zone changes that rendered residents homeless the same day they voted for HHH homelessvtax and now whine Measure S will stop them from building for the homeless. Since it only affects 5-10% of development guess they’re planning on only building zone busting 49 story buildings for the homeless that’s not affordable since 100% affordable housing is exempt from Measure S. Gee, UCLA is a university for learning, knowledge but this group shut out the students from these Measure S facts. What country do they think they’re in? Since an initiative is considered capricious tool created forvand by the people in a Democracy’ this could have been a great opportunity to even learn about that whole process so they at some point in their lives could be cintributingvparticipating citizens who might actually make a difference in the lives of people who are fighting for their lives being destroyed by developer political. Irruption, money, greed and power.and the lies are all dispelled by them. In one day press releases came out from United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles a coalition of cummunities across theccity and Westchester endorsing Measure S

  • GilbyDM101

    I see the AIDS Healthcare Foundation interns have taken over the message boards

  • Casey Maddren

    Ron,

    I’ve heard about your critique of the traffic study for the NoHo West project. I work with a group called United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles. We’re advocating for a more rational approach to planning, and more credible environmental studies. We’d be interested in having you come to one of our meetings. I’m including the links to our web page and Facebook page. If you’re interested in talking to us, please send me an e-mail at:

    cmaddren@un4la.com

    Best,
    Casey Maddren
    http://www.un4la.com
    https://www.facebook.com/un4la/

  • guest

    Separating the myths from facts:

    http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/los-angeles/12619-major-la-homes-association-endorses-measure-s-here-s-why

    Bogus Claim 1 – Measure S will stop development in Los Angeles: Simply wrong. Measure S would not impact any public works projects and only affects a small
    percentage of real estate projects, mostly luxury buildings. Each year
    LA’s Department of Building and Safety processes 100,000 permits. Of
    these, only about 600 projects involve the City Council legislative
    actions targeted by Measure S.

    Bogus Claim 2 – Measure S is a housing ban. Also simply wrong. Many
    of LADBS’s 100,000 annual permits involve housing, and they will
    continue to be processed by-right. This includes residential projects
    built on commercial lots, where LA zoning laws permit by-right
    construction. Furthermore, about 80 percent of the 3,000 annual
    building permit cases that City Planning reviews do not involve any
    City Council legislative actions. These cases, too, are exempt from
    Measure S, as are 100 percent affordable housing projects .

    Bogus Claim 3 – Measure S stops the construction of affordable housing. Totally wrong. Only 2 percent of new housing in Los Angeles is affordable, and according to
    the Department of City Planning’s Citywide Metric’s report, this 2
    percent is built through density bonuses, not the parcel-specific City
    Council spot-zone change ordinances and spot-General Plan Amendments
    that Measure S targets.

    Bogus Claim 4 – Measure S is a job killer. Also wrong. This
    claim is based on a Beacon Economics study paid for by the big real
    estate companies funding the no on S campaign. But, it is built on a
    faulty assumption; if real estate firms can no longer obtain pay-to-play
    spot-zones for their unplanned projects in Los Angeles, they will bolt
    to other cities. There is no evidence for this claim. Nearby
    well-planned cities that do not engage in these unethical planning
    practices, such as Pasadena and Santa Monica, generate many construction
    jobs without dishing out spot-zone changes and General Plan amendments
    LA-style.

    Bogus Claim 5 – Measure S promotes urban sprawl. This claim, too, is bogus. Los
    Angeles’s adopted General Plan is anti-sprawl, and Measure S calls for
    these official documents to be updated and then meticulously followed,
    not overturned on behalf of big developers with big pockets.
    Sustainability policies and programs are laced through the new Mobility
    Element, as well as the older elements, such as the General Plan
    Framework, Land Use, Air Quality, Open Space, and Conservation. Anyone
    who claims that a voter initiative to strengthen LA’s General Plan is
    really a stalking horse for sprawl has clearly never bothered to read
    the planning documents they so glibly malign.

    Pro-S organizations, like the BWHA, now encounter newly minted bogus claims
    on a daily basis. We attempt to debunk them as quickly as we can.
    (Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on local planning issues for City Watch)..
    http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php

  • emma

    L.A. Tenants Union..Why L.A. Tenants Union Endorses Measure S
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5AsItZWPKW6cWU1WFJDeFVfd0k/view)The Crenshaw Subway Coalition United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles & United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles
    http://www.crenshawsubway.org/yes_on_s_for_south_la
    http://un4la.com/blog.html
    Endorsements from community groups from Westchester, to Hillside Federation (over 30 neighborhood groups), Sherman Oaks to Venice, Brentwood, Hollywood, Catholic homeless org., Democratic groups, Neighborhood Councils, including Westwood Neighborhood Council Board where UCLA is..Check out the website and the list and read about what’s been going on all over the city from real residents and why Measure S was created.
    Why did the Mayor agree with Measure S points then hold a press conference, come out against it and lie it’s a ‘housing ban’..Could it have anything to do with the developers who fund his campaigns?
    Mayor Garcetti letter to Michael Weinstein…
    https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/voteyesons/pages/141/attachments/original/1487204019/yes-measure-s-garcetti-letter.pdf?1487204019

    Some reasons Measure s was created:
    L.A. Daily News..Developers Howl Over Ballot Measure
    http://www.dailynews.com/gover
    L.A. Daily News…Follow the Money to See How City Hall Does Business
    http://www.dailynews.com/opini..
    L.A. Daily News…Taking Back L.A From City Hall..
    http://www.dailynews.com/opini

    L.A. TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS ….’SPOT ZONE’ PROJECTS
    DEVELOPER POLITICO CORRUPTION…
    L.A. Times…Caruso Project..Political Donations Flow as Rick Caruso Seeks Approval for a 20-story Tower…http://www.latimes.com/local/l
    L.A. Times…Sea Breeze Project…A $72 Million Apartment Project. Top Politicians. Unlikely Donors..Who Wrote the Checks to Elected Officials Weighing Approval?
    http://www.latimes.com/project
    L.A. Times Editorial..When Political Contributions Erode Trust in L.A.’s Land-Use System
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion
    L.A. Times ..When Developers Want to Build More Than Zoning Laws Allow L.A. Planners Almost Always Say Yes, Times Analysis Finds
    http://www.latimes.com/local/l
    L.A. Times..Steve Lopez..When it Comes to Political Donations in L.A. What’s Legal Can Be Worse Than What’s Not
    http://www.latimes.com/local/c
    L.A. Times…Steve Lopez… Money Flows, Developer Prevails: An L.A. City Hall Expose That Begs an Official Investigation
    http://www.latimes.com/local/c
    Attempts of Measure S opposition to falsify information in Voter’s Guide:
    L.A. Times…Measure S Opponents Scale Back Claims in Voter Guide After Being Sued..
    http://www.latimes.com/local/l

    The city desperately needs more housing, yet they approve illegal spot zone luxury projects that wipe out affordable and rent stabilized housing, good residential housing stock and whole neighborhoods. The city is adding to the homeless population for campaign contributions:

    Message from Rev. Alice Callaghan ‘Measure S Endorser’.. Founder, Las Familias del Pueblo, Skid Row

    Dear Friends,

    As a registered voter I know that, like me, you care about the future of
    our city. For decades, my calling has been to serve the homeless on the
    streets of Skid Row. In the past 15 years our city has lost more than
    22,000 rent-controlled units, and in Skid Row alone more than 5,000
    homeless beds have been lost since the 1990s.

    Instead of proposing real solutions to America’s worst housing and homeless
    crisis, City Hall is engaged in a corrupt system of approving luxury
    towers that violate zoning rules, destroy affordable housing and
    gridlock our streets. With rents in the new luxury developments starting
    at $3,500 per month, neighborhoods are being damaged and neighbors are
    being pushed out – many onto the streets.

    That’s why I have joined a broad coalition to pass Measure S on the March 7 ballot.
    Measure S is a People’s Initiative to fix City Hall’s broken and corrupt
    planning system that is fueling the worst housing, homeless and traffic
    crises in America.

    I’m urging you to JOIN US in this campaign.
    Endorse Measure S.
    Volunteer for Yes on S.
    Share this message with your neighbors and follow us on social media.

    Join this People’s Movement, because on March 7th all of our Neighbors and all of our Neighborhoods are on the ballot.

    Thank you your consideration,

    Rev. Alice Callaghan
    Founder, Las Familias del Pueblo, Skid Row

  • emma

    Voting Yes on S. These professors don’t have a clue about the real life realities going on and the horrible damage and destruction to lives and neighborhoods projects Measure S addresses cause, are causing every day. They need to get out of their sheltered walls of academia and visit the communities across LA supporting Measure S, attend hearings at city hall, witness the overwhelming opposition and pleas to city council to save their neighborhoods, all ignored, deals have been cut. They need to read and pay attention to investigative reports into the corruption that gets illegal projects approved no matter how many oppose or how they destroy lives, no matter how dangerous, no matter if there are danger warnings they’ll kill people from state geologists. They should look over the ethics commission website and lobbying expenditures by the developers to all the corrupt politicos see what developers spend to get support and approval of dangerous projects bribes so huge it makes it easy to brush lives to the side and approve these spot zone, zone busting projects no matter who warns them or begs them not to.

  • Daniel

    yeah, Damien Goodmon, that’s gonna convince everyone

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