City’s New Housing Plan Calls for 20 TOD Developments

The Holly Street Apartment Complex Built Adjacent to Gold Line’s Memorial Park Station

Last week Mayor Villaraigosa announced a new $5 billion plan to build more lower and middle income housing in Los Angeles.  A major part of that plan will be building 20 major pedestrian friendly Transit Oriented Developments.  Half of them would be built along the Gold and Expo Lines with the other half spread throughout the rest of the city.

While a renewed focus on building affordable housing near transit hubs appears to be great news for a city that desperately needs to begin growing in a more intelligent way, the devil, as always is in the details.  We’ve already seen that some government sponsored Transit Oriented Development in the Greater Los Angeles area have an over abundance of parking.  For example, the renowned Solair Development in Koreatown has two deeded parking spaces per unit, over half a space more than the statewide average for TOD.

Image: Railroad Archive

  • The City of L.A. has a chunk of cash, as well as a hefty line of credit, to construct affordable housing. Unfortunately, as soon as a project pops up in someone’s neighborhood and they hear “affordable housing”, everyone freaks out and think that the child molesters and crack addicts are coming to town. Or they complain about “traffic” from new development.

    T.O.D. is a brilliant scheme to use public land to help steer political careers and campaigns in L.A., while at the same time keeping a lid on the crazy fears about NAMBLA members and the “traffic concerns” of locals.

    The money for affordable housing dangles in front of ambitious, but legally limited, politicians (like the mayor) who rule through the direction of political donations to their colleagues in local government. If obstacles to “affordable housing” can be removed, then anyone who gives money to the mayor’s pick for any given office gets handed a development project underwritten by the public. Council members use their appointees to hand over public employee pension money to their buddies too in a similar process.

    Any politician in charge of an agency that is a large public landholder (like the MTA) uses the property their agency controls to encourage political donations to the causes and candidates of their choosing.

    “Give money to my buddy/pet cause, and I’ll see what I can do about getting your firm an inside track on the new housing/school/gov’t office/etc. that we’re thinking of building”

    This housing has jack and squat to do with Transit Oriented Anything. The only reason they call it TOD is because it is on land owned by a transit agency.

    They over-park these projects to shut up the neighbors (who almost always clamor for “mitigation” of new projects by demanding more free parking for future residents). Donald Shoup may be popular, but not that popular.

    The mayor carries a lot of fundraising water for his lesser partners on the city council and the state assembly. He just got control of the MTA. It is time to start tempting political donations out of the large construction firms, labor unions, and equipment suppliers who rely on a steady stream of large projects to stay alive (especially in such a down-turning construction industry). Pay up boys, the mayor will see to it that you get your projects! He’ll also be able to see how many of his associates can win even more local races.

    Maybe he’ll use his power to start squeezing the serious cash he’ll need to run for governor.


Editorial: Four Ways To Encourage Transit-Friendly Affordable Housing

I’ve been thinking about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent motion to help Metro partner on joint development of affordable housing near stations. Also, Garcetti-ally L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell expressed support for reducing parking requirements in new affordable housing developments along transit corridors, to “help lower construction costs and therefore rents.” A new report this […]

Can Transit-Oriented Development Lift All Boats?

Streetsblog San Francisco reported earlier this week that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has made a $10 million funding commitment to a mixed-use affordable housing project in the Tenderloin neighborhood, a convenient two-block walk from the nearest Muni stop: The development at 168 Eddy Street would provide 153 new apartments reserved for low-income families and space […]

Bay Area Transit Agencies Build on Parking Lots

Last Thursday representatives from Caltrain, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) presented [PDF] current plans for building housing and offices on top of station parking lots, at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) in downtown San Jose. Rail station parking lots offer the ultimate in […]

Transit-Oriented Development and Communities of Color: A Field Report

(This article first appeared in Progressive Planner, the official magazine of the Planner’s Network and is reprinted with the author’s permission.  Gen Fujioka is the senior policy advocate with the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development. This article was written in collaboration with the Urban Communities of Color Caucus which seeks to advance […]