Coalition for Economic Survival’s Response to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Speech on his Housing Plan for Los Angeles
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) believes what was important about the LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s speech given at the Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit at UCLA on October 29, 2014, was the recognition that we need to link the commitment to providing new affordable housing with raising the minimum wage.
For low wage earners providing one without the other is an inadequate formula. Without the wage increase one can’t afford the housing, and without the affordable housing a wage increase will only go to the landlord.
The other important commitment made by the Mayor was the need to preserve existing affordable housing in addition to producing new affordable Units, as well as protecting the city’s rent control law and tenant protections.
Over 13,000 rent controlled units have been lost in the City since 2001 as a result of developers using the Ellis Act to convert and demolish these units and build high-priced condominiums and apartments.
If we don’t preserve the existing affordable units then no matter how many units are built they won’t meet the need. We will never build our way out of our affordable housing crisis unless there is an equal commitment to preserve existing affordable housing.
The Mayor also committed to building 100,000 housing units by 2021. Most of these units need to be affordable units.
In a City where the majority are renters and most of those renters are currently paying unaffordable rents, CES applauds the Mayor’s stated commitment to ensuring that there is adequate affordable housing for the people of Los Angeles.
It is going to take this type of leadership, commitment and creativity to truly achieve real equity and economic justice in Los Angeles.
AB 2222, authored by Assembly Member Adrian Nazarian (D-San Fernando Valley), will strengthen the state density bonus law by increasing the affordability requirement of all low and very low income units from 30 years or longer to 55 years or longer.
AB 2222 will clarifiy state law to expressly prohibit a developer from receiving a density bonus if the proposed housing development or condominium project will result in a net loss of units affordable to persons and families who are low or very low income.
Protecting Rent Control and Other Affordable Housing
Under current law, a development project that includes the demolition or conversion of rent stabilized or affordable units may qualify for a density bonus even if the new project produces fewer affordable units than previously existed on the site.
In other words, the law currently grants an incentive to projects that result in a net loss of affordable housing. This is inconsistent with the legislature’s declaration that “the development of a sufficient supply of housing to meet the needs of all Californians is a matter of statewide concern.”
AB 2222 will close this loophole and will ensure that density incentives are available only to projects that preserve and contribute to the affordable housing stock, thereby bringing the law back in line with its fundamental purpose.
Your Efforts Contributed to This Victory!
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) had been urging its members, supporters and the general public that supports affordable housing to contact the Governor and to urge him to sign this bill. This effort, together with the effort of other allied groups around the state, no doubt, contributed to convincing the Governor to do the right thing.
Thank You’s Are Deserved
We ask that you provided a thank you to Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian for providing leadership on this crucial affordable housing issue by introducing AB 2222. You can email him by clicking here, or by calling his office at (818) 376-4246 or (916) 219-2046.
Also, let Governor Brown you appreciate that he signed AB 2222. You can email him by clicking here or calling his office at (916) 445-2821.
CES Backs Mayor Garcetti’s Choice of Rushmore Cervantes as Housing & Community Investment Department General Manager
On August 13, the Los Angeles City Council Housing Committee considered Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination for General Manager of the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA), Rushmore Cervantes.
Cervantes has been serving as the Interim General Manager for HCIDLA and previously was the executive officer at the Department. The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) has had an extremely good working relationship with Cervantes since he’s been at HCIDLA.
At the hearing, Housing Committee Chair, LA City Council Member Gil Cedillo, asked the question: “What’s the most vexing problem for housing?”
Cervantes responded by saying: “There is not enough housing in the City of Los Angeles for all the residents of the City. Whether it is for the low income or the working middle income.” Cervantes said that all the housing being built in the downtown area may look good, but will not be accessible to middle or low-income residents.
Cervantes added: “The solution is that we need to come up with a goal. Both for housing as a whole and for affordable housing and then agree upon the 3 or 4 tools that can achieve that. That means preserving existing affordable housing. That means looking at the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and strengthening it to make it more difficult for property owners to remove it (units) from the marketplace.”
Cedillo followed up by asking: “So how do we get out of the way of developers? I hear a lot of them say that it is impossible to do business with the City.” Cervantes answered: “We need to have Housing, Planning, and Building and Safety (Departments) try to work on a process in which we can expedite, to the greatest extent that we can, the approval process for housing, while ensuring that we, obviously, protect what’s valuable to the City, relative to the environment and affordable housing.”
Probably the most interesting aspect of the hearing was in regards to the public comments. The heads of two organizations that have been long-time adversaries were demonstrating common ground and unity in support of Cervantes’ nomination.
The two people testifying that day were Coalition for Economic Survival Executive Director Larry Gross, representing renters, and Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Jim Clark, representing landlords.
In his testimony CES’ Gross praised Mayor Garcetti for providing an extremely qualified choice for General Manager stating: “With this City facing a severe housing crisis, particularly when it comes to the lack of affordable housing, you need a special person to lead us. Thus, this position requires someone with a very unique skill-set who is committed to and has the ability to effectively take on these challenges. I believe Rushmore Cervantes is that person and, I know he is up to these incredible challenges. Rushmore is well-respected and has the trust of the key stakeholders that are working to address our housing needs.”
On August 19, the full LA City Council unanimously, on a 14 to 0 vote, confirmed Rushmore Cervantes as the new permanent HCIDLA General Manager.
Listen to CES Executive Director Larry Gross Testify in Support of Rushmore Cervantes’ Nomination
In December 2013, The Rockefeller Foundation announced the selection of the City of Los Angeles to participate in the Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. The 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge seeks to support 100 cities that are ready to build resilience to the social, economic, and physical challenges that cities are increasingly facing in the 21st century.
On June 30, 2014, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti invited community stakeholders, City officials, service providers, businesses, and the non-profit sector to a kick off event workshops to discuss Los Angeles’ resilience priorities and begin to develop a shared resilience agenda. CES was one of the invited guests.
Los Angeles was selected to join the first cohort of 100 Resilient Cities from more than 400 applicants around the globe to develop ways to minimize damage and recover economically from disasters.
As a member of 100 Resilient Cities, Los Angeles has a distinct and important opportunity to strengthen its commitment to resilience via:
1. Funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) who will lead the development and implementation of the City’s resilience strategy; 2. Technical support in the development of the City’s resilience strategy; 3. Membership in the global 100 Resilient Cities network, and 4. Access to a platform of resilience-building tools.
Mayor Garcetti emphasized that though earthquakes top the list of risks in L.A., keeping the city functional in the long run goes beyond getting ready for the “Big One.” Problems such as an unprotected water system can pose huge risks if a gas line ruptures and fires break out in the aftermath of an earthquake, he said.
“I’m making sure that Los Angeles, threatened by 13 of the 16 federally designated natural disasters, gets serious about resilience and sustainability,” Garcetti said. “When disaster strikes, we must be prepared now to keep our water, communications and other key infrastructure operational.”
Dr. Lucy Jones, of the US Geological Services and recently appointed by the Mayor as LA’s Senior Adviser on Seismic Safety, was a speaker. She said that the San Andreas Fault has a major earthquake every 150 years. She pointed out that the last major earthquake on that fault occurred 300 years ago. Dr. Jones warned that a major San Andreas quake would cut off all 3 water aqueducts providing water to Los Angeles, cut off the food supply routes to LA and result in major fires throughout the region.
In the break-out sessions, Coalition for Economic Survival Executive Director Larry Gross, noted that while supporting the need to make buildings safe, the burden of paying for the cost of building earthquake retrofitting must not be placed on renters who can least afford to pay increased rents. Potentially 29,000 soft-story apartment buildings that are mostly rent-controlled housing for low and moderate income and working class families could lose their affordability if they are required to be retrofitted.
Gross also pointed out that given LA’s diverse population, it was imperative that information and access to it be provided in the numerous languages spoken in LA.
Mayor Eric Garcetti Nominates CES Executive Director Larry Gross to the LA Board of Animal Services Commission
On January 21, 2014, the Los Angeles City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, consisting of Council Members Paul Koretz (Chair), Mitch O’Farrell and Felipe Fuentes, unanimously approved the confirmation of Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) Executive Director Larry Gross to the City of LA Board of Animal Services Commission and sent the nomination to the full City Council for final confirmation.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the Commission nominations of Gross along with Jennifer Brent executive director at the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an animal-welfare group started by actress Katherine Heigl and Roger Wolfson, a television writer and former aide/speechwriter to several US Senators on January 6. They would join Attorney David Zaft and LA Manager of the Humane Society’s Pets for Life Alana Yañez on the Commission. The Board of Animal Services Commissioners oversees and sets policy for the LA Department of Animal Services, which administers the city’s animal shelter system, permits and animal control with a $21.7 million annual budget.
Gross, in addressing the Council committee stated the need to fulfill the pledge for Los Angeles to become a “No-Kill” city by ensuring that dogs and cats, both adopted and homeless, are spayed and neutered, as well as the need to make it easier for people to adopt and care for their dogs and cats.
“This being a City of renters, with 62% of our residents’ tenants, we must facilitate the adoptions in rental units. That means seeking cooperation and understanding between tenants and landlords.”
In testimony supporting Gross’ appointment, James Johnson, Chief Political Coordinator for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, which represents the workers at the animal shelters, said “We find it beautifully ironic that one of our city’s most diligent advocates for the poor would also step up and to take up a position on the Animal Services Commission to protect those that can’t speak for themselves. I think it’s beautiful.”
Johnson further stated, “He (Gross) is somebody that, not only I, but many of our members and the leadership of our organization respect highly and we look forward to working with him and the other commissioners.”
Gross stressed that, “The task is huge, given the number of homeless, stray and feral cats and dogs. Our chance of success lies in a collaborative partnership that’s inclusive of all the stakeholders. This means the Department of Animal Services must work together with Council Offices, other city departments, animal rescue and rights organizations, shelter staff and their unions (SEIU, AFSCME & the Laborers Union), shelter volunteers, and, clearly, tenants, landlords, and homeowners.”
The full City Council is scheduled to give final approval of the appointments on February 11, 2014.
LISTEN TO THE CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE CONFIRMATION HEARING:
Gov Jerry Brown Delivers a Blow to Affordable Housing Efforts That Will Leave Low Income Renters Out in the Cold
With the power of his pen the Governor essentially undermined the hard work of activists to get this key affordable housing bill passed by the state legislature and, thus, jeopardized the ability of local governments to provided affordable housing through inclusionary housing laws.
Inclusionary zoning is a land use practice through which local governments promote affordable housing. These policies have been in use for over 40 years, but were challenged in the case of Palmer/Sixth Street Properties L.P. v. City of Los Angeles.
In Palmer, the court held that the provision of the state Costa-Hawkins Act, which gives developers, and not government, the right to establish initial rental rates applies to privately financed rental housing projects and voids many inclusionary housing policies.
The California Association of Realtors and landlord groups sponsored the Costa-Hawkins law in 1995. It prohibits new construction of rental units from being subject to local rent control ordinances and really doesn’t have anything to do with inclusionary housing laws.
By introducing AB 1229, which would have allowed locally elected officials to decide whether to require, as a condition of approval, new market-rate rental housing developments in their communities to include a small percentage of units with rents affordable to low- and moderate-income tenants or pay an in lieu fee, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) hoped the bill would have superseded the 2009 California Appellant court Palmer ruling that cities requiring developers to include housing priced below market rates were in violation of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
A broad coalition of tenant groups, affordable housing advocates and non-profit community housing developers, supported the bill, as did most major newspapers around the state. As could be expected, big developers, mega-landlords and realtors went all out to fight the bill and leaned heavily on Governor Brown to veto it.
People can express their outrage by letting Governor Brown know how disappointed you are by his veto of this extremely important housing bill.
The statewide renters organization, Tenants’ Together, has provided an easy way to let the Governor know how you feel about his action. Just click here to send him a message.