When city council members introduce new motions on specific topics, the action launches a study and discussion process that can result at some point down the line in new laws and official city positions. At yesterday’s City Council meeting, there were two motions introduced on topics of interest to many of our local residents, which may or may not lead eventually to more definitive action.
New Help for City Sidewalks?
First, while city residents have been complaining for years about our failing sidewalks, the city’s budget and maintenance resources have proved inadequate to solve the growing problems. But the coming 2028 Olympics may provide an additional incentive for the city to spruce up its infrastructure, including its failing sidewalks.
In a motion introduced yesterday, Council Members Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino noted that ” integral aspects of our infrastructure are not ready to handle the influx that the Olympics will bring”…and that “nearly 40% percent of our City streets have a D or F rating and more than 8,700 lane miles of streets in the City need rehabilitation.”
To help prepare the city for that influx of visitors and attention, the Council Members suggested that new polices such as the City’s recently adopted sidewalk repair plan, along with funds made available through the recently-passed Measure M and Senate Bill 1, might be able to “expedite massive infrastructure projects in a more efficient and cost saving manner.”
Their motion asks the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer to study and report back on how those programs could be used to fast-track sidewalk repairs over the next 10 years.
Another big topic for residents in our area is the increasing densification of the city, a process which would become much more rapid if a recent California State Senate Bill, SB827, becomes law. The bill, aimed at removing local impediments to the construction of much-needed new housing, would override most local zoning rules, and could establish minimum height and density standards in almost all neighborhoods within a half mile of major bus and train lines…an equation that would include most of urban Los Angeles’ residential areas.
Currently, local zoning laws specify minimum parking requirements, maximum height and density and, depending on the area, certain kinds of design reviews or standards. Under SB827, however, most local rules addressing height, density, parking and design would be replaced with new statewide minimum height and density requirements, and the elimination of design review and parking requirements.
For example, a map developed by https://transitrichhousing.org/ shows how, under SB827, construction on parcels in the green areas could be required to have minimum heights of 55 feet (or 85 feet on wide streets), and parcels in the blue areas could require new construction to be 45 feet tall (or 85 feet on wide streets).
The bill is already igniting spirited discussion across the state, in many cases with housing and development advocates in favor of the bill facing off against local governments and lawmakers, who are stepping in to oppose the proposal. City Council Member Paul Koretz was one of the first Los Angeles officials to speak out about it, in an LA Times story in January:
Koretz, who has argued for the preservation of single-family zoning in the Westside neighborhoods he represents in the Expo Line rezoning plan, called the bill “devastating,” “insanity” and “the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”
“I would have a neighborhood with little 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s single-family homes look like Dubai 10 years later,” Koretz said.
Koretz said the bill would lead to an increase in new home building that would snarl traffic and go against what his constituents want in their neighborhoods.
Better ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminating gasoline-powered cars and even gas stations in the city over time, he said.
“I don’t think people want to see significant rezoning around single-family neighborhoods whether they’re near transit or not,” Koretz said.
Yesterday, City Council Member David Ryu officially joined the SB827 discussion, introducing a resolution calling for the City of Los Angeles to formally oppose SB827 on several grounds, including that it would be “effectively eliminating the ability for the City to engage in planning self-determination,” and that it “would let developers construct buildings between four and eight stories tall with no parking minimums and limited design review, even if local zoning codes preclude it, including in single family neighborhoods,.”
Ryu’s resolution acknowledges the pressing need for new housing in the city, while also urging that “the City must make every effort to expand affordable and middle-income housing, but not at the expense of local control over land use and community-driven planning.”
In the end, Ryu’s resolution calls on the City to include “in its 2017-18 State Legislative Program OPPOSITION to SB 827 (Weiner), which would allow the construction of housing developments near major transit stops without compliance with local land use regulations.”
The resolution will now go to the Council’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee for further discussion before any offical action is taken.