By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The City Council approved the measure’s wording early last July, but it’s been so far below the radar that it only recently came to public attention as watchdogs began to assess the consequences of ending 35 years of city policy with a single vote.
“I don’t understand why this wasn’t called back for a public hearing after the council approved it for a ballot measure,” O’Sullivan says. “It just seems like there was no public debate at all on this until about a month ago.”
Garcetti denies he took a low-profile approach in order to minimize public discussion.
“There were five opportunities for public discussion of Prop. B,” he says. “Three in [City Council] committee and two in front of the [full] City Council. The public had several bites at that apple. There’s no conspiracy of silence here.” He insists that it is rare to hold a public hearing on a single ballot issue, regardless of its gravity.
Garcetti passes the buck to some degree, telling the Weekly that the ballot language — silent on the fact that voters would be repealing height and size limits — was recommended by unnamed city staffers. “It came from the city’s administrative staff,” he says. “Every single time we asked about it, this was their recommendation.”
Because this major wording change went unnoticed by the media and the public, O’Sullivan said, he and other critics had no warning that such significant changes were coming.
The July media coverage of the seemingly dull issue by the Daily News (most media missed it, including the Weekly) was ambiguous, with a headline suggesting that the city was pursuing new “limits,” when, in fact, Prop. B asks for a repeal of limits, yet doesn’t say so.
In early July, the day after the council approved Prop. B as a routine agenda item, the Daily News headline read simply: “Housing Limits Go on Los Angeles Ballot.” The Daily News got it wrong again on October 29, accepting the false spin that state housing officials ordered the end to Los Angeles' low-income housing size and height limits.
Jose Aguilar, a community advocate from Boyle Heights, thinks the money will be diverted to other projects. “It’s another bait and switch from the City Council,” he said. “The money could go to things like the Grand Avenue project.”
And 80-year-old Juanita Dellomes, speaking for Chapter 3686 of the AARP, says her group opposes Prop B. “They’re going to use it to displace seniors,” she says. “And a lot of those seniors are going to be women.”
Garcetti says they have it wrong. He guaranteed that all state money coming from passage of Prop. B would go to low-income and senior housing.
He insists that Prop. B’s passage would not be used to divert 2006 Affordable Housing Trust Fund money to enhance the Grand Avenue luxury-hotel project, Figueroa Corridor street-scaping upgrade or other controversial nonhousing projects.
Garcetti insists that, “By law, every dollar we get has to go to affordable housing.” And he adds, repeatedly, “No increase in density, no cost to the taxpayers.”
Sin of Omission
2008: Proposition B quietly removes citywide height and size limits on low-income housing. But in the ballot language, the L.A. City Council omits all indications that a yes vote wipes out existing limits on poverty housing.
1980: Voters approve a new low-income housing height limit of two stories, and a new limit of 30 low-income units per project, to avoid clustering the poor, passing Proposition J and Proposition K.
1977: Voters approve a citywide limit of 5 units of low-inc ome housing per project to avoid clustering the poor, passing Proposition A and Proposition B.
Source: L.A. City Council, File 08-1503
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