Slapping the Electorate around – Planning and Transportation Held Hostage

DEVELOPMENT HELL-The adult mind, the educated mind, and the organized mind has no trouble figuring out that when asking for the will and money of the electorate, you don't slap that electorate in the face.  

To be certain, Mayor Garcetti is more affable, more invested, and more politically savvy than his predecessor. But all the smiles, handshakes, town halls, and political gestures doesn't take away from the reality that -- in fact, his constituents are being slapped around, shaken down, and tapped out while being asked to pay more and do more for their basic City services. 

I certainly think that Eric Garcetti cares about the plight of the average Angelino more than did his predecessor. Antonio Villaraigosa had tower fever and was more than willing to send the citizenry (and even the representative Councilmembers) straight to Hades if a developer/political donor wanted to build a mega-development with no infrastructure or environmental considerations to justify it. 

"Overriding considerations" was a Planning term we all saw used in the case of the Casden development when Expo Line supporters and opponents alike stood shoulder to shoulder in opposition to it on the Westside. This term, translated into English, is effectively a middle finger to the will of the taxpaying citizenry, environmental science, the laws of physics, and common sense -- but is still being practiced today. 

A proposed mega-development, next to the future Bundy/Olympic Expo Line station, has been insufficiently vetted, lacks consensus and appropriate mitigations, requires a slew of variances all while being shoved through Planning in the dead of the holiday night. Even local Westside Councilmember Bonin, a big fan of transit-oriented development, opposes the project as is. He was similarly caught off-guard. 

So as the insults, rape and pillage of taxpaying Angelinos continue unabated, here's a few suggestions to moor moving forward together. They are offered with  kindness, compromise, recognizing the need for all of us to stand up and do right -- and with the understanding that Majority Rule remains the law in our city, state, and nation: 

1)    Whether it's Charter Reform or Mayoral insistence to implement this practice, I am suggesting that proper fiscal dealings be done with Neighborhood Council representatives in the room. 

2)    When it involves City budgeting and resources, the NC reps should be there in equal numbers and representation along with the developers, private interests, lobbying groups, or public sector employee unions. 

3)    Measure "R-2" involves more sales taxes and spending on transportation projects. Mayor Garcetti’s excellent outreach to the South Bay, the San Gabriel Valley and to Southeast LA County Cities should be continued. Similarly, the connection of the Green Line to the Metrolink network is one that can and should be done with cooperation and funding from the local cities, as well as with Orange and Riverside County transportation boards. (And don't let Metro pass any Eastside Gold Line project until Metro Rail and Metrolink are similarly linked!)

4)    If we want to please the majority, and create a first-rate bicycle network, don't let major projects like the Expo Bikeway lose a valuable connection because of a few neighbors.  

5)    There are reasonable concerns and mitigations to be addressed and done, but a public right of way and public easement is just that – public -- and a lopsided battle overwhelmingly opposed by the general public should be treated as such. We already have an at-grade/street level Expo Line crossing at Overland because a few locals misguided and misled their neighbors against a proper rail bridge there; we don't need to repeat the mistake with the Bikeway. 

6)    Whether it's the Save Valley Village effort or the efforts of the rest of the Westside to avoid the rape and pillage that is going on in Del Rey, under the guise of "affordable housing." A similarly lopsided battle of the community against a few inappropriately-powered developers should also be ruled in favor of the majority. Compromise is a great thing, of course, but mitigations and right-sizing remain common sense. 

7)    Right now it's very hard for Angelenos to figure out if they should spend their money on efforts like Save Valley Village or the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative or on Measure R-2. But Planning, the City Council, and the Downtown crowd are making it easier for citizens and taxpayers to spend money on the lawyers who will actually represent their interests. 

I give Mayor Garcetti and the City Council about three months to come up with a counterproposal of decades-overdue City budgeting and planning reforms, or else the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will pass with all the intensity of the legendary Proposition 13. And Measure R-2 will be threatened if not eliminated from passing at a time when we need more money for transportation operations, new rail and bus lines, and a 2024 Olympics. 

Three months to stop slapping the bejeezus out of City (and, by extension, County) taxpayers who are seeing their taxes, their utility rates (which, in effect, are just more taxes), and user fees continue to go up while fiscal discipline and prudence go down. 

Mayor Garcetti and the Downtown crowd have done a few things right for which they sincerely deserve credit. However, if they do not pull off the right reforms within three months, they may discover that it is no longer the voters and taxpayers who are the April fools -- but rather the Downtown "leadership" who will feel like fools come this November.


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member 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 CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected].   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.






Vol 14 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 15, 2016