Sunday, January 07, 2007

Report from Los Angeles in the Year 2030: Housing

Los Angeles in 2006 had serious housing problems: 90,000 homeless on the streets; overcowded, dangerous tenements which regularly caught on fire or collapsed; apartment prices so high that families gave up to 50% of their income just for a home, unable then to pay for medical care; home prices so high that 80% of families couldn't afford to buy a home within the city's limits; and long commutes through gridlock traffic from homes in the distant suburbs to jobs. At that same time Los Angeles had wonderful architects designing gorgeous homes for decades, but this talent was never tapped to design a more livable city.

This housing shortage was created by 50 years of bad policy. Starting in the 1950s, larger developers and landowners had gotten fifty years of zoning and tax policy in which poor and middle class city dwellers subsidized middle class suburbs. The landlord lobby had gotten zoning laws which restricted apartments from being built for decades. Right-wing Republicans in the early 1950s had attacked Mayor Fletcher Bowron's integrated housing projects as "socialistic," so no new housing projects have been built for 60 years. Instead working-class neighborhods were destroyed: Chavez Ravine was leveled in the 1950s; Bunker Hill in the 1960s.

After factories closed down in South Los Angeles starting in 1970s, City Hall had abandoned this area. Starting in the 1970s, the powerful homeowners' associations across the city had for decades fought apartment and homeless housing from being built in their neighborhoods.In the mid 1990s the powerful landlord-developer lobby, which dominated both City Hall and Sacramento, had a law passed in Sacramento knocking out parts of the rent control laws of Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and other small cities. After rent control law was weakened, rents in these cities skyrocketed.

By 203 the progressive housing coalition had gotten the city in principle to adopte an $100 million/year housing trust to build afforable housing but it was chronically underfunded under Mayor Hahn. Mayor Villaraigosa adopted the idea of "smart growth," building apartments, townhouses, and condos around subway and light rail stops. The Mayor funded the "Affordable Housing Trust Fund with $100 million for the first time ever and has done so for two consecutive years." He also got a 2nd $100 million for established a sub-section of the Trust Fund million and 2,000 housing assistance vouchers to house the homeless.

By 2006 nearly 5,000 affordable housing units were built in the City of Los Angeles. Developers began building these urban villages in Hollywood, Koreatown, downtown, and Pasadena. Also Tom Gilmore led other developers to convert empty downtown offices into apartments and lofts. Despite these positive acts, the housing crisis just got worse. 5,000 new units did, however, next to nothing to solve the problem.

In 2007 a small number of homeless started what came to be known as the pots and pan marches to end homelessness. First 10 marched on Wednesday afternoon. The next Wednesday 100 marched, banging pots and pans. By the 4th march, 1000 were marching, the TV was coving the pots and pans marchers, and their leaders met with Mayor Villaraigosa. By the 8th march, Villaraigosa had deliverd 1000 trailers for the homeless--this act nearly split the pots and marchers who demanded homes for all 90,000 homeless.

They decided to let families with children and the seriously ill take the first 1000 trailers, and upped their demands: real homes including geodesic dome villages for all 90,000 homeless; small centers for the mentally ill which had been promised decades earlier after the huge state mental ill hospitals had been closed down; subsidies for first and last month's rent for all homeless with jobs to get them immediatley off the street; rehab centers for all homeless with drug programs. The mayor stalled, offering only homes for 20,000 people, so the pots and pans marchers expanded to Santa Ana, Van Nuys, Sacramento, San Francisico, and San Diego.
The final pots and pans marches had 100,000 marching, so Mayor Villaraigosa agreed to tall their demands to "End Homelessness Now" in 2008.

Also in 2008 the End Tenement Now coalition began in the middle of the pots and pans marches to give Tours of Tenements taking TV news crews along with hundreds of people into apartments showing off dangerous wiring; lack of heat; rats and cockroaches; falling down ceilings; holes in walls; lead in ceilings. End Tenement Now then set up their Tour of Tenement exhibition with huge photos highlighting tenement horrors on City Hall lawn.

They demanded Mayor Villaraigosa hire 500 new city housing, inspectors, the City Attorney vigorously prosecute slumlords, the city fully fund the $100 million housing trust/year with $100 million/year. End Tenements Now also demanded that the city change zoning laws to legalize garage apartments as an emergency measure, and rezone many areas for multifamily dwellings. The landlords counterattacked, saying conditions were not as bad as End Tenements Now alleged. End Tenement Now started its own pots and pans marchers to the city buildings with marchers carrying huge blown-up photos of rats, holes in walls, ceilings falling down, etc. Getting how action from the mayor, End Tenement Now had a live-in in City Hall which resulted in 300 arrest.

Then Mayor Villaraigosa announced he would hire the housing inspectors, increase prosecution of violators of the law, legalize garage apartment and change zoning laws. Villaraigosa said he couldn't get the money to fund affordable housing until End Tenement Now got a favorable majority on the City Council to agree with the mayor to have all new developements pay fees into the Housing Trust as well as a small tax on all hotel rooms in the city. For the first time affordable house would be subsidized. Also, End Tenement Now got the Villarigosa to hire some of the best architects in the city to design the affordable housing.

After Villaraigosa lobbied in Sacramento to end all subsidies to new suburbs and rezoned Los Angeles to allow aprtments along all proposed subway/light rail lines, he became known as the Housing Mayor. He was easily re-elected in 2008, and then started Los Angeles great housing construction boom with city, state, and federal monies. Apartments (50% affordable) were built within 1/2 mile along rail lines, subway lines, and rapid bus lines across the city. Apartments were built over stores along main avenues such as Pico Boulevard, Exposition Boulevard, and Wilshire Boulevard. These were the Apartment Zones. Of course, all the new apartments were 100% green with solar panels, recyling & graywater systems. Mayor Villaraigosa won a 3rd term in 2012, and continued building housing in what was known as the great housing boom of 2008-2028 when thousands of new apartments were built.

By 2012 downtown became a residential neighborhood again, particularly as the homeless population shrank as they moved into first trailers and Geodisdic Dome villages and then into new apartments. Supermarkets were built downtown, as the city helped developers reconvert more downtown offices into apartments. Throughout the next 16 years apartment houses and parks were built downtown which again became the hub of the city.

The city still had zones of 1-story houses, which were quite exspensive, but most people by 2016 began to appreciate the many amenities of the new urbanism: good rapid transportation; gyms and childcare on site; even cafeterias and cafes in some larger apartment buildings.

The city also had three new kinds of housing starting in 2010. Ecovillages were mulutiple -story apartment buildings which were small utopian communities. Often the members of the EcoVillage tended nearby urban orchards, community farms, or farmer's markets. Second, small blocks transformed themselves into a Village Green, a couple of acres of 2-story townhouses and 1-story houses set amidst parkland with no streets; garages with cars hidden behind the houses.Thirdly, EcoColonies were built from 2016-2030, large developments which had both small community gardens as well as housing

By 2030 Los Angeles had finally enough housing for all its residents. Homeless was a small hardcore of 500 alchoholics. Tenements were a horror story from the past. It had taken 24 years to build enough new housing to make it once again afforable within Los Angeles the green county.

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