Improving public infrastructure is critical to ensuring safety of our neighborhoods. I've been committed to addressing the unique infrastructure challenges in our hillsides with increased funding to our broken streets, and attention to reducing cut-thru traffic.
For 80 years, Los Angeles has ignored so-called "withdrawn streets." These streets were officially "withdrawn" from public use during the Great Depression, but continued to serve the public regardless - people continued to live on them, and motorists continued to drive on them. The only difference was the City was officially unable to repair them. Many of these streets exist in our hillsides, and all of them have been ignored for nearly a century.
When I entered City Council, I was proud to help right this foolish wrong. I stood alongside Councilmember Bob Blumenfield in pushing legislation to return withdrawn streets to the City's system, and successfully pushed to include $25 million in the 2019-2020 budget to begin repair failed streets - including those that had been withdrawn.
When I joined the City Council, I ran on repairing long-ignored concrete streets, many of which had been ignored for decades. I was told time and time again that repairing concrete streets was too expensive, too difficult, and would never happen.
I set out to prove this thinking wrong. I started my own concrete repair pilot program to prove that costs could be cut. We commissioned a report that included a preliminary analysis of the 1,184 miles of concrete streets in the City, 82 percent of which are in poor condition, many in our hillsides. I worked with the Bureau of Street Services and Public Works on a Concrete Streets Repair program, and in 2019, we won $25 million in the City Budget for failed streets - with $7 million specifically allocated for concrete street repair.
Cut Through Traffic
I've been concerned about the increasing traffic on small hillside streets by commuters following wayfinding apps. Apps like Waze and Google Maps direct motorists up narrow hillside roads without considering the effect on infrastructure and public safety - so I took them on directly. I asked the City Attorney to consider legal action against companies like Waze, for putting our neighborhoods and motorists at risk. I urged Google and Waze to meet with me and respond to community concerns, and worked with City Council colleagues to reconsider data-sharing agreements with Waze & Google until they demonstrate that they will respond to these concerns.
This pressure resulted in a new pilot program led by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation that will allow DOT engineers to work directly with app developers to reduce the number of drivers directed up narrow hillside roads. I continue to focus on ways to hold these wayfinding apps accountable to the impacts they cause.
Safe and responsible housing development is critical to address our housing crisis in a way that sustains the environment and reflects a community’s needs. For too long, certain developers have taken advantage of Los Angeles’ byzantine planning system to build out-of-scale homes or demolish vital affordable housing stock. These days must end.
On August 31, 2020, I introduced four important pieces of planning legislation:
- A cap on the size of single-family homes throughout the City of Los Angeles. This motion would create a maximum size limit for new home construction across the City, effectively banning mega-mansions that threaten our environment and make poor use of Los Angeles’ limited housing space. This motion also would expand the Baseline Hillside Ordinance and Baseline Mansionization Ordinance I passed in 2016 to include multi-family zones, and ban construction of a new single family home where two or more units of housing were demolished at the site in the last 5 years. Read the motion here.
- Create an Affordable Equitable Housing Preservation Overlay Zone. This motion would establish a new kind of overlay zone in the City of Los Angeles. Many of you may know about “Historic Preservation Overlay Zones” or HPOZs, which protects historic neighborhoods from being destroyed, and defines the kind of development allowed in the zone to be in line with the existing character of the neighborhood. My proposed Affordable Equitable Housing Preservation Overlay Zone (AEPOZ) would create a zone to protect affordable housing stock and communities from gentrification. It has been estimated that from 2001 to 2019, over 26,000 affordable housing units were destroyed to make way for new market rate housing. An Affordable Equitable Housing Preservation Overlay Zone would protect affordable housing within the zone from destruction, and can be a tool for historically disinvested neighborhoods to establish greater community ownership in their housing and local businesses and protect themselves from gentrification. Read the motion here.
- Amending the Density Bonus Law. California State Law (SB1818) establishing a type of project known as a “Density Bonus” allows developers to build larger and denser housing projects as long as they include a certain percentage for affordable housing. Cities may amend the State’s density bonus law and tailor it more precisely to local conditions, so long as it does not lower the amount of required affordable housing. As of August 2020, the City of Los Angeles has only built 43% of its needed low-income housing in the current Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) cycle, which is set by the state every 8 years. Moderate-income housing fared even worse, with only 6% of all homes built since the start of the cycle in 2015 going to the middle class. Meanwhile, we are overbuilt in luxury housing. As of today, developers in LA have built 300% of the above-moderate-income housing prescribed in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. That’s 50 times as many luxury homes as moderate income homes built over the last five years. We are in a crisis of affordable housing and the City of Los Angeles should take advantage of the opportunity to amend the Density Bonus to increase the supply of moderate income and affordable housing. We must do everything we can to strengthen the tools available to build true affordable housing at higher ratios per project. Read the motion here.
- Expanding the Hillside Construction Regulation (HCR) to the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains in the District. My final piece of legislation seeks to expand protections in our sensitive hillsides, which are vulnerable to fires, mudslides, and environmental damage that are made worse by irresponsible development of unnecessarily large single-family homes. In 2017 and 2018, we created a pilot Hillside Construction Regulation for Bel Air Beverly Crest, Laurel Canyon and the Bird Streets, establishing hauling operation standards, construction activity standards, grading limits, and a discretionary review process for large single-family dwellings over a specific square footage. My motion seeks to expand the HCR to Coldwater Canyon, Bowmont Hazen and any other neighborhoods in our hillsides where massive single-family homes have put communities, neighbors, and the environment at grave risk. The hillsides are our City’s most environmentally sensitive and high risk areas, home to endangered wildlife and tree species, and hillside construction must be treated with the utmost care and scrutiny. Read the motion here.
Planning for our city’s future in a way that is sustainable, equitable and safe is critical to ensuring an affordable and just Los Angeles. Our City’s future should not be decided by luxury housing developers or those with the power and resources to skirt the law. That is why I also introduced legislation to increase enforcement against those who violate building, zoning, housing, and municipal laws. Together, we can ensure development that is safe, fair, and meets communities’ true needs.