Making the Housing Shortage Worse

Rent ControlWe have a severe housing shortage, and last week our mayor said that he’d help make matters worse.

If Eric Garcetti gets his way, rent control could be imposed on far more apartments in Los Angeles and throughout the state. That’d be great for the few folks lucky enough to get a rent-controlled unit. It’d be bad for everybody else.

That’s not a surprising statement. Studies have shown that. Let’s look at one of the latest.

A working paper published in January by the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the effect of a 1994 ballot initiative in San Francisco that slapped rent control on smaller buildings constructed before 1980. Three economists followed what happened to those buildings and compared their fate to similar buildings constructed after 1980.

So what happened? First, there was a reduction in the number of rent-controlled units as landlords decided to convert their buildings to condos or otherwise redevelop their properties. In fact, rent-controlled buildings were 10 percent more likely than the non-rent-controlled buildings to convert, “representing a substantial reduction in the supply of rental housing,” the report said.

Second, there was a 25 percent reduction in the number of renters living in rent-controlled units compared to 1994, largely because of “landlords demolishing their old housing and building new rental housing,” the study said. “New construction is exempt from rent control.”

So there was a drop in the number of rental units as well as a decrease in the number of tenants who enjoyed rent control. No surprise there.

In short, rent control makes matters worse, which pretty much every informed person knows with the apparent exception of Garcetti. What was a teeny bit more surprising was the working paper’s assertion that rent control increased gentrification as well as worsened income inequality in the city.

How so? One of the authors of the working paper, Rebecca Diamond, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford University, was quoted as saying that rent control “pushed landlords to supply owner-occupied housing and new housing – both of which are really the types of housing consumed by rich people,” she said.

“So we’re creating a policy that tells landlords, ‘It’s much more profitable to cater to high-income housing taste than low-income housing tastes.’”

In other words, rent control makes matters much worse.

What’s particularly alarming about last week’s news is that the current move to impose more rent control would make matters even worse than you might expect. That’s because the proposed statewide ballot initiative that would roll back the Costa-Hawkins Rental Control Act (the initiative which Garcetti last week called a news conference to endorse), would not only give cities the green light to allow rent control to be slapped on apartments built after 1978, but it would take the extra step of limiting the ability of landlords to raise rents after one tenant leaves. The way it works now is that when one tenant leaves a rent-controlled unit, the rent can immediately catch up to market rates for the incoming tenant. Rent increases are limited thereafter, until that tenant leaves.

That provision alone is a killer. It would mean landlords would be doomed to falling further and further behind market rates. That means more apartment buildings would not pencil out, and landlords would rush to empty out their buildings, scrape the ground and construct something new – something that’s not an apartment building. We’d see declines much greater than 25 percent in tenants enjoying rent control.

Look, the yearning to do something is understandable. After all, rents have popped up alarmingly and even folks with good incomes are being priced out of homes. But imposing more rent control would only choke supply and make matters much worse.

The real issue is supply. If we had more construction, the shortage would eventually disappear. But for that to happen, developers need to feel confident that they can build with the certainty that they can earn enough income to pay their mortgage and other bills and get a reasonable return. Right now, they can’t. And mayoral endorsements of rent control make matters worse.

ditor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Homeless may get mobile showers at Los Angeles Metro stations

sanfranciscohomelessAs the homeless population continues to grow in Los Angeles, the agency that operates public transportation in the county is considering putting showers in or near some of its train stations in an effort to promote hygiene.

Metro’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion on Thursday following a four-month study to examine a pilot hygiene and mobile shower program, which would also examine incorporating public restrooms at all new rail stations on the system.

“I hope that when we look at this, it’s a first start, it’s about a humanitarian issue in my opinion because we do have a very diverse population that uses our rail and bus services and our hubs,” Metro Director and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis told board members.

Solis, who spearheaded the study for the pilot program, said the program would be collaborated with the Los Angeles County’s Office of Homeless Initiative, Department of Public Health, Department of Public Works, and other relevant departments. The pilot program, if adopted, would first roll out at the Westlake/MacArthur Park and North Hollywood stations. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

When do We Finally Say ‘No’ to Tolerating the Damage and Chaos of Homelessness?

What’s the best way for a free country to make decisions about how to spend tax money?

One way to do it is to hold elections to choose public officials who will make decisions on behalf of the people who elected them, then hold a fully public process to create budgets and appropriate the money that taxpayers are required to hand over.

Another way to do it is to find the people in society who are totally unable to manage their own lives and put them in charge of public spending.

That’s how we do it in California.

Our government at all levels has accepted the argument that the moment people self-identify as having “nowhere else to go,” they acquire a civil right to pitch a tent and live on public property ansanfranciscohomelessywhere, including streets, sidewalks, plazas, parks, stormwater channels and freeway embankments.

Then it’s your responsibility as a taxpayer to pay whatever it costs to mitigate the damage and clean up the chaos.

The cost is rapidly becoming incalculable, from the $17 million needed by the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation for homeless encampment cleanups, to the staggering damage from wildfires caused by cooking in the midst of dry brush, to the catastrophic toll of a hepatitis A epidemic that took 20 lives in San Diego and put hundreds of people in the hospital.

Taxpayers in Orange County are paying for month-long motel vouchers for hundreds of people as the price of reclaiming the intended public use of the Santa Ana River trail. It’s not clear what will be different in a month, but that was the deal reached in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter. He was involved because attorneys for seven homeless people filed a federal lawsuit alleging that their civil rights were violated by the eviction from the huge encampment.

Judge Carter personally walked the river trail with county and city officials to see the problem first-hand, and he acknowledged that the offer of shelter would be rejected by many. “Some who want to wander will wander,” he said.

Justice William O. Douglas said something similar in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a vagrancy law in Jacksonville, Florida. This was the text of Jacksonville’s ordinance:

“Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses [90 days imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both].”

The law was “unconstitutionally vague,” Douglas wrote for the court in Papachristou v. City Of Jacksonville, criminalizing activities that “by modern standards are normally innocent.”

The justice defended night walking. He wrote that in his personal experience, “sleepless people often walk at night, perhaps hopeful that sleep-inducing relaxation will result.”

Douglas also cited poets as authority to throw out Jacksonville’s ordinance. “Persons ‘wandering or strolling’ from place to place have been extolled by Walt Whitman and Vachel Lindsay,” Douglas wrote, “They are embedded in Walt Whitman’s writings, especially in his ‘Song of the Open Road.’ They are reflected, too, in the spirit of Vachel Lindsay’s ‘I Want to Go Wandering.’”

And that’s federal law now, if you’re wondering how we got where we are today.

No matter how much money we choose to spend on services or housing — and the tax increases are stacking up — the public has no right to demand that people get off the streets. We’ll pay for the services and housing and still have to pay for the damage and the chaos.

Eventually some city or county official will have the courage to reject a settlement in one of these lawsuits, and he or she will fight all the way to the Supreme Court in defense of the public’s right to preserve public spaces for their intended use.

By then, five of the justices may recognize that Walt Whitman didn’t write “Song of the Open Sewer.”

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

olumnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

L.A. Rolls Out The Unwelcome Mat For Trump

President Donald Trump will be met with protesters when he makes his first visit as president to the Los Angeles area Tuesday, and police said they are prepared to respond to any troubles.

“We are working with all of our local and federal partners to ensure that all security safeguards are in place for the president’s visit, both along his route of travel and at the locations where events will take place,” Los Angeles Police Department Detective Meghan Aguilar said. “We are not aware of any threats against the president’s safety.”

Aguilar said the president’s travel route, details of which are never fully disclosed for security reasons, will be set by the U.S. Secret Service. Local police generally issue an advisory to the public to alert motorists about areas to avoid during presidential visits, but those details have not yet been determined.

Trump is scheduled to fly into Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego County at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, then head to Otay Mesa to view the 30- foot-tall border wall prototypes that have been erected there. …

Click here to read the full article from the SoCal Patch

Is a California Housing Revolution on the Horizon?

HousingFrom downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, train commuters on the Expo Line journey from asphalt to ocean through some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. Each train pulls into stations of low-slung buildings that soon fade into vast expanses of single-family homes. The view from Los Angeles is hardly unique. Commuters from San Diego to the Bay Area and Sacramento see low-rise suburbs as the norm. And everything costs a fortune.

That might begin to change if the state legislature passes a bill addressing local land-use regulations. Introduced by Scott Wiener, a Harvard-educated attorney and state senator, Senate Bill 827 would effectively abolish zoning restrictions in Wiener’s district of San Francisco and for significant portions of the state’s most populous areas — and likely produce a boom in new housing construction. SB 827 sweeps away many local limits on height, density, and design within a half-mile of a train station—such as for BART or CalTrain—and within a quarter-mile of stops on high-frequency bus routes. So-called transit-rich zones would see local height limits lifted to anywhere from 45 feet to 85 feet—roughly from four to eight stories—depending on factors such as street width and station proximity. Cities could build taller, but they could not require that buildings be shorter. New projects built near transit hubs would also be exempted from minimum parking requirements. And as long as a particular project is up to code, no municipality could introduce design standards preventing developers from including the maximum number of units possible in a building.

Wiener hopes to fight sprawl by allowing Californians more opportunities to live closer to public transit, and to address climate concerns by reducing their need to drive. To Wiener, a liberal Democrat, housing is also about social justice. He believes progressives have “lost their way on housing,” as he told Forbes recently. Young people, the poor, and the elderly are demanding shelter only to find its supply limited by stringent regulations. “Gentrification is fueled by a lack of housing,” Wiener argues. “When there isn’t enough housing and rents skyrocket, landlords have an economic incentive to push out long-term renters by raising the rent or evicting them.”

Nearly a third of households in California’s metro areas can’t afford rent, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. A majority of these rent-squeezed households—some 3.7 million—are in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. In San Francisco and Oakland, even making $90,000 a year barely puts one above the affordability threshold. California’s affordability crisis is rooted in a housing crisis: not nearly enough homes are being built to keep up with demand. “We under-produce by about 100,000 housing units every year, and we have a housing debt that’s growing,” Wiener says. The most feasible way to pay off that housing debt, he believes, is to let developers build more units in concentrated areas.

Housing is the most pressing issue in California politics. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at tackling housing affordability. Senate Bill 35, for instance, forces almost all of California’s cities to approve projects that complied with current zoning rules. Another bill placed a measure on the 2018 ballot directing nearly $1 billion a year to subsidize new low-income housing. These efforts are part of a growing trend in Sacramento to preempt local restrictions on housing. Some of these measures, such as a 2016 law easing the approval of new “accessory dwelling units” statewide, appear to be working. Los Angeles is seeing a 20-fold rise in applications for these so-called “granny flats,” built in backyards or above garages.

Transit-oriented development has assumed sacred status among Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) progressives popping up across California. The ideal scenario for lowering the barriers to housing density near transit is to get more with less: more housing and affordability with less displacement and sprawl. The result is a traditional Main Street for the twenty-first century. After all, compact, mixed-use developments, accessible by foot, were the norm until the rise of the automobile and institution of zoning laws.

Building more housing is broadly popular in California. Sixty-four percent are in favor of more housing in their cities, according to a PPIC poll of the state. In San Francisco, some 70 percent support building more housing to alleviate cost burdens. Leaders in Los Angeles have formulated a plan to add 6,000 new homes within a half-mile of Expo Line stops between Culver City and Santa Monica.

Of course, building in someone else’s backyard is always more popular than construction in your own. Most instances of transit-oriented development, such as the kind that Arlington, Virginia, has pursued, take the shape of a corridor running through—but not impinging on—preexisting tracts of single-family homes. Los Angeles’s Expo Line housing plan up-zoned 250 acres while leaving the surrounding 2,000 acres of homes untouched.

Wiener’s proposal is more aggressive: it would immediately up-zone nearly all of San Francisco, as well as South Los Angeles’s sprawling landscape of single-family homes. Transit corridors in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento would be able to build for demand. Nearly 3 million housing units could be situated within a half-mile of transit hubs throughout California. With fewer permitting rules, units could be built faster and with a greater variety of housing types between a home and a high-rise.

Critics of SB 827 fear displacement. Los Angeles city councilman Paul Koretz has labeled SB 827 “devastating,” telling the Los Angeles Times that his Westside neighborhood of “little 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s single-family homes [would] look like Dubai 10 years later,” and without any public say in the matter. Damien Goodmon, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition in Los Angeles, calls the bill a “declaration of war,” seeing it as a mask for large-scale gentrification. Laying on the hyperbole, Goodmon calls Wiener “a modern-day Andrew Jackson” pushing “a legislative agenda to enact a 21st century Trail of Tears.” Housing availability does not mean housing affordability, these critics say; only subsidies and public housing can achieve that.

Wiener acknowledges that his bill is a “heavy lift and isn’t guaranteed to pass” in its current form. There will likely be revisions as it winds its way through committee, with added provisions addressing housing displacement and demolition. Observers believe that Governor Brown, in his final year in office, would likely sign such a bill if it reached his desk.  But whether it passes or not, SB 827 shifts the window of acceptable discourse dramatically in favor of market-oriented reforms of housing policy. On that basis alone, Scott Wiener has positioned himself as a visionary reformer of California’s housing crisis.

California school superintendent race: Democratic reformer vs. union ally

Marshall TuckThe 2018 race for state superintendent of public instruction may not have an incumbent but is likely to feel like an encore of the 2014 race, pitting a Democrat aligned with the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers against a Democrat who backs reforms opposed by the unions.

In 2014, Tom Torlakson – a former teacher and state lawmaker – won a second term, touting higher graduation rates and somewhat better test scores. He defeated former Los Angeles charter school executive Marshall Tuck 52 percent to 48 percent in a race in which $30 million was reportedly spent, triple the campaign spending in that year’s quiet governor’s race.

With the strong support of wealthy Los Angeles area Democrats who have been fighting for changes in L.A. Unified and who remember the job he did running Green Dot charters, Tuck is running again.

Subbing for termed-out Torlakson is Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who has worked closely with teachers unions on many fronts – most notably joining in maneuvering last summer that helped kill a tenure reform bill that had gotten off to a strong start in the Legislature. He has also opposed efforts to more closely monitor how education dollars are being spent under the Local Control Funding Formula. The law was supposed to be used specifically to help districts with high numbers of English language learners, students in foster care and students from impoverished families to improve their academic performance. But civil rights groups say the extra dollars often have been used for general spending, including for teacher raises.

Thurmond was also among lawmakers who expressed interest in helping teachers deal with California’s high housing costs, proposing legislation to award $100 million in rental grants to teachers in need. It didn’t advance.

Tuck may have better shot than when he challenged incumbent

The conventional wisdom is that Tuck has a better chance than in 2014 because Thurmond has much lower name recognition than Torlakson. But that could be erased with a heavy television ad run by the teachers unions using the same anti-Tuck themes as in 2014: Making the argument that the charter schools he led are part of a corporate scheme to take over public education.

If Tuck, 44, gets his way, the debate will focus on his reform agenda – the idea that charters serve as healthy competition for regular schools; the need for much better oversight of how the Local Control Funding Formula is used; adopting teacher tenure reform; and accountability standards that make it easier to judge whether a school is improving.

Thurmond’s website emphasizes his view of California educators doing battle with President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over what he describes as their intent to “gut” and “defund our public schools.” Thurmond, 49, a military veteran who was a social worker before running for office, also said teachers need “bonuses and other incentives” to address the shortage of qualified instructors.

Complicating the Tuck-Thurmond race is the likelihood that for the first time in the 21st century, a prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidate is running as an anti-union reformer – which could make schools a more prominent issue in the 2018 election cycle than is normal.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who repeatedly tangled with the United Teachers Los Angeles while seeking authority over L.A. Unified, has already won the endorsement of the state Democratic lawmaker recognized as the leader of education reform efforts: Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego.

The CTA endorsed Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the governor’s race and Thurmond for superintendent in October. The CFT did as well in December.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Could oil firms be forced to pay for climate change in California?

Porter Ranch gas leakThe Bay Area city of Richmond recently made an unlikely move that got the attention of its largest employer and taxpayer, Chevron.

It followed other municipalities and counties across California that have filed lawsuits against oil companies, alleging that the energy giants knowingly contributed to climate change and should begin paying for it. Literally.

Employing the legal strategy that brought states major payouts from tobacco companies decades ago, the plaintiffs are demanding that oil interests begin writing checks to protect Californians against rising seas, crippling drought and harmful air.

The legal viability of the lawsuits is unclear; the cases are in early stages. But if any succeed, the implications are profound: The state is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up coastlines, protect infrastructure and retrofit roads and bridges in response to rising seas. And if companies are persuaded to drill and refine less oil, California has a much better chance of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions on the schedule it has set.

Besides Richmond, plaintiffs include the cities of Imperial Beach, Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Francisco and the counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz. The Los Angeles City Council is considering its own suit.

 The state has not joined in, something environmental groups say is a failure of leadership.

“Accountability is critical,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state of California can and should file a case seeking money damages and also an injunction against ongoing activities.”

The California Department of Justice has sued the Trump administration two dozen times over policies that include several related to the environment. Asked whether the state would join the cities and counties or consider filing its own suit against the oil companies, the Justice Department declined to comment about potential future action.

The city-county suits began six months ago when Imperial Beach, in southern San Diego County, sued a handful of oil companies. Richmond, surrounded on three sides by water and imperiled by rising seas, joined the fight Jan. 22. Its city council voted unanimously to sue 29 oil producers, even if it meant taking on Chevron, whose tax payments—$45 million in 2016—account for 25 percent of the city’s general fund.

“They are a pretty important corporate citizen,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

However, “we are a waterfront city—Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline on the Bay. Part of our city is vulnerable to sea-level rise: our transportation systems, neighborhoods and commercial areas and thousands of acres of waterfront park.”

Among those vulnerable venues is Chevron’s refinery, which sits at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Completed in 1902, this refinery, the state’s largest, was immediately dubbed “the colossus.” The facility today employs more than 3,400 people.

Leah Casey, the spokeswoman for Chevron’s Richmond refinery, said in a statement that lawsuits like the local ones “will do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement.”

Butt said the city sued “out of frustration, because I know that these fossil fuel companies are aware of the long-term costs and damage of the widespread consumption of fossil fuel.” He said Richmond was already planning for the sea’s rise but had not yet calculated mitigation costs.

The suits are filed in state court under California’s public-nuisance law, which allows legal actions against activities that are “injurious to health.”

New York City filed a similar claim against five of the world’s largest oil companies in federal court, asking that the cost of mitigating damage done by the companies as a result of their contribution to climate change be charged to them.

The legal challenges also assert that the oil industry has known for decades that burning fossil fuels accelerates climate change. The Richmond complaint states, “The industry has known for decades that business-as-usual combustion of their products could be ‘severe’ or even ‘catastrophic.’

“Companies were so certain of the threat that some even took steps to protect their own assets from rising seas and more extreme storms,” the complaint goes on, “and they developed new technologies to profit from drilling in a soon-to-be-ice-free Arctic. Yet instead of taking steps to reduce the threat to others, the industry actually increased production while spending billions on public relations, lobbying, and campaign contributions to hide the truth.”

The slow unraveling of the decades-long industry cover-up of the medical harm from cigarettes turned the tide in the tobacco cases, according to Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

Carlson, who is advising some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said that courts will take into account the oil-industry-funded campaign to discredit climate science.

“That matters in California,” she said. “If you can show evidence that a defendant engaged in a campaign to obfuscate, it’s more than just a nice detail. Evidence helps.”

With much at stake, oil companies are pushing back hard. ExxonMobil has responded with a demand to depose lawyers representing the California cities and counties.

The company says it is a victim of a conspiracy and cities and counties are being disingenuous: When they issue municipal bonds, they portray risk from climate change as unpredictable, not the fault of oil firms, as the lawsuits claim.

The companies have also filed motions to move the cases to federal courts, where they believe there are precedents more favorable to them.

The number of the legal claims intended to monetize the consequences of a warming planet is growing. Carlson said greater scientific certainty about attributing climate change impacts to specific industries and companies has created a legal opening.

“The courts were uncomfortable that they couldn’t trace the harm,” she said.

California is the epicenter of so-called climate-attribution science, said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“There’s really a quite robust ability to characterize the extent to which climate change impacts have worsened,” he said.

Further, by collating data taken from oil companies’ annual accounting and national and international energy agencies’ reports, “one can then connect the dots and assign a cost. That tees up the question, ‘Who is responsible and who should pay?’ ” Frumhoff said.

“This is where the science is taking us, with increasing specificity and confidence.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Los Angeles Homeless Solutions Needed Now

homelessDecember marked a milestone in Los Angeles’ homelessness efforts when City and civic leaders gathered to break ground on the first Proposition HHH housing project for the homeless.  Approved in November 2016 by more than 76 percent of Angelenos, HHH authorized $1.2 billion over 10 years to construct 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing in the City of L.A.

In March 2017, voters again showed their urgency for solutions by approving Measure H, a county-wide quarter cent sales tax to bring in more than $300 million over 10 years for wrap-around supportive services for the homeless.  The last count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), showed that homeless residents in the city exceed 34,000, and the county total exceeds 57,000.

It is now clear that finding funding for our homeless crisis may have been the easy part. We don’t just need money. We need policy changes, political will and neighborhood support.

To deliver on the promise of Proposition HHH to build 10,000 units of housing for the homeless in the City of L.A., advocates of HHH have proposed a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance to remove unnecessary barriers and red tape in the approval process. The ordinance ensures that projects fit within the surrounding community and follow existing zoning requirements. By amending planning regulations to speed up the process and address the specific needs of PSH units (such as requiring fewer parking spots), this ordinance can save up to a million dollars on each project and enable more housing units to be built throughout the community.

Another less expensive and faster solution to house homeless individuals is the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, which would aid in the transition of motel rooms into temporary or permanent homes. According to a report by the Planning Department, there are approximately 10,259 guest rooms in 382 motels that could be eligible for conversion if the owners are interested in the program.

Both of these proposals passed the City Planning Commission in December. They were heard in the City’s Homeless & Housing Committee a couple weeks ago, where Councilmembers requested report backs on a number of technical issues and emphasized the need for geographic equity. We urge members of the City Council to move forward on both of these policies, and to actively support specific projects in their individual districts.

The 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count took place last week and we expect the total count to go up. It is no longer acceptable for any of us to say, “I support projects to house the homeless, just not THIS project in my neighborhood or community.” The only way to dramatically impact our homelessness crisis is for every neighborhood in the City of L.A. and every community in the County of L.A. to be part of the solution.

resident & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Making housing more expensive to build won’t make it more affordable

Housing apartmentOnly a politician could believe that making housing more expensive to build will create more affordable housing.

But in Los Angeles, that’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are asserting. In December, they approved a new “linkage fee” on new development aimed at raising $100 million per year toward a goal of building 1,500 units of new affordable housing annually.

Don’t bother with the math. They didn’t.

The idea of a linkage fee, which exists in some other cities, is to get money from developers whose projects will displace residents in existing housing or generate a need for additional housing, something that could happen if a new workplace was built.

Hardly anybody is building a new workplace in Los Angeles unless it has a drive-through, but play along.

The “linkage fee” in Los Angeles won’t specifically be linked to the impact from a project. It’s simply a new fee for building in the city.

The early draft of the linkage fee, which has been on Mayor Garcetti’s wish-list since 2015, would have imposed the same fee for similar developments regardless of where they were located in the city. But some council members objected to the one-size-fits-all charge.

So the final version divides the city into “high-market” areas like downtown, Venice and Brentwood, and “low-market” areas like South Los Angeles.

The linkage fee for office, hotel, retail and other commercial buildings is $3 per square foot in low-market areas, $5 per square foot in high-market areas.

For residential developments, the fee is even higher: $8 per square foot in a low-market area, $15 per square foot in a high-market area.

The money will go into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and city officials say they’ll spend it to build hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the number of Los Angeles residents who are in need of affordable housing is in the tens of thousands, and those are just the people sleeping on the sidewalks.

Meanwhile, the cost of all other new housing will go up, because developers have to pay these huge new linkage fees just to be allowed to build it.

There are two ways that residential developers can avoid the fees. One is by reserving a percentage of units in their projects for low-income renters. The other option, which is also available to developers of commercial projects, is to get out of Los Angeles and build somewhere else.

Many cities in the Southern California region don’t have linkage fees and don’t treat the construction of a commercial or residential building as a sin that requires some sort of political or financial penance.

In some places, local governments even offer incentives for developers and businesses, to encourage building and hiring.

That’s rare in Los Angeles, where the breathtaking decay of the city is considered incentive enough.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office has done extensive research into the problem of housing affordability in California, including a detailed report released in the spring of 2016 titled, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing.”

“The scope of the problem is massive,” the report said, “Millions of Californians struggle to find housing that is both affordable and suits their needs. The crisis also is a long time in the making, the culmination of decades of shortfalls in housing construction. And just as the crisis has taken decades to develop, it will take many years or decades to correct. There are no quick and easy fixes.”

The LAO concluded that while “affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs.”

To build public-subsidized affordable housing for the 1.7 million low-income California households that spend more than half their income on rent would cost more than $250 billion, by the LAO’s estimate.

But the problem is not just math, it’s logic. When it becomes more expensive to build housing, then less housing is built, and what is built is more expensive.

The LAO report said the real solution is more housing construction, and the scale of the problem can only be matched by privately built, market-rate housing.

“Doing so will require policy makers to revisit long-standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes,” the report concluded.

So there really is something the government can do about housing affordability. It can get out of the way.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

L.A. County Wastes Nearly Half-Billion Dollars on ‘Trash Train’ That Hasn’t Left the Station

They call it the trash train, billed as the answer to a waste disposal crisis looming in the late 1980s and ’90s that, if left unaddressed, would leave tons of garbage rotting on Los Angeles County streets.

But the crisis never materialized: Literally and metaphorically, no train has ever left the station. A reduction in municipal waste tonnage from increased recycling, combined with a plethora of nearby landfills with decades of remaining space, have made an empty remote landfill at the end of the line unnecessary, placing the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County’s expensive trash train project on hold indefinitely.

Also known as waste-by-rail, the trash train will not leave the San Gabriel Valley for the desert — or anywhere else for that matter — until at least 2027, and maybe even later, said Chuck Boehmke, head of the districts’ solid waste management department, during a recent interview from the Districts’ North Whittier headquarters. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Daily News