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
No one has been more outspoken on IZ than the Los Angeles chapter of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or its spokeswoman on housing affairs, Alvivon Hurd, known by friends and foes alike as Bon Bon.
An irreverent and outspoken activist, Hurd has led noisy demonstrations in favor of mandatory IZ on the City Hall steps, through the lobby of the decidedly exclusive Orsini apartment complex, and on the vacant site of the next Orsini phase. She and her yellow-shirted cohorts show up at housing conferences and in City Council chambers. Inclusionary zoning is needed, she says, and only fair.
"Look at downtown," Hurd said outside a housing summit at UCLA. "Suddenly, everyone wants to live downtown. All these young white people want to be there instead of in the suburbs. They’re building all these new places, Medici, Orsini. Do you think any of us can afford to live there? These people" — she pointed to her companions in the yellow shirts — "they clean up after these rich people, they wash their cars and take care of their children. But when they go home, they don’t want us around. Now what would you call that? I don’t want to call it racist. But what would you call it?"
Housing was a major theme of the 2001 mayoral election as candidates parried over the wisdom of a $100 million trust fund to spur development of affordable units. James Hahn signed on, and when he was elected he started cobbling together funds from various sources. The $100 million mark hasn’t been hit, for the simple reason that the money is being spent the way it should — on affordable housing.
The fund is a crucial part of any affordable development. It’s hard to get a loan for pre-development costs like negotiating entitlements when banks don’t know if you will be blocked by City Hall red tape or angry neighbors. It’s even harder for affordable projects, which have a much smaller profit margin and little wiggle room. The fund helps projects jump that first hurdle.
But affordable-housing projects are going up without mandatory inclusionary zoning, and Hahn is skeptical of IZ. "He opposes what’s currently on the table," Deputy Mayor Renata Simril said. "He is worried that it sends the wrong message to the development community."
The mayor may have a point. Incentives (and soaring prices) have shaken up the housing market in L.A. In Hahn’s first year in office, the city issued permits for 5,635 new units. Last year it was 10,631. This year, Simril said, the city is on pace to give out 12,000. But of course, less than half of those will be offered below market rate.
As the March elections grow closer, Reyes and Garcetti have had trouble getting the crucial eighth vote for success in the City Council. But intense negotiations are under way, and scuttlebutt around City Hall is that the motion promised nearly two years ago may come to the floor before Thanksgiving.
Will it satisfy Bon Bon Hurd and ACORN? It can’t possibly. Not if it makes enough compromises to get the business lobby, and the council members it supports, onboard. It will be a start, though, and, perhaps most important, a product of an unprecedented civic conversation about the landscape of the future.