LA City Planning Message to the People and the Pols: Drop Dead, WE Know Better

DEPARTURES - In the City of Los Angeles, most of us ordinary citizens are just trying to survive as best we can.  Hanging on by our fingernails as we balance jobs, finances, family and community, our days are exhausting and our nights are replete with homework, bills and “keeping up” with e-mails and personal projects. 

So along comes City Planning with a report that supports a “new and improved” Casden Sepulveda project, which the general public has NOT seen, and which makes it clear that those developing this project are more valued stakeholders than the totality of the Westside neighborhood councils, residents and even City Councilmembers who unanimously oppose this project as is. 


The City Planning report, which describes a Casden Sepulveda project likely to have far-reaching negative impacts on the Westside, came out shortly before an upcoming City Planning Commission hearing addressing the project on February 28th that meets in the Valley City Hall during daytime hours—which is probably great for the developers, but a nightmare for impacted Westside residents. 

If this isn’t a form of bureaucratic tyranny and favoritism, then I don’t know what is.  Tyranny and favoritism enacted not by the Casden developers (although clearly their overriding and advantageous influence is evident), but tyranny and favoritism enacted by LA City Planning. 

The message from City Planning:  Yes, allowing this project with major zone changes and variances has major traffic and densification changes to this region of the Westside compared to projects that stay within zoning codes, but…hey, this region is going to mega-densify and become choked in traffic, anyway, so that’s not the developers’ fault—that’s the City’s problem and responsibility. 

The other message from City Planning:  We don’t need any Community Plans that you’ve been begging for, and which are legally required in the City Charter, and which the Neighborhood Councils and community groups have been meeting for on a volunteer basis for years—we’ll make our own rules as we go along, as we see fit, because WE know better. 

And yet a third message from City Planning:  For those of you who thought the Expo Line was going to fit into the community (and not transform it), and for those of you who recognize that smaller and appropriate densification works great for a passenger rail line with a much smaller capacity than the future Wilshire Subway, GO DROP DEAD.  This is OUR land, OUR project and OUR region…not yours. 

Finally, a fourth message from City Planning:  There are no legal or health liabilities on the part of the City to have children grow up underneath a freeway, and there’s no reality to West LA becoming a group of affordable housing “projects” to serve the commercial centers of Santa Monica.  We’ll scrap whatever industrial or commercial land is left and do whatever we want.  WE know better, and it’s OUR land. 

Considering that the Casden developers certainly submitted and presented their new project (whatever that is) to City Planning, and that the same City Councilmembers, Neighborhood Councils and community groups who opposed the original project did not see the new project prior to the City Planning report, the question of the legality of this report MUST be raised. 

The Planning report favoring this new project (sans photos or diagrams) came out right before President’s Day Weekend, describes less commercial space but approximately 100 new residential units.  There are fewer parking spaces, accordingly, but this phenomenon is consistent with a ridiculously-outdated City policy that includes senior affordable housing to be assigned half a space for each unit. 

There is a recommendation for the developers to work with the Expo Authority for the Exposition/Sepulveda Expo Line station, but unless the Casden Sepulveda developers have suddenly changed their tune, they HAVE NOT, and DO NOT talk to the Expo Authority! 

It’s likely that the freeway-adjacent future Expo/Sepulveda station next to the Casden Sepulveda project will attract commuters from the Westside, Valley and South Bay, but the parking structure for this station is on Metro property across the street (and is at serious risk of being utilized by residents and visitors for the Casden project). 

This Metro parking structure, which will certainly be insufficient to serve the needs for this station, has no planned supplemental parking facility from the Casden developers, and all planned structural accommodations of the Casden project for Expo Line riders are predicated on nebulous verbal promises from the Casden developers for two reasons: 

1) The Casden developers are focusing ONLY on their profits, and NOT what’s good for the City of Los Angeles, Metro, or this region of LA County—any mitigations will be those they’re dragged into, despite pleas for assistance from the Expo Authority and Councilmembers Koretz and Rosendahl for years. 

2) This is NOT a transit-oriented project, it’s NEVER been a transit-oriented project, and it remains an AUTOMOBILE-ORIENTED project that even City Planning acknowledges will have significant and unmitigable impacts on over two dozen major regional intersections. 

But the Casden developers, connected and savvy as they are, sang the siren’s song of “affordable housing” and “transit-oriented development” long enough for City Planning to buy Casden’s bill of goods, and enable the Casden developers to build even MORE housing and even LESS parking and create a Westside Jordan Downs Project” adjacent to a freeway--which is everything the Westside doesn’t need. 

And to those who fought for the Expo Line to actually reduce traffic and make West LA more livable, and to those who fight for truly-affordable housing and commercial/residential development in the right locations, and to those who believe in the rule of law, Community Plans and the City Charter? 

To those City Councilmembers and their staffs, to those Neighborhood Councils and community groups who regularly work and meet with Metro and the LADOT and City Planning…and who wanted a jobs center and Westside Regional Transportation Center at this site (consistent with current zoning) to build the local economy and coordinate traffic and commutes? 

Well, a handful of City Planners, led by Michael LoGrande, have decided to tell them and us all that THEY know better, and that our concerns about rules and laws being broken, to create a traffic-choking “Westside Jordan Downs Project” which will drastically and negatively impact regional access to the Expo Line, are too brushed aside. 

Brushed aside and confirmed far away in the Valley during daytime hours to minimize the access and ability for those of us neighborhood volunteers (even elected Neighborhood Councilmembers) with jobs and family to work with our Councilmembers and the Expo Authority to have a role in this project and its many zoning changes and variances (normally to be approved by impacted Neighborhood Councils!). 

Message received, Mr. LoGrande et al from City Planning:  THIS will be the new future of Community Plans and City Planning Policy.  YOU know better, this is YOUR land, and any and all elected City and Neighborhood Councilmembers can all go DROP DEAD!  

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected] This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)  



Vol 11 Issue 15

Pub: Feb 19, 2013