Archive for the ‘Land Use’ Category

The Density Bonus & Developer Incentives Ordinance

In City Policy, Land Use, SB 1818, Uncategorized, Videos on February 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Bill Rosendahl Speaks Out Against The Ordinance
Video from 2/12/2008 council meeting. 

 

The Public Speaks, Pt I
Video from 2/12/2008 council meeting.

 

 The Public Speaks, Pt II
Video from 2/12/2008 council meeting.

This is a lousy ordinance that:

  • Destroys the character and scale of our neighborhoods, by giving developers the financial incentive to demolish in order to get increases in number of units, height, and footprint (Floor Area Ratio);
  • Reduces affordable housing and rental housing (rent-stabilized buildings are being replaced by massive upscale condo towers and mixed-use projects);
  • Creates parking nightmares (there is a “free” parking incentive that is given to all projects that qualify for density bonuses);
  • The City destroys California’s desire to create both low income and “moderate” income units, because if a developer includes moderate 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) !
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End Political Malpractice – Noel For City Attorney

In Land Use, SB 1818 on February 18, 2009 at 9:55 pm

dailynews

Political Malpractice

Editorial by the Daily News regarding the Density Bonus Lawsuit filed by Noel Weiss.
April 9, 2008

“One of the important checks to weed out incompetent doctors, and keep them from injuring or killing their patients, is the prospect of a legitimate malpractice lawsuit.

For that reason, it’s telling that the lawyer [Noel Weiss] who filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Valley Village woman against the city of Los Angeles referred to the city’s density bonus as “political malpractice.”

And Why Not?

If malpractice lawsuits can help protect the public from harmful medical incompetence, why not a lawsuit that can protect the public from harmful political incompetence?

Sadly, suing City Hall often seems the only way that Angelenos can get their leader’s attention.

This suit, by Angeleno Sandy Hubbard, sprang from a recommendation by none other than L.A. Planning Commission President Jane Ellison Usher, who recommended that someone challenge the policy in court.

It was, to be sure, unusual for a top city official to publicly acknowledge the futility of trying to appeal to elected officials’ sense of civic duty. But to her credit, Usher frankly advised residents to sue before this new building rule wrecks neighborhoods.

This so-called “density bonus” that the Los Angeles City Council adopted earlier this year – and which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed in spirit – allows developers to run roughshod over the few city planning restrictions that could protect the public from bad development.

If developers include “affordable housing” in their project – a questionable prospect considering the volatility of the real-estate market at the moment – they are allowed to break rules, such as rules on providing parking, and to construct towering buildings that don’t fit into a neighborhood.

This is not about the “smart growth” that the council, the mayor and developers like to talk about. It’s about serving the needs of the special interests – developers who line campaign coffers – while seeming to serve the needs of unfortunate Angelenos, thus appeasing community and housing advocates.

City officials can encourage affordable housing in Los Angeles without selling out already-stressed neighborhoods and making current residents pay the costs. So far, officials have just chosen not to.

Resorting to the courts is never ideal. But in this case, it seems that it’s the only way the city’s leaders will do the right thing for their constituents.”

Noel on Protecting the Middle Class

In Accomplishments, City Policy, Land Use, SB 1818 on February 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm

The subtle attack on the middle class in Los Angeles is a main concern of mine, because of the economic impact this inflicts on our city. History shows us that no civilization can sustain a viable economy without a vibrant middle class.

Currently, no local policymaker has stepped forward to try and protect the rights of the middle class. I am committed to doing what I can to make the system work better for the people, help bring the City together, and have our system better reflect its core social values and principles.

So what exactly have I done that is evidence of this promise?

  • I have lobbied the City on behalf of middle class tenants to get various core tenant protections incorporated into the tract map conditions. These conditions were then capable of being enforced by the Planning Dept. and were subsequently incorporated into Planning Dept. policy. This policy change is something that the current City Attorney said couldn’t be done, yet I got it done.
  • I lobbied City Councilmembers about the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) which will be included into the City of Los Angeles Housing Element (2006-2014). (see Council file 08-1933, page 6-33.)
  • I wrote the original motion to raise the tenant relocation fees for tenants who were evicted from buildings that were covered by the rent stabilization ordinance, and then lobbied City Council members to get it passed, as the relocation monies hadn’t been raised since the mid 1980’s.
  •  I am experienced in establishing dialogue between responsible developers and the community they seek to improve.  For example:
    • A developer in Valley Village was able to get his 96-unit project through by incorporating affordable housing promises* into tract map conditions, in such a way that it gave the Community standing to enforce violations of these conditions, under a nuisance theory.   This action, which never had to be invoked, made the community a real partner with the City Attorney and the Council office in ensuring enforcement if necessary.  The net result?
      • The character of the neighborhood was protected;
      • The developer was able to relay the agreed-upon conditions to his vendors before the work began, eliminating misunderstandings; the community knew what to expect, and when, due to regular communication; and
      • The community will benefit from an influx of middle-class incomes when the facility is completed.

The developer even sent his thanks, as the project has moved along quite fluidly. The system can work when a responsible, reasonable, and fair-working partnership is established.

 What I have done in these examples is done all the time for the special interests who pay lawyers and lobbyists. But it has been rarely done (if at all) by a public policy advocate who has not been paid by anyone to advocate for a policy and has nothing personal to gain except the self-satisfaction of doing something positive, and leaving behind a positive legacy. This type of advocacy is what we should expect from our elected officials, and is the type of advocacy that I would continue as City Attorney.

 The current system, where laws exist but are not enforced until they are litigated, 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.

 *The ‘affordable housing’ to be created at this location is a mandated (up to) 5% discount for teachers, firemen, and policemen. The project is near North Hollywood High School, creating an incentive for middle-class teachers to eliminate their commute AND be rewarded with a housing discount by the developer. A great situation for many community partners.

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!

 

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Land Use

In City Policy, Land Use, SB 1818 on January 22, 2009 at 8:29 pm

The video below, which I came across at Curbed LA, is a great visual example of the impact that the City Attorney can have on the city.

12449 Louise Ave.

This street could be any of the thousands of streets in Los Angeles, where the character of neighborhoods have been adversely impacted over the last 8 years.

Growth is a fact of life, but growth needs to be pursued in a manner that does not destroy our neighborhoods for the sake of development, and the process by which growth is allowed to occur is transparent, with the discussion taking place in full view of the public. All parties – developers, city officials, and constituents – should have an equal opportunity to participate.

One of the roles of the City Attorney is to advise the Planning Department and the Council in all legal matters. In matters of land use, my approach would be to develop a public dialogue with counsel on both sides of these land use questions. By debating these land use issues thoroughly and thoughtfully in advance with all stakeholders, we can create productive land use policy that respects the character of our neighborhoods, addresses growth in a positive, proactive manner. The result of this apporach would be land use policy that both the community and developers can respect. In situations where there is disagreement and litigation does arise, the litigation would be more focused, instead of today’s environtment, where there is litigation for litigations sake. Litigation should be the last result, not the first.

The era of policy making by litigation in LA needs to end. In these tough economic times, it is better to make policy right the first time, than waste taxpayer dollars attending to lawsuits that could have been avoided in the first place.