If It’s Within the Law, Why Should There Be Hearings?

David Zahnizer, at the Los Angeles Times, has given us an article on the problems with the City of Los Angeles’ community plans, one of the major ones being that they are not finished yet.  This is helping to create the demand for Proposition S, which I oppose, because a lot of the buildings where ‘permission’ is granted are exceptions to the ‘rules’.  Part of the problem is that in our current environment elected officials gain by the fact that most projects are ‘exceptions’ to the ‘rules’, because that way they exercise discretion and get contributions from developers.  The goal of community plans is supposed to be to write the ‘rules’ so everything we want is within them.  This is called ‘by right’, and seems to be exceedingly unpopular with all concerned.  One project in Granada Hills was within the ‘rules’ and still got protests at public hearings.  If something is within the ‘rules’, there should not be public hearings on it at all.  The law should be the law. People believe they have a property right in the general plan; I don’t know as I like that, but increasingly cities are becoming like homeowners’ associations, where everyone has fewer rights over their own property and more rights over the community as a whole.

In Granada Hills, the developer offered to put in eight subsidized units.  This was going to make Granada Hills into a ‘ghetto’.  I feel sorry for Granada Hills if their policing can’t control a mere eight households.  And that even assuming that all occupants of subsidized units are ‘bad people’.  There aren’t any wealthy people who are bad people?

It is quite possible to build projects, usually smaller, where some units are a lot smaller and less nice than others, and so are cheaper at an honest market rate without subsidies.  I admit I prefer that to subsidies.  But, given the situation that there are subsidies, I’m afraid I think, in terms of the current prejudices, that that fact not be made public.  The form of the building, more than its use, should be the interest of the law.

I also would tie revising the community plans to a ten-year cycle, tied to the census.  After all, that’s what we do with redistricting.  We count our population and its characteristics at that time, officially, and this is the right time to make projections about land-use needs for the next ten years.

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