New Coalition Looks to Reform L.A.’s Transit-Oriented Development

An exercise from yesterday's gathering showing where "TOD's" are spread around the city. Photo: Joe Linton

Yesterday, Tuesday July 12th 2011, marked the first meeting of a fledgling coalition re-examining the way Southern California does Transit Oriented Development (TOD.) Over 100 people, representing nearly as many organizations, attended the Los Angeles Summit on Community-Oriented T.O.D. which took place at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center near downtown Los Angeles.

The event was organized by the Bus Riders Union, East L.A. Community Corporation, Green L.A. Coalition, Little Tokyo Service Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Counsel, Southeast Asian Community Alliance, and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy. Attendees included representatives from various local, regional, and statewide organizations focused on housing, transportation, health, the environment and more.

From the event announcement:

Transit-oriented development—or T.O.D.—is the new planning buzzword … but what does it mean for our communities?

The idea behind T.O.D. is promoting housing/retail development near LA’s new rail stations and other major transit points. Like “smart growth” and “new urbanism,” T.O.D. is being hailed as an answer to our cities’ traffic congestion problems and environmental pollution because it would encourage new people to live a car-free lifestyle …

But who would benefit from the new development?

How will we make sure that renters and low-income people of color already living near transit—and using transit every day— will not continue to be displaced?

How will we ensure that T.O.D. will include affordable housing and
other community-serving projects?

Join us as we learn about T.O.D. and create strategies to ensure that low-income people of color, and not the developers, play a lead role in state, regional and local decision-making around the kinds of development that take place in our communities.

Many of the groups in the room had struggled with proposed Transit-Oriented Developments that were not responsive to community needs, mostly where proposed TODs would foster gentrification and displacement. Some of those stories have been covered here at L.A. Streetsblog, for example the proposed Lorenzo Project. Though many of these campaigns have been successful in securing benefits for affected communities, the campaigns have been waged project by project. Participants expressed the hope that a new coalition could bring similar campaigns together to learn from each other, and to be able to develop broader and more proactive solutions.

Initial discussions focused around agreeing on a shared set of principles, and on building connections between participants. Will this new coalition be able to steer Los Angeles Transit-Oriented Development into a healthy and equitable place? Only time will tell.

  • Ubrayj02

    Improving TODs in LA? Hah! First, I’d try to stop subsidizing anti-pedestrian and anti-transit design done by the large developers “contracted” to do these massive projects. Adding some surface level bike parking, ample public restrooms, lockers, showers, food and other service space shaped to make money for the commercial occupants (and not just the developer or marquee tenant).

  • Ubrayj02

    Oh, and how about NOT doing anymore stupid “modern” looking edifices. Let someone ejaculate their ego on some other city. These buildings look like they are ready for Stalin to hang posters from them. Make a Disneyland New Urbanist station just to mess with the populace … you know the way South Pasadena did, which surprisingly treats people like a valuable addition to the urban context and not refuse that needs to be shunted wherever some top-down site planner thought would add some “pop” to his resume.

  • True Freedom

    TOD will be used by wealthy developers to justify increasing population density, so they can make more money.  It will be touted as a green movement, that in the context of LA will only make pollution/ traffic worse.. because all of these new people will own and use cars to some degree… the developers will laugh on the way to the bank after “greenwashing” the masses.

  • Alek F

    Folks, just stop this “conspiracy” bullshit! TOD’s are not necessarily for the developers to make money “behind our backs” (although it is moneymaker, as any other venture in the free-market economy), and it’s not what the BRU racists claim, but those developments actually transform the blighted spots into much better, and safer, neighborhoods! Yes, most of the TOD housing are expensive, but they dramatically improve the area, add retail, restaurants, cafes, and create a places for people to enjoy. Families come together, and neighborhoods become walkable and safe. TOD’s are a win-win situation, and – the more of these Los Angeles will have, the better our city will become. We have to embrace those great developments! Last but not least. Part of the reason why crime is on the decline in L.A. is because of major redevelopments that is going around the city; those redevelopments (and TOD’s) create an entirely different atmosphere. Wake-up, folks, and realize the benefits of those projects!

  • Ubrayj02

    Based on the results of LA’s TOD projects along the MTA’s transit projects I can see a lot of subsidized private profits, public employee man hours, and little else to show for it other than large parking lots built for non-existent customers to vacant storefronts.

    TOD is a great floating idea, but executing it in a way that doesn’t include a $100 million in each project budget for subterranean car parking, road widening in the immediate area, and instead focuses on traditional human-scale design would be a great way to stop the conspiracy talk.

    Oh yeah, that and perhaps stopping the tax-payer funded subsidies to the large development firms that are contracted to build these projects and who then bank roll local campaigns for politicians that help them get that money. There is also the little known, but oft exploited “we help you get elected so you will appoint our buddies to the public pension board, which will then invest heavily in our shitty company using tax-payer backed pension money”.

    Maybe quelling that would help end the talk of “conspiracy” surrounding these large projects on public land financed with public dollars that end up in private coffers and campaign funds.

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