By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Gnaizda and other housing advocates support modifying Proposition 13, and he criticizes business groups that rally to block such a move.
But, in an example of the political realignment taking place over affordable housing, the Greenlining Institute is staunchly pro-business when it comes to development. The group — which includes representatives of big banks and builders — says there is too much red tape. It’s time to return to the free market.
"California is legendary for government regulations," Gnaizda complains. "It costs $100,000 more to build a home here than in Arizona."
Then there are the environmentalists.
"I’m in favor of environmental protections," Gnaizda insists. "But not for the salamander or the fairy shrimp. Not at the expense of people."
Reyes, joined by Councilman Eric Garcetti, is trying to support a new environmental paradigm to appeal to the Latinos who live by the river or in areas in which the urban forestry group Northeast Trees is active. It’s a hard sell, though. "Latinos aren’t tree huggers," one frustrated activist confides.
As for the free market, Reyes and his supporters don’t believe it alone can solve the L.A. housing crisis.
On the council floor, Reyes has wavered between impatience and outrage at his colleagues as they express reservations over mandatory inclusionary zoning. At one point a year ago, he appeared to have brokered a deal to bring hearings on "IZ" and other affordable-housing strategies to every council district, and Tom LaBonge’s mostly wealthy 4th District was to be first. But LaBonge later demurred, and the agreement collapsed. So did activists’ hopes to bring IZ to an early vote.
"Guys like Tom LaBonge, if they could, they would be riding around here on their horses with their cowboy hats on," Reyes mused later. "You know, old school, ‘White is right and we’ll take care of our little brothers.’"
That comment aside, Reyes insists he no longer is motivated by anger, but by his vision of a city serving all its people.
"My anger days, my chip-on-my-shoulder days, faded away a long time ago," he says. "I don’t walk around contemplating the injustices to people in our community. Because I just wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning."
In 1988, Reyes was a fledglingassistant planner who had just returned home from Northern California to sign on with the department. For a young Latino urbanist from Cypress Park with a UCLA master’s degree, it was an era of excitement and possibility, brought on in part by the remade 1st District and his new City Council representative, Gloria Molina.
Reyes was Cypress Park all the way. Even today, he lets drop, as he passes by a particular street corner, "We used to hang out here." Or, in fact, "I was hit by a car in this intersection," and "My brother was shot here."
Cypress Park was high-crime and high-neglect, but Reyes believed he was coming home to make a difference through urban planning.
Then there came one particular staff meeting at which the manager started mimicking Molina. "He imitated her, how she would posture herself and walk back and forth," Reyes recalls. "I think there was a level of ridiculing her, that was for sure. It was just a mockery of her directives."
Reyes was shocked. Is this what we do? he asked his colleagues. Is this how we operate? What’s going on here? He complained to his supervisor, but he didn’t have much standing. He was already assigned to a desk that was stuffed in a closet.
"No, really," Reyes says. "I kid you not. In a closet. The closet door was here" — Reyes reaches in front of him to illustrate the complicated arrangement — "and when they closed it, I could get in and out. When they opened it, I would be stuck in there."
An assistant planner who was hired later — "an Anglo guy," Reyes points out — got a real cubicle, with a real desk. Reyes asked about it. He was branded a troublemaker, and before long he lost his spot in City Hall and was assigned to the field, where his job was to count mailboxes.
"They’re pretty mean people," Reyes says of his supervisors at the time, noting that most of them are still there.
He avoids naming names. But two of the top three deputies to Planning Director Con Howe — Franklin P. Eberhard and Robert H. Sutton — were there in Reyes’ time. In fact, Eberhard has retired, but continues to help lead the department, drawing both a pension and contract pay.
Problems in the Planning Department predated Howe, who was still in New York during Reyes’ tenure. But Reyes already knew he had to get out.
"I had been doing so much work, it got to the point where I started getting other people’s binders, because they were taking off," Reyes says. "In the middle of the day. Going to the movies. Bragging about how they could be at home. Taking care of their business. The guy that ragged about it the most, I ended up doing his work. And when I saw that, that really pissed me off. Because the accountability wasn’t there."