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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Will housing education curb anti-development sentiment?

“[LUVE] makes the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative look like a pro-development measure”

November 07, 2016 05:00PM
By Julie Walmsley

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Rachel Torres at the news conference against the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (Credit: Jon Endow)

Rachel Torres at the news conference against the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (Credit: Jon Endow)

Development fatigue is reaching peak in Los Angeles. There’s a March ballot initiative that would halt most development for two years, and another on the ballot tomorrow in Santa Monica that would wrest development decisions away from the government, favoring a popular vote.

“Education is central to some of these dilemmas,” Related California CEO Bill Witte said while moderating a panel at the Los Angeles Business Council’s housing summit, speaking of persuading communities to accept mixed-income and homeless housing.

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative would impose a two-year moratorium on developments, other than 100 percent affordable housing, that seek exemptions to existing zoning rules. Since L.A.’s zoning code is outdated, it would included most projects. [Editor’s Note: The Real Deal is running a week-long, in-depth series on the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative starting on Nov. 14. Stay tuned.]

Separately, the city of Santa Monica’s Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative disallows any development over two stories in height without voter approval. Witte told his panel, which included former Santa Monica Mayor and current State Assemblyman Richard Bloom, “[LUVE] makes the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative look like a pro-development measure.”

Bloom, who is legislating toward by-right policy on the state level, said, “Our local communities don’t understand how much help they need from the state…I think local government officials by and large understand the housing affordability crisis and want to address it, but residents are not so sure. And in many cases [they] are completely on the opposite side [of people who are trying to help] and to some degree it measures the national chasm that we have politically, where you have a very, very polarized community in many places.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said he faces political challenges in his district when it comes to housing. He is working to gain the support of a constituency that is watchful of all development, with some Westside areas particularly uneasy about housing the homeless in their neighborhoods.

Bonin suggested allowing locals to have some design input in a new development helps allay fears about neighborhood character.

Some just don’t understand the cyclical nature of the economy, Witte said.

“We have growing anti-development sentiment. You see this in boom cycles. People say ‘enough’ because real estate isn’t linear. But if you live in a neighborhood, all you see is a lot of cranes, and you wonder where all these projects are coming from.”

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