Fighting For All Residents Against Overdevelopment

In City Policy, Land Use, SB 1818 on February 15, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Councilmember Hahn Speaks Out Against The Ordinance
Audio from February 13, 2008 Council Meeting 

The  Density Bonus & Developer Incentives Ordinance was approved by the City Council in February 2008, on a vote of 11-4.  Councilmembers LaBonge, Rosendahl, Hahn, and Zine sided with residents and voted against the ordinance.  Janice Hahn was concerned about reducing notice and appeals for the neighbors of large projects.  Bill Rosendahl is an affordable housing advocate who noted that this ordinance is a scam, that provides for overdevelopment in the name of affordable housing.  During several days of debate on this ordinance, we do not recall Councilmember JACK Weiss uttering one word, probably because he was already running for City Attorney and had already faced a RECALL effort by angry residents in his district (which gathered TWENTY THOUSAND signatures in only four months for a special recall election, and was only stopped by time constraints on signature collection).

JACK Weiss sided with the developers and voted to approve the ordinance.  JACK Weiss helped craft the ordinance, so he knew exactly what it would do to our neighborhoods when he voted.

Noel filed the first lawsuit against this new law on April 3, 2008 on behalf of a homeowner in Valley Village.  Hubbard vs. City of Los Angeles is currently in litigation. The reason Noel agreed to file the lawsuit was because the Density Bonus and Developer Incentives Ordinance was NOT narrowly tailored to comply with the state law, SB 1818, but was even more generous to developers, unnecessarily so. 

As City Attorney, Noel will advise the 15 City Councilmembers on land use applications, large projects, proposed laws affecting land use and zoning, CEQA (The California Environmental Quality Act) and Environmental Impact Reviews (EIR’s). The City Attorney’s Office is present at (almost) all PLUM Committee (the City’s Land Use Committee) and City Council meetings!



 The Density Bonus and Developer Incentives Ordinance is NOT narrowly tailored to comply with the state law, SB 1818, but rather is even more generous to the developers.  The City Ordinance reduces notice to neighbors-fewer people are notified, and the time period in which they have to respond is compressed, as is the total time involved in the project.

It reduces the ability of neighbors to ability to appeal to the City Council, which the state law does not encourage.  By enacting the Ordinance in this fashion, the City chose special interests over those of the residents, who will often only be able to have a hearing IF they appeal the Planning Department’s decision, and will only be able to appeal to Commissions, NOT to the City Council. The State law does NOT mandate these deprivations of Procedural Due Process. 

Councilmembers will also lose the ability to fight projects in their own districts (because appeals will not be able to reach the City Council in many instances and because the Planning Department will not get to weigh-in at all in some instances), as will the Planning Department!  Meanwhile, the plan is for current City Councilpersons (such as JACK Weiss) to parachute out to other city positions, and the Mayor intends to move on to some other state or national position…and all the while our neighborhoods will be destroyed by non-community minded developers.

This is a lousy ordinance that is completely dishonest as far as its stated intent. It will:

  • Destroy the character of our neighborhoods,
  • Reduce affordable housing and rental housing (rent-controlled rental housing will be replaced by market rate condos for sale, in many instances),
  • Create parking nightmares (there is a “free” parking incentive included in the law, that will be given to all projects that qualify for density bonuses; in other words, developers qualify for a certain number of incentives, but they all get the parking incentive),
  • The City destroys the State’s stated desire of creating very-low income, low income, and moderate-income units, because if a developer includes MODERATE (not very-low or low) income units, the City will give the developer TRIPLE the density bonus required by state law (a 15% density bonus, instead of a 5% density bonus)!

 The PLUM committee (the City’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which only has three members including Councilmember Jack Weiss) has ensured that developers will build luxury for-sale condos instead of affordable lower income rental units. 

So where will all of this demolition and overdevelopment take place?  Primarily in the wealthier districts, but also in the wealthier portions of all districts.  The districts that really need new housing and investment and that want it (and can best handle it) won’t be getting it, because the City’s ordinance is designed for the convenience and wishes of developers: condo towers and massive mixed-use projects in the expensive parts of town.  And hey, they don’t even have to create affordable housing to get it.

Many neighborhood councils and residential associations fought this ordinance.  Noel has fought this ordinance because it does not take into account the interests of all the people of Los Angeles.  The current system, where laws are passed for the benefit of the few and then have to be lititaged back to a point of fairness for all, must stop. It is inefficient and unacceptable because it violates the social contract between the citizens of this City and their government, and it wastes taxpayers’ dollars. This is what has to be changed. My pledge to you is that as City Attorney, it will change.

Click here for more thoughts on Land Use (and a great Video to boot).


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