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Former Planning Commission President Letter to CM Raman on SB9 & 10 Positions

Graphic from United Neighbors, a statewide coalition of homeowners groups organized to oppose SB 9 and 10.

The following is a letter written by Jane Usher, a longtime Windsor Square resident, former counsel to Mayor Tom Bradley, former President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and former Senior Assistant City Attorney. Usher shared the letter she wrote to Councilmember Nithya Raman’s Field Manager Su Lee, expressing her concerns about Raman’s recently announced policy positions on the controversial housing legislation SB9 and SB 10, currently before the California Senate. The measures would override local zoning and permit much greater housing density without any requirement of affordable housing. Usher shared this letter with the Buzz and other local residents.

Dear Su —

Many thanks and much appreciation for sending me Councilmember Raman’s statement opposed to SB 9 and in support of SB 10. This statement may either create a tremendously helpful community dialogue or a fierce battle for the soul of CD 4. In either event, I fear that Councilmember Raman may find herself at war during the entirety of her City Council tenure for the insensitivity of this most recent statement to a wide swath of her constituents.

I offer these, for her and your consideration:

Senate Bill 9. I am pleased that the Councilmember is opposed to SB 9. However, her stated reasons for opposition repudiate a good portion of my life’s work. I have a passion for history and diversity, which I treasure in all forms and locations. I seek to protect their legacy for all of us. Why then does the Councilmember discount the value of, and ask to place on the chopping block, the Los Angeles historic neighborhoods? The workmanship of their homes is unparalleled; it cannot be recreated. Undeniably, some of these properties were once home to exclusionary restrictions on sale. But NONE continue to bear that stamp of shame. It is unlikely that I, a widowed female Jew, could own my historic home if these disgraceful wrongs of history had not been righted. But shouldn’t we salute this progress, with my eternal devotion to my former boss Mayor Tom Bradley and the many who walked in his shoes and led this very fight against racial, religious and gender restrictions? They are heroes who would not endorse this misuse of their hard-fought gift to us.

Senate Bill 10. The Councilmember’s support of SB 10 takes my breath away. As you surely know, I was a devoted Planning Commissioner in this City. According to the Councilmember’s biography, she is also a proud urban planner. What does this shared resume feature mean? Most simply stated, Planners work to define our physical spaces. The discipline demands vision. It does not condone shrugging your shoulders at, and vocally discrediting, a lousy Senate proposal, while then acting to support it anyway, giving developers “options” to build, build, build, like a house afire. The Planner’s unenviable task is to create a livable City for everyone. The topics are hard. Their solutions often intractable. Where do we authorize housing? How do we DEMAND and DELIVERABLE affordable housing? (Note to self, this answer is easier than you may think.) With what height, shade, landscaping, and open space requirements, so that our neighbors and the climate win, too? Or do we just throw up our hands in despair, as the Councilmember has done with her support of SB10, refusing to even tackle these subjects? I for one stand against a free-for-all, where the beauty, and yes, damn it, the thoughtful Planning, of our physical spaces is thrown away like yesterday’s news.

Su, I realize that I must give you latitude and a learning curve. The Councilmember and all of you are new to your responsibilities. But this is an ignoble opening salvo. And, I am not naive. I shudder at the mayhem it may portend. Is there so much anger at success of Los Angeles City Planning that it must be stripped from existence in our most welcoming neighborhoods that are, quite logically, well priced for developer plucking? Will impatient voters, who have yet to contribute years of hard work or to reap their own resultant success, allow this irretrievable loss? Notably, the Councilmember has expressly removed her own home from the locations that may suffer under her leadership.

Su, please tell the Councilmember that I hope that dialogue and wisdom prevail. I will be your most willing partner in these discussions.

Many thanks for sharing the Council Member’s statement with me and for seeking my response.


P.S. I have blind copied a handful of neighbors. Sometimes they like to hear from me…

Jane Usher
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  1. Hooray for Jane Usher! She is extremely smart and extremely fair. I sincerely hope that the Councilmember reads and rereads Jane’s thoughtful, meaningful and beautifully written letter to Su Lee.
    Jane Usher is and always has been “spot on!”

  2. SB9 and 10 are so alike it is a twin bill. It is also SB50 and SB1120, the same bill but with a different number so the insensitive person, Calif, senator Scott Wiener that writes all these demonizing bills will win on one, so he still wins.
    Thanks Jane, We will not stop fighting this terrorism against our homes, whether it be house or apartment.
    How can I help, please keep me informed.

  3. I think I missed the Council member’s message to Jane Usher. Did the Buzz publish that? Real dialogue needs to have both sides of the story and not rely on the characterizations of a single person. If, as she says, the answer to the affordable housing question in our neighborhood is so easy, why not start with that solution? I think it’s important that we as readers don’t fall into a trap of only reading what we agree with, but educate ourselves fully.

  4. I voted for Nithya Raman in the last election, but if she continues to support SB10, I will actively work to unseat her next time.

  5. Jane, thank you for writing that letter. Many of us in Windsor Square have dedicated countless hours towards the creation and maintenance of our historic preservation zone. These architecturally beautiful homes make for a beautiful neighborhood. The thought of the state of CA meddling in local, city zoning matters is very troubling.

  6. So happy to hear about your progress, but a widowed female Jew is still white person – so I am not sure how your experience relates to the lingering effects of Los Angeles’ robust history of racial segregation.


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