Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz has delivered the most savvy speech against SB 50 so far in the fight against state Sen. Scott Wiener’s radical attempt to raze California neighborhoods to make way for faceless apartment towers. Here is Councilman Koretz’s speech verbatim, delivered to a packed City Council Chambers on April 16, 2019. Note his comments about the number of fully approved housing units in Los Angeles that developers haven’t built — more than 100,000 unbuilt units. California’s affordability crisis will NOT be lessened by giving fickle, profit-driven developers even more power and latitude to do as they please.
Paul Koretz: “There are so many reasons to oppose SB 50 that it is almost difficult to know where to start.
“First, I should point out that this is not an affordable housing bill. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. SB 50 is really just a handout for developers. SB 50 takes away all of our power over zoning. It’s based on tickle-down economics in housing. For those of you who don’t remember, trickle-down economics was originally articulated during the Reagan Administration. The idea was that if you gave huge tax breaks to the ultra-rich, that would eventually trickle-down to the rest of us. Of course, that didn’t work, and Donald Trump is trying the exact same thing and having the exact same result.
“This is trickle-down in housing: you build incredibly dense housing in places where it doesn’t belong and allow 85-foot-tall and 5-story buildings in single-family neighborhoods, with the goal of destroying those neighborhoods — as the author Scott Wiener has articulated, where he said, ‘I believe single-family housing is immoral’ and tree-lined neighborhoods and back yards, as he’s described it. This also would destroy HPOZs [historic preservation districts] and not take HPOZs into account. We’ve spent years and years and years historically preserving homes in these HPOZs and then we will be demo-ing the homes in these neighborhoods and putting up 5-story buildings.
“There is no sign that building luxury housing, even in large numbers, will reduce rents. In fact, studies have shown in all likelihood the opposite is true. Certainly, in my neighborhood, where I’m seeing it anecdotally, where we’re building new luxury housing and the rents in the surrounding apartment buildings go up because those are ‘the comps,’ as realtors will tell you. So SB 50 is actually likely to increase the cost of housing.
“Some new studies have shown, as I have said for the last 10 years, if you build a lot of luxury housing all it will do is allow more companies to say, ‘Well, we have the room now in L.A., and move the jobs and move their people and just become a larger and larger city — and not make it any easier for the young people who are supporting this, because they think it will reduce the rents and give them an opportunity. I believe it will do the exact opposite.
“And, in Los Angeles, we already have densified and we already have TOCs [transit-oriented communities] and, I believe, we have 100,000 units approved and not built, already. So, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point, and where we’ve done something that most cities haven’t done, this legislation doesn’t acknowledge that.
Again, I almost don’t know where to start. There are so many arguments. But, I believe, Seattle did a substantial amount of luxury development in one year. And I think they had a year — and they’re a much smaller city than us — where they built 24,000 units. And, if in theory this would have dramatically dropped the rents, then it would have dropped the rents. Twenty-four thousand housing units. I don’t know what the equivalent would be here — (maybe) to build 100,000 in a year? The rent did go down in Seattle. By $2. So, all that building had no impact whatsoever. I’d be surprised if the $2 sustains itself, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t wind up actually going up.
SB 50 will set a floor of luxury prices rather than a ceiling. This doesn’t do anything for our real problem, which is affordable housing. Even in San Francisco, his (Scott Wiener’s) home area, where I thought he would get support, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to oppose SB 50.
So, if he can’t even get any support in his home city, why does he think this would work here? And why would he think we would support it? I ask you to support this resolution in opposition to SB 50.”
The crowd in the City Council Chambers then heard a few words from SB 50 critics and L.A. City Councilmembers David Ryu and Mike Bonin, and promptly voted 12-0 to oppose SB 50. California residents, please review this searchable, zoomable statewide map. Are YOU or those you love in a Scott Wiener SB 50 demolition derby zone? https://stop-sb50.github.io/it-wipes-out-neighborhoods/