In late May, at Los Angeles City Hall, the Coalition to Preserve L.A. and its allies met with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Planning Department Director Vince Bertoni to discuss important issues that impact Angelenos’ quality of life. Specifically, we addressed government transparency in City Hall planning and development decisions, tougher oversight of environmental impacts on L.A. neighborhoods and support for renters threatened by gentrification and evictions.
In a key comment, Mayor Garcetti expressed complete support for the Costa-Hawkins repeal bill, now on hold in Sacramento. The repeal is strongly backed by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. Garcetti and Bertoni also agreed to use the city’s online presence to spell out to landlords and tenants the rules surrounding evictions.
We discussed with the Mayor and Bertoni how far City Hall still must go to bring L.A. into a modern, people-based era of community planning and of protecting all residents through:
– Repeal of California’s statewide Costa-Hawkins Act to help fight the growing, indiscriminate and abusive tenant-eviction crisis;
– Enacting transparent, community engagement to plan L.A.’s future — instead of the closed-door, old-school practice now underway at City Planning to shape the core tenets of the Community Plans and General Plan in the absence of an inclusive or public process.
– Reforming City Hall’s continuing practice of letting developers choose their own EIR consultants, given that a recently approved City Council “reform” failed to close this conflict of interest loophole;
– Nudging the City Council to pass the mayor’s affordable housing linkage fee ordinance to add about 300 affordable rental units in L.A. per year, because each modest step helps. The fee on developers is set for a June vote by a City Council committee.
– Using City Hall’s extensive online reach to proactively inform unaware landlords and tenants of their rights and requirements, to help battle L.A.’s inhumane and worsening eviction crisis.
The Costa-Hawkins repeal bill, authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), is the most important effort to expand rent control in California in decades. Costa-Hawkins bars rental caps on apartments and single-family homes built after 1995. In L.A., rents in those buildings have skyrocketed.
Joining the Coalition to Preserve L.A. at the meeting with Garcetti and Bertoni were our allies who have been fighting for open government, social justice and sustainability in L.A. for years.
Elena Popp, Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network, a Coalition ally who attended, said, “The Mayor’s commitment to supporting our efforts to repeal Costa-Hawkins, coupled with his commitment to ensure tenants understand their rights and obligations, are essential to slowing displacement and stemming the grossly rising housing rates.”
On the issue of reforming the city’s broken process for approving office, hotel, apartment, condo and other developments, the Coalition to Preserve L.A. asked the Mayor and Bertoni to go further than a new City Council reform that was supposed to prevent developers from controlling the findings in the Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) written for their own projects.
The watered-down new EIR rule, recommended by Bertoni to the City Council, still lets developers choose the consultants who research and write their EIRs, with the city now vetting the list from which developers choose.
Environmental attorney Mitch Tsai, another Coalition to Preserve L.A. ally who attended the meeting, said, “Reforming this practice is a step in the right direction, but at the same time it is vital that the process move away from the developers picking the consultant — in order to ensure fully independent evaluations of the environmental impacts of a proposed project.”
The closed-door nature of L.A.’s planning culture has spawned a continuous fight between City Hall and residents, earning L.A. global media coverage.
Major lawsuits between residents and City Hall, over its repeated closed-door decisions and its related failure to fully assess negative environmental impacts and traffic impacts of those decisions, are frequently decided in favor of residents.
The most notorious was the court’s rejection of the 2013 Hollywood Community Plan, in which a judge determined that City Hall officials manipulated population data to override local residents, and to justify City Hall’s desire for skyscrapers in the mostly residential and historic community.
In recent days, two different judges ruled illegal two controversial projects enthusiastically backed by and promoted by City Hall — the 8150 Sunset megadevelopment and a massive half-built Target store.
The meeting with Garcetti culminated in broad agreement to make L.A. a more equitable and transparent city that embraces community views and involvement. But, to truly create a city that reflects this vision, City Hall and the Planning Department must act, not talk, about including residents on all levels and at every stage.