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
For his part, Yaroslavsky in 1998 led a successful ballot effort that stopped local sales taxes from being used on the increasingly pricey subway being built under Hollywood. He instead pushed to use those funds for non-subway transit projects.*
Longtime Westsiders remember it was Yaroslavsky who ushered through the huge expansion of the Westside Pavilion in 1986, despite community outrage over gridlock. Developer Gilmore is one of many pro-growthers who blame "Zev" for so disrupting the old mass-transit scheme that today the Westside is "incredibly dense" and has "the worst traffic in the city," but Yaroslavsky tires of getting blamed for inevitable development pressures in his former Council District 5.
It is, after all, some of the city's priciest and most sought-after housing real estate, running from Palms to Encino and including Westwood and UCLA. It's something of a City Hall tradition to blame Yaroslavsky: Even back in 1987, Mayor Tom Bradley's spokesman Fred MacFarlane, in The New York Times, blamed the congestion on him. In the same story, an L.A. businessman noted, "Right now, any slow-growth candidate who does not get arrested for molesting children can get elected." But how times have changed.
Yaroslavsky counters today's dominant voice of pro-growthers in City Hall by saying that had he not halted the $300-million-per-mile subway, Los Angeles could never have afforded to create the popular Orange Line bus lanes in the Valley or the Gold Line light rail from downtown to Pasadena. Sounding like the old Yaroslavsky, he tells the Weekly, "In all corners of the city, a revolution is brewing against the pack mentality at City Hall."
One of the issues that most sticks in his craw is the aforementioned SB 1818 Implementation Ordinance. Not exactly a household phrase, the ordinance lets developers build new apartment buildings 35 percent larger than the protective local zoning allows — if developers agree to include some below-market "affordable" units in these buildings.
But does it actually produce cheaper housing — its main aim? Yaroslavsky points to a development on Sepulveda in Westwood where a developer wiped out 31 apartments rented mostly to UCLA students for $1,500, erecting 59 condos with mortgages of about $3,000 a month. He recalls scornfully, "The developer says to me, 'Those [$1,500-a-month] units weren't affordable anyway.'" Yaroslavsky retorted, "How many of those students can afford your condos after they graduate?" And the trend is spreading. In Miracle Mile, he says, "On Ridgeley and Sixth, there's four parcels of rent-controlled units. One day I'm jogging there, and they're gone!"
Under the SB 1818 Implementation Ordinance, the now-destroyed lower-cost apartments on Ridgeley and Sixth can be replaced with a luxury tower that ignores low-growth zoning — as long as the owner agrees to rent 10 to 20 percent of the apartments at "affordable" prices. The developer can now charge the current market rate (of about $2,300 a month for a two-bedroom apartment) for the rest of the units he builds at Ridgeley and Sixth — far higher than the rents in the now-destroyed building, and enough for a mortgage in most cities.
Fumes Yaroslavsky of this "affordable" housing, "The whole thing's a fraud. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Yaroslavky's passion dates from the mid-'80s, when homeowners associations howled at a wave of construction from Hauser Boulevard to La Brea Avenue on both sides of Sixth Street in Miracle Mile that destroyed beloved, picturesque Spanish Colonial rentals boasting wrought-iron staircases, cozy alcoves and tile work from the 1920s.
The Bradley administration's urbanization frenzy ushered in shoddy, higher-density, four- and five-story apartment blocks with quickly decaying stucco veneers that looked like they'd been airlifted from Beirut. Indignation generated a wave of grassroots activism. Groups such as the Detroit Street Coalition and Not Yet New York pressured avidly pro-growth City Council President John Ferraro, and Bradley, to protect neighborhoods.
Angry citizens won a huge victory with approval of 35 legally binding land-use plans citywide, now known as "Community Plans." Largely shaped by residents, Community Plans made it harder for developers to roll through medium-density neighborhoods such as Miracle Mile. Community Plans protected the suburban character of low-density areas being eyed by developers near big streets like Florence, Reseda, Vanowen, La Brea and South Broadway.
But here's the clincher: SB 1818 trumps restrictions built into the Community Plans because it's state law. Each Community Plan is slowly being revisited by the Planning Department in negotiations among homeowners, renters, business owners and city planners, so that neighborhoods conform to projected growth. Right now, 12 city planners (plus support staff) are redoing a big batch of Community Plans including Boyle Heights, Central City, Granada Hills, Hollywood, San Pedro, South Central (redubbed Southeast), South L.A., Sunland-Tujunga, Sylmar, West Adams, West L.A. and Westlake.
In this top-down process, the Planning Department contacts each affected neighborhood council (after notifying the City Council member who oversees that neighborhood) that changes are in the wind — usually to densify the neighborhood.
Some areas face unusually dramatic growth, not because their Community Plan calls for it, but because city planners got $1 million from the prodevelopment Southern California Association of Governments, combined with Proposition A transportation funds and property taxes, to research and plan extremely dense new neighborhoods near train stations in mostly poor areas along Exposition Boulevard in South Los Angeles, along Soto and Indiana streets on the Eastside, and near Gold Line stations in Chinatown, Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park.