Vote Yes on S: Homeless issues and battles
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Rev. Alice Callaghan: 'City Hall Pushed LA's Homeless into the Streets'
Jan. 3 -- Rev. Alice Callaghan, an Episcopal priest and former Catholic nun, has worked in Skid Row nearly 50 years. She’s selfless, hard working and highly respected. An endorser of Measure S, Callaghan believes City Hall’s broken planning system has forced L.A.’s homeless into a dire situation.
“There used to be 9,000 low-income housing units,” the reverend says. “Now there are barely 3,500. That is why the poor of Skid Row are sleeping on downtown sidewalks. City Hall has badly bent the zoning rules to allow luxury mega-projects for rich developers in exchange for money.”
In fact, a Los Angeles Times article in April 2016, titled “More Rent-Controlled Buildings Are Being Demolished to Make Way for Pricier Housing,” pointed out that “more than 20,000 rent-controlled have been taken off the market since 2001.”
Why? The Times reported that developers have torn down all that affordable housing to make way for “pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals.”
And it’s all been happening under the watch of the L.A. City Council and mayor, who have continuously bent protective zoning rules and approved the very same luxury housing mega-projects that Rev. Alice Callaghan is talking about.
Developers make millions in profits; L.A. politicians receive hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from developers; and low-income, working-class and middle-class Angelenos lose their affordable homes.
Homeless Housing Plan For City-Owned Land Goes Sour
Nov. 17, 2016 -- UPDATE: Click here to read the disappointing report yourself, that does not guarantee homeless housing on 12 parcels of city-owned land, that were supposed to help relieve the homeless crisis.
A City Council and mayoral plan to address L.A.'s homeless emergency with fast-built homeless housing on 12 parcels of city land has turned into a farce, with developers this week proposing everything from "affordable" to luxury housing — but not much homeless housing.
In a report quietly released Wednesday by the L.A. City Administrative Officer — the same day that a federal study found L.A. leads the U.S. in chronically homeless — developers proposed only 500 units of housing, total. And only a modest portion of it is earmarked for the homeless.
City leaders, faced with opposition from residential and business areas where the "homeless housing" was envisioned, have been quietly backing away from their own homeless housing concept for weeks.
City Hall had identified public land in West L.A., Westchester, Lincoln Heights, Venice, South L.A., Sylmar and San Pedro, often near schools, churches, parks and homes.
The Los Angeles Times reported in October that elected leaders and city officials "spent months developing plans for converting as many as 12 city-owned sites into housing for the city’s homeless residents."
No longer, it seems.
Behind the scenes, city officials quietly turned their emergency homeless housing initiative into the vaguely worded "Affordable Housing Opportunities Sites" plan. The proposal released yesterday even suggests "market rate housing" — luxury housing — on some city land.
The famously slow-moving City Council might be able to house more homeless, and do it faster, by tapping the empty Parker Center police headquarters not far from their own offices at City Hall.
City Hall's much watered-down new concept is set to be discussed at a hearing today. According to the recommendations, two of the 12 city parcels — closed-down fire stations in San Pedro and Westchester — should be sold and the money placed in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
It was only weeks ago that the L.A. Times reported City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana was overseeing "the homeless housing initiative," which was "aimed at building permanent supportive housing — the kind that includes substance abuse counseling or other services."
But the widely awaited report suggests that elected officials are enthused about erecting homeless housing only at one locale — a city-owned traffic island in South Los Angeles adjacent to the 110 and 105 freeways.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, L.A. is home to nearly 13,000 chronically homeless -- and 95 percent of them live outdoors in cars, tents and encampments.
L.A. City Council Members Admit City Hall is Clueless about Its Role in Fueling Homelessness
AUG. 7 -- Now the highly controversial re-development of a Hollywood apartment building on Cherokee Avenue may not take place, if tenant-activists have their way. Recently, they sued the city of Los Angeles and are seeking to reverse the city's approval of the project. The Los Angeles Times reported on August 6: "The lawsuit, filed this week by the newly formed Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities, accuses the city of violating state law and demands that it prepare a more exhaustive report on the environmental effects of the hotel plan."
UPDATE: On June 29, the L.A. City Council approved a condominium-turned-boutique hotel project at 1850 Cherokee Avenue and denied an appeal by community activist Sylvie Shain. As a result, some tenants who once lived at the Cherokee Avenue building and were forced out will not receive relocation payments from the property owner -- and the city will lose more affordable housing at a time when politicians and neighborhood activists agree that there's a serious affordable housing crisis in L.A.
Shain said after today's City Council meeting, "I'm disappointed that there wasn't an opportunity to apply conditions to the approval that would have provided some adjustments, such as the relocation payments for tenants. Council member Mitch O'Farrell's inability to recognize that opportunity, to not use his influence and clout and to not bring justice to the situation is disappointing."
The Los Angeles Times also provides coverage about the scandalous approval.
Read this incredible exchange below between powerful Los Angeles City Council members, who are severely overdeveloping L.A. with luxury housing, creating a luxury glut with huge 12% vacancy rates. The council members admit to having no idea that their actions on behalf of developers who give them campaign cash and gifts, is wiping out rent-stabilized housing and displacing thousands of Angelenos. Shame on PLUM, the L.A. City Council Planning and Land Use Management committee, for its blind cruelty.
AND READ THIS INCREDIBLE EXCHANGE: http://citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/11344-la-city-council-city-hall-is-clueless-about-it-s-role-in-fueling-homelessness
LA Homeless Population Surges Thanks in Part to City Hall
May 5, 2016 -- The Coalition to Preserve L.A. said today that a sharp jump in homelessness in Los Angeles, as reported today, vividly points out the devastating effects of L.A. City Council practices that are driving tragic levels of human displacement and the demolition of 20,000 rent-stabilized apartments that can never be fully replaced.
A map published this morning by the Los Angeles Times shows in vivid color the city’s heavy new concentrations of severe homelessness -- particularly in Downtown Los Angeles, Venice and Hollywood, areas targeted by multimillionaire developers for frenzied levels of demolition and luxury housing construction.
Jill Stewart, campaign director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (Measure S) sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve L.A., called the new data “a stark condemnation of the Los Angeles City Council’s policies to destroy working-class communities and replace them with half-empty luxury towers built by developers who give the City Council a lot of campaign cash.”
A city of LA housing report from late 2015 shows that even as homelessness surges citywide, the Los Angeles City Council clings to policies that exacerbate the problem. The city itself admits that housing projects it approved during the past 10 years suffer from a huge vacancy rate of 12%, and that this empty “market rate” housing is aimed at households earning more than $100,000.
Meanwhile, average people and the poor cannot find a place to rent.
Older apartments are being destroyed at a fast pace instead of being preserved, and the City Council has no plan for preserving the older and inexpensive rental housing that acts as the safety net for L.A.’s working and middle class.
“The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March ballot will force the City Council to end its behavior of fanning this frenzy of luxury development,” Stewart said. “We are talking about a group of Los Angeles politicians who take huge sums of money from developers, encourage them to build massive luxury complexes that rent for $3,000 or worse, and then they ignore the displacement of longtime residents due to runaway gentrification they create.”
In another City Hall affordable housing report released earlier in 2016, Stewart notes, the city does not mention its key role in driving up homelessness.
Instead, the city report blamed this tragic trend on numerous factors that don’t lead back to City Hall.
Are L.A. Politicians Selling Off Our Neighborhoods for Campaign Contributions?
May 23, 2016 -- Since 2000, the real-estate industry, which includes deep-pocketed developers, has shelled out at least $6 million in campaign contributions to political candidates in Los Angeles -- each election season, the industry pours hundreds of thousands into local campaign war chests.
Developers expect, and receive, big favors in return. Neighborhood activists say it's a sure sign that our city's development-approval system is rigged and broken -- and desperately needs true reform.
"Six million dollars is just the tip of the iceberg, says City Hall watchdog and Wilshire District neighborhood activist Jack Humphreville. "When you bundle all the lobbying fees by the real estate developers, lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and all their cronies, the campaign contributions are just a drop in the bucket. And this does not include helping fund the pet projects of the mayor and City council."
In fact, developers consistently pay their lobbyists hundreds of thousands to woo City Hall politicians and bureaucrats to win approvals for mega-projects.
For the massive NoHo West project in North Hollywood, employees for the development firm Merlone Geier gave $6,500 in campaign contributions to L.A. politicians between 2008 and 2015, and the developer paid $240,182 for a City Hall lobbyist to schmooze with the City Council, the planning department and the building and safety department.
In Koreatown, developer Michael Hakim, who wants to build a 27-story residential skyscraper in the middle of a low-slung, working-class neighborhood, paid $41,400 for a lobbyist to chat up L.A. Planning Department officials so he could get a big gift from the City Council: a special “General Plan amendment” and a “height district” change.
Hakim also agreed to give $250,000 to City Council President Herb Wesson's so-called "Community Benefits Trust Fund," a kind of slush fund that Wesson can use to curry political favor and pay for his pet projects. Hakim has given $3,900 in campaign contributions.
"Those campaign contributions over the past decade shows that City Hall has been selling out our neighborhoods to developers," says Grace Yoo, a prominent Koreatown social justice activist and attorney. "Our development-approval system is clearly rigged and broken, and we need to fix that with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative."
What do developers get for spreading around such eye-popping cash to win height district changes and General Plan amendments? Many of them stand to make millions in profits. At the same time, their mega-projects often bring about the demolition of affordable housing units.
The Los Angeles Times recently found that "more than 20,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market since 2001, city records show. The removals peaked during the housing bubble and then bottomed out in the recession, but they have risen significantly since then."
The paper concluded: "Looking to cash in on a booming real estate market, Los Angeles property owners are demolishing an increasing number of rent-controlled buildings to build pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals, leading to hundreds of evictions across the city."
Alice Callaghan, a longtime, highly regarded homeless advocate who works in Skid Row, says such developer greed seriously impacts everyday Angelenos. "Developers are reaping huge profits by lining the pockets of City Council members and the mayor while taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill to shelter those made homeless by these greedy developers and politicians."
The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, however, looks to level the playing field, and give Angelenos more say in how their communities are developed and shaped.
Humphreville, Yoo and Callaghan all support Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. You can, too. Vote Yes on S on March 7.