Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 5, Pointlessly empty parcels

March 22, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, NIMBY, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 36 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]

 

Here as I take my solitary rounds,

Amidst thy tangling walks, and ruined grounds,

And, many a year elapsed, return to view

Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

With four parts of this surprisingly long and discursive post now immortalized on the Web, I arrive at what to me is the most perplexing question of all: Why do urban dwellers so rhapsodize about natural green space? 

 

Sources used in this post

 

California Planning and Development Report (April 6, 2015); cobalt blue font

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

When green space is available, people seldom use it.  London’s Hampstead Heath, where the Boss and I have walked on occasion, is an irregular expanse of 790 acres (1¼ square miles) that’s mainly grass, some brush, and the occasional woodland walk:

 

Hampstead Heath today, with London hazing a few miles away

 

It’s all pleasant enough but no Constable paean.

 

As the artist saw it

 

Urban green space is something of a miner’s canary of the city’s health – when the city is in decline, places like Hampstead Heath become wastelands, no-man’s-lands, suitable spy-counterspy assignations and dead drops.

 

The spy business and Hampstead Heath have both gone to the dogs:

John Bingham on the Heath

 

Conversely, when the city is reviving and there is money at hand, the new neighbors who have invested huge sums in buying trophy properties not only renovate their own home, they also want to gaze upon a vista that takes them back to an earlier time, a time in fact before themselves.

 

 

7. Nostalgia conjures an illusory past

 

Britain’s relationship with the countryside is emotional.

Perhaps because London was the birthplace of industrial urbanization, the British rhapsodize about their green and pleasant lands:

 

Rockers like green space too

 

Blame the Victorian bourgeoisie, who built vast, hellish metropolises where they lived in increasing material comfort, wistfully recalling rural life.

 

Small that country air?

Oxford Street, 1890, when London produced 1,000 tons of horse dung a day

 

They read pastoral novels and pasted vegetal designs on the walls of brick villas modelled after remote castles and sylvan cottages. They built railway lines that took them just far enough out of the cities to feel they were experiencing rustic life. 

 

We’re communing with nature, without grass stains

 

And back home again on a day-return ticket.

 

Back to Birmingham at night

 

In this spirit, their children and grandchildren would create the green belt.

 

Their instincts live on.

 

Something similar has consumed the aging Anglos who make up the lion’s share of Los Angeles homeowners:

 

This is just the latest in a long string of tussles over how the City of Angels should grow without sacrificing its low-rise feel. “People who live in Los Angeles have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they live in the second-largest city in the country. They like being in a city that feels like a suburb,” says Richard Green, at the University of Southern California.

 

I’ve worked with Richard Green: he’s a clever and wise fellow.

 

A Green houser

 

Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, who recently left Los Angeles because of congestion [Not too far, he moved to Orange County, hardly a great renunciation – Ed.], sees Measure S as a “last attempt by middle class neighborhoods to say, ‘We don’t like what’s happening’.”

 

For years Joel Kotkin’s been writing intriguing pieces challenging the streetcar-loving New Urbanist romantics; though he occasionally misfires, even the misfires are interesting.

 

Complete candor works best, except when it doesn’t

 

Then too, there’s another possible reason so many people wrap themselves in the green flag

 

 

8. ‘Preserving green space’ can be a cover story for NIMBYism

 

[Greenbelt] doughnuts encircle most of Britain’s big cities. Some of the land they imprison, especially around Manchester, Leeds and south London, is beautiful.

 

By ignoring what people say and instead judging by what they do, I’ve concluded that many of those who say they want development restrictions are simply using ‘green space’ as a convenient cover story.  First, the anti-development restrictions are often unnecessary:

 

Often this is protected by designations of “area of outstanding natural beauty” or “ancient woodland”. 

 

Second, the space being preserved often isn’t green, lovely, or tended – it’s just vacant:

 

Much of the rest is unlovely, inaccessible or both: intensive agricultural land, horse paddocks, endless golf courses and pointlessly empty parcels like in Harlow. 

 

See the lovely vistas?

 

Take the chunk of the green belt that lies directly to the north of Harlow’s main station.

 

It’s green on the map if not in reality

 

A few flat fields bordered by a thundering road and a supermarket, this too serves no aesthetic or environmental purpose and, a mere 30-minute train ride from central London, would be ideal for houses.

 

And this, when confronted with these contradictions, or when the so-called environmental character is entirely refuted, the anti’s are still anti.

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

If you hold to a position when every reason you’ve stated is a reason has been factually refuted, then either you’re incapable of reason or you’re lying about your reasons, and you just want to exercise the vociferist’s veto.

 

You have been warned

 

[Continued in Part 6.]

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 4, Almost half the average renter’s income

March 21, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, NIMBY, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 40 views

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from the preceding Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]

 

The man of wealth and pride

Takes up a space that many poor supplied;

The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,

Has robbed the neighbouring fields of half their growth;

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

Continuing our exploration of the parallel devolutions of London and Los Angeles into self-made scarcity of housing, yesterday’s Part 3 documented how London effectively down-zoned itself by surrounding the capital with a no-build zone.  That strategy was unavailable to Los Angeles.

 

In 1960 Los Angeles had a population of 2.5m and a [zoning] capacity for 10m residents.

 

Los Angeles had gained that density capacity the old-fashioned way: by annexation,

 

17 annexations up through 1916

 

Like New York City, like Chicago, Los Angeles grew to its size through systematic annexation of unincorporated land (fantastic scalable map here).

 

Growth by annexation, ever outward

 

By 1960, the City of Los Angeles is surrounded by other incorporated communities (Los Angeles County totals 88 municipalities).  And unlike Britain, which had no tradition of independent local government control over land-use decisions and hence policy for the whole metropolitan area could be made from the capital, the City of Los Angeles could not compel its land-sovereign neighbors to stop growing, nor even to downzone. 

 

After 1940, growth is limited to slivers at the periphery

 

Instead, the City of Los Angeles went the other way: it downzoned itself.

 

By 2010 the city’s population had swelled to nearly 4m, but zoning and legislation had reduced its capacity to 4.3m.

 

As numbers may not speak to readers the way they shout at me, let me expand upon them.

 

Sources used in this post

 

California Planning and Development Report (April 6, 2015); cobalt blue font

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

 

Over a half century, while the City’s population grew 60% (+0.9% annually), the City’s zoning capacity shrank by 57% (–1.7% annually).  From 25% ‘built to zoning’, Los Angeles is now 93% built to zoning. 

 

If zoning were habitat, in half a century 91% of it disappeared.

 

Where will LA’s housing problem go? To Morrow?

 

This graph, from UCLA Ph D student [Now professor at the University of Calgary – Ed.] Greg Morrow’s 700-page dissertation (completed in 2013), illustrates the problem succinctly.

 

 

And that explains so much of why Los Angeles’s housing situation is so miserable:

 

Among the many crises Los Ange les faces today – earthquakes, fire, technorati – its severe lack of housing is arguably the worst. Housing prices have skyrocketed and affordability has plummeted.

 

A half-million will get you this bungalow in far-from-chic Jefferson Park

 

There’s not nearly enough housing being built, driving prices up further. Rent accounts for almost half the average renter’s income

 

In housing affordability nomenclature, 50% of income is ‘severely cost burdened’ and considered grounds for emergency action.  Yet for Los Angelenos, it’s the new normal. 

 

And it’ll soon get worse:

 

Only 187 units are being built per 1,000 new residents.

 

Households can expand without an increase in population, if people live in smaller families.  Los Angeles will be going the other way, with family size rising and people becoming not only cost-burdened by also increasingly crowded.

 

Yes, but it’s affordable … isn’t it?

 

And all for what?

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

 

 

6. ‘Unowned’ public space becomes unmaintained and unsightly

 

Back in Harlow, the space whose existence makes some unlucky Londoners homeless and impoverishes many more

 

Set in the frozen mud is a mosaic of industrial detritus, bits of brick and pipe, beer cans and a discarded condom wrapper. A jaunty yellow arrow informs passers-by that this scraggy parcel of Harlow, in Essex (“one of Britain’s worst places”), is a public right-of-way.

 

In an irony of which the Economist must surely have been conscious, today’s Harlow was a New Town, whose layout sought to give ‘modern suburban living’ a feel for eras that were already bygone in 1947:

Keeping it green?

 

Harlow was built in the Postwar Modernist architectural style for new suburbs and denser urban living of the Athens Charter crowd of architectural snobs, whose theories resulted in featureless orthogonality such as Alton Estate, Roehampton, which would later become culturally connected to dystopia via Fahrenheit 451:

Affordability, density, conformity, sterility: Roehampton in Fahrenheit 451

Harlow did its bit for higher suburban density

 

Alton Estate, Roehampton, perfect setting for a book-burning dystopia

 

Harlow Town Hall: Any resemblance to an air-traffic control tower is purely coincidental

 

Perhaps the Green Belt got its start in people’s understandable subconscious abhorrence of being digitized into design-for-living uniformity:

 

Come to work and express yourself

 

In a further irony, travellers (‘gypsies) who love Green Belt space because they wish to invade it (usually after buying it), then overcrowd it without a pipe of infrastructure.

 

When the land is vacant, the travellers can move in

 

Notwithstanding the condom wrapper, there are few signs that locals get any enjoyment from it.

 

Caravan (trailer) abandoned by travellers after their eviction from Harlow

 

Why then do people so crave distant greenfield?

 

[Continued tomorrow in Part 5.]

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 3, Other than pestilence or a crime wave

March 20, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 39 views

By: David A. Smith

 

 [Continued from Part 2 and the preceding Part 1.]

 

A time there was, ere England’s griefs began,

When every rood of ground maintained its man;

But times are altered; trade’s unfeeling train

Usurp the land and dispossess the swain;

Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose,

Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose;

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

In Wednesday’s Part 2, after we turning down a textual detour to investigate the bizarre justifications for nonsensical NIMBYite behavior by the local Los Angeles political powerhouse AIDS Healthcare Foundation, I realized it was a journalistic cul-de-sac, out of which I backed by the simple expedient of ending that installment.

 

Write your way out of this, big guy

 

Fortunately our detour wasn’t entirely in vain: it demonstrated that all too often, those who oppose growth:

 

·         Do so for purely selfish reasons.

·         Go to great lengths to camouflage their self-interest.

·         Advance arguments that make no sense whatsoever and are ridiculously stupid.

·         Use political thuggery to get what they want

 

Sources used in this post

 

Curbed LA (April 8, 2015; forest-green font)

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

And they do so because in the short run, these tactics work: the great partially observant herd notices only the noise and thinks, Yes, less development would be nice, without thinking even ten seconds more to realize the next point, which Britain and the Economist are finally learning, ten years later than they should:

 

Ignore AHI blog warnings at your peril

 

Posting update

 

This Part 3,, scheduled for last Friday, was 90% done by 9:30 that morning, but Work Intervened.  As a makeup, it’ll be four posts this week.

3. Obstructing growth doesn’t stop growth, it subverts it into pricing premiums

 

In England, lack of development is strangling the economy:

 

Development is desperately needed. Britain’s broken and cruel housing market may be the country’s most grotesque inequity. In 1997 it took a middle-income household three years to save up a deposit to buy a house; today it takes 20 years.

 

In other words, for a middle-income household, buying a house is impossible.  Either you inherit one, or you rent your entire adult life and get frustrated with lack of value for your money.

 

Vent your rent

 

Ever more Britons are consigned to properties that cramp, impoverish or otherwise limit them.

 

In What price greenfield? (April 5, 2005), I connected Britain’s greenbelt to:

 

1.     Shrinking per-capita living space.

2.     Reduced household formation.

3.     A lower birth rate.

4.     Graying of the population and population decline.

5.     Overleverage by young households.

6.     Tolerance of interest-rate gimmicks and risks.

7.     Overstressed transportation infrastructure.

 

My parents’ generation’s land-use policies are doing this to my housing prospects

 

I concluded:

 

How much of this is due to infatuation with greenspace?  When I drive through central Ohio or even Greenfield, Massachusetts, and see forests or vast farmlands, I do wonder: What price greenfield?

 

A dozen years later, the answer is, All of it:

 

For the pain it causes is no less acute for being lived out quietly, in private. Think of those left homeless –

 

Every Londoner has to sleep somewhere

 

– those who cannot afford an annual holiday, those condemned to horrible commutes; of those couples without the money to move in together (or to separate); of the young adults unable to live near the apprenticeships or jobs they want. 

 

Perhaps such victims are too diverse to organise, march and make their voices heard.

 

Actually, they can organize, once they realize the root of the problem: the NIMBY incumbents’ cabal who already have their own private patch of England.

 

How many of these people are urban renters, do you think?

 

But their misery is real and visceral. And all for so much golf course, sod and bramble.

 

But, say the advocates of legally green if physically wasted space, isn’t the alternative that awful sprawl?

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use dynamics

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

January 16, 2006: Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

July 21, 2008: Lord Wellington’s lament, 4 parts, exploding the myth mobility is bad

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Joel Kotkin touting suburbs

May 4, 2011: Scenes from a mauling, shopping malls are doomed to extinction

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

 

 

4. Sprawl is not density, density is not sprawl

Back in 2006, I reviewed Sprawl: A Compact History, by urban architectural historian Robert Bruegmann, from which I extracted (among others) these trenchant quotes:

 

[Despite what many reformers argue], sprawl is neither a recent phenomenon nor particularly American. It is, indeed, merely the latest chapter in a story as old as cities themselves and just as apparent in imperial Rome, the Paris of Louis XIV, or London between the world wars as it is in today’s Atlanta or Las Vegas or, for that matter, contemporary Paris or Rome. (Page 9)

 

Look at that intolerable sprawl

 

To contextualize the Louis XIV sprawl, the map above shows Louis’s capital expanding well beyond the Ile de le Cite and the left-bank’s medieval walls; and the same area today (thanks, Google maps) is shown below:

 

Even today, my God the sprawl

 

The distance from south (Port Royal) to north (Faubourg St. Martin) is about 2 ¼ miles, a 45-minute walk, and today’s heart of the tourist city.  Some sprawl.

 

Virtually every argument leveled against sprawl today can be founded in descriptions of London and other European industrial cities in the nineteenth century. (Page 116)

 

The early Victorians in particular were furious that the railways could bring their black carriage, with its noise, soot, and plebeians, into their countryside.

 

In Paris during the 1990s, the City of Paris proper lost 200,000 jobs and the inner ring of suburbs gained only 20,000 while the outer suburban ring added 160,000. (Page 52)

 

Sprawl, in other words, is the pejorative term slapped on middle-class expansion by those who, like the Duke of Wellington when he was prime minister, lamented the coming of technology or urban expansion as simply “encouraging the common people to move about needlessly,” an argument echoed badly in The Atlantic by housing neophyte but not neoNIMBY Hanna Rosin that giving poor people mobility with Housing Choice Vouchers would lead to the suburbanization of crime.  Instead, twenty-first century mobility has encouraged urbanization, and likewise the broadband and connectivity revolutions have upended the nature of live-work spatial separation, as well as dooming shopping malls to extinction and a post-extinction reuse (in a form yet to be developed).

 

But over 90% of its citizens (more than in any other big Western country) opt to dwell in towns and cities. They seem to be in denial.

 

 

Britons are in denial; like those who love golf courses as a vision of a pre-urbanized America, they cling to the tatty talismans of an era bygone and never to return.

 

Green visuals, quiet enjoyment, and high density

 

It might also mean a more unapologetically urban architecture. Modernist developments like Abode in Cambridgeshire and New Islington in Manchester—bold shapes, big windows, buildings at ease with themselves—show the way.

 

Once you’re inside, the outside is merely optimal and auditory

 

While better architecture will make the post-development property visually settle in to its neighborhood, for that to happen there must first be the authority to build, and it has been the conscious and consistent policy of many jurisdictions to make such density unthinkable by the effective expedient of down-zoning everything:

 

[Los Angeles’s unaffordability] is in large part the result of shifts in zoning rules over the past 50 years. In 1960 Los Angeles had a population of 2.5m and a [zoning] capacity for 10m residents.

 In fact, that’s worth its own digression:

 

 

[Continued tomorrow in Part 4.]

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 2, 99% of the campaign contributions

March 14, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 42 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

[Continued from yesterday’s Part 1.]

 

Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,

These simple blessings of the lowly train;

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

Meet your Zoning Board of Appeals

 

Monday’s post [See ‘Latest pathetic attempt’ inset box below – Ed.] launching a multi-part series on Stupid Zoning Tricks opened with two cities – London and Los Angeles – whose metropolitan land-use strategies manage in their different ways to achieve the worst of both worlds:

 

1.     Self-imposed and never-ending scarcity of housing leading to constantly rising prices, and

2.     Large swathes of the metropolitan area that though legally ‘green’ are visually anything but.

 

 

You have to admit, that takes real talent.

 

And Hollywood clearly knows talent

Sources used in this post

 

Economist (February 11, 2017; black font)

MyNewsLa.com (February 25, 2017; Crimson font)

Economist (March 2, 2017; navy blue font)

 

Though it may seem inexpensive, in fact green space (whether legally green or physically green) carries with it an enormous economic lost-opportunity cost: people who would otherwise be able to affordable housing cannot, and even worse, people who would otherwise have housing have not.

 

Latest pathetic attempt at a regular posting schedule

 

Commencing with Monday’s post, my new revised goal will be three posts a week, and even if I get ahead of that pace, I will stick with three a week unless and until I have settled into an effective rhythm.  Sorry for the irregularity of service. 

 

2. Urban societies need more housing

 

Being used for political purposes

 

Curtis Howard, an ex-serviceman and former truck driver, received a startling piece of post at his San Fernando Valley apartment recently. “EVICTION NOTICE” it read in red capital letters. “You are ordered to vacate the premises described in the writ no later than 3/07, 2017.”

 

This is what the neighbors objected to: Crest Apartments

 

Mr Howard had been homeless for several years before landing at Crest Apartments, a new affordable-housing project in Van Nuys –

What the good citizens of Van Nuys either overlook or choose not to see is that when you down-zone your entire community, you also prevent renovation, leaving yourself with the incongruity of low-density and low-quality housing that is nevertheless high-priced, as illustrated by the Late Sixties’ apartment complex in front of Crest:

 

In the foreground is what the neighbors currently tolerate

 

Take a good look at that property, with its plastic sign, its under-sized window air conditioners, and its faux Tudor inexpensive detailing.  Can one honestly say that land use is more attractive than Crest behind it?

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use laws

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Kotkin touting suburbs

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

 

And Crest was developed to house formerly chronic homeless individuals – a huge need in Los Angeles, which vies with New York City to be the homeless capital of America – by Skid Row Housing Trust, an excellent non-profit that specializes in this extremely difficult type of housing that is extremely affordable:

 

– where he pays $60 a month.

 

That rent would be 30% of his income, meaning Mr. Howard earns $200 a month, likely disability from his military service.

 

His stomach sank at the prospect of moving back to the streets. When he scrutinized the notice more closely, he realized it was fake. The paper was actually a campaign mail-out for Measure S.

 

Pause for appalled sidebar.  When I read that bit, I was certain the Economist had it wrong, because who could possibly be so superciliously cruel as to send such a flyer to formerly homeless people, who might well be emotionally addled and who in any case could legitimately be frightened of eviction?  But that’s what they did, and they were slapped down for doing so:

 

We’re here to slap down flyer fraud

 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff is ordering the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to stop mailing campaign flyers for Measure S disguised as eviction notices.

 

The department sent a “cease and desist” letter late Friday and ordered the group to notify all recipients of the mass mailer and to post a copy of the letter on the home page of the VoteYesOnS.org website.

 

“The county demands that you immediately cease and desist from any and all uses of the LASD name, county name, any images or reproductions bearing or having a likeness to the LASD or county names, or an official county or LASD document,” wrote Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham.

 

Good for the County Council, and good for Mary Wickham.

 

I’m the sheriff’s lawyer

 

The sheriff’s department said it was concerned that the “counterfeit” message “could mislead members of the public to believe they are subject to legal action by the sheriff’s department.”

 

The sheriff’s department is absolutely right about that, and a mere cease-and-desist would be mild punishment.  I’d have fined them, and I’d have fined them a lot.

 

The 30-year-old nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent more than $4.6 million, which amounted nearly 99% of the campaign’s contributions, to support Measure S.

 

Ninety-nine percent of the funding in support of a measure to kill housing?

 

This is disgraceful – beyond disgraceful.  AHF, I have just discovered, is a $1.2-billion global non-profit headquartered in Los Angeles, and it chose to spend people’s donations not only on scurrilous tactics but also on the wrong side of the issue?

 

We protest!

 

Foundation CEO Michael Weinstein has defended the foundation’s political spending, saying development in Los Angeles is driving up housing costs and making some of the foundation’s patients homeless.

 

Either Mr. Weinstein is one of Los Angeles’s biggest idiots or one of its biggest hypocrites,  Development doesn’t make LA housing costly or contribute to homelessness, you fool; lack of development makes LA housing costly and lack of housing for the homeless makes homelessness worse. 

 

Shame on your organization, Mr. Weinstein, and shame on you for not repudiating this

 

For goodness’ sake, the Advocate – hardly an enemy to the homeless – titled its article on AHF’s support for Measure S, “World’s Largest AIDS Organization Just Flushed Millions Down the Toilet”. 

 

Though I am not the expert to delve into the AIDS Healthcare Foundation or Mr. Weinstein, someone should as it was LA’s biggest spender in the 2016 election, who “has been labeled a ‘bully,’ ‘Satan’ and, as one longtime Los Angeles County supervisor put it, a ‘thug.’ “

 

A one-point-two-billion thug, to you

 

But my goodness, does it deserve to be dug into.

[Continued tomorrow in Part 3.]

 

Stupid is as stupid zones: Part 1, Shudder at Manhattanization

March 13, 2017 | Density, Exclusion, Housing, Land use, Local Government, London, Los Angeles, Speculation, Urbanization, Zoning | No comments 49 views

 

By: David A. Smith

 

These were thy charms—But all these charms are fled.

Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,

Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;

Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,

And desolation saddens all thy green:

The Deserted Village (1770), Oliver Goldsmith

 

Evidently all those years of clandestinely reading my AHI blog posts on foolish land-use policies has seeped in to the Economist’s old-school-liberalism subconscious:

 

 

 

AHI blog posts on America’s local land-use laws

 

April 5, 2005: What price greenfield? What’s wrong with England’s land use policies

July 14, 2005: Struldbrug buildings, The folly of preservation laws without incentives

Sprawl: Everything you know is wrong, 2 parts

September 21, 2010: First, assume a can opener, 3 parts, Kotkin touting suburbs

February 27, 2012: California’s self-tying knots, 5 parts, on Serrano, Prop 13, more

July 26, 2013: Better off vacant, 2 parts, how San Francisco makes vacancy economic

May 5, 2014: Sunset scarcity, 2 parts, San Francisco’s idiotic down-zoning

January 26, 2015: Golf and the romance of pre-urbanized society, 6 parts

August 10, 2016: Zoning by the taste police, 3 parts, when everything’s non-compliant

 

 

Not only has the Economist awoken to the absurdity of anti-development policies (perhaps stimulated by its editors’ living in London and New York and experiencing their consequences first hand), on recent weeks the magazine has published two stories, neither referencing the other, that between them are perfect bookends of how not to have a sustainable urban policy, the first from outer London on February 11, 2017, the second from inner Los Angeles County on March 2, 2017 (navy blue font):

 

Britain’s delusions about the green belt cause untold misery

To solve its housing crisis, the country must learn to love the urban

 

If anything deserves the label ‘wasteland’, this place does. Pylons and tangles of bramble high as houses tower over a lonely oil drum and a collapsed metal fence. In the distance planes approaching Stansted airport whine; refrigerator units at a nearby food-processing factory hum.

 

In short, it’s urban fallow that, being unowned, has become neglected.

 

From the Sunday Times, August 1, 2016

 

Given its good road connections and the chronic shortage of local housing, a sensible jurisdiction would make it available for a couple of blocks of flats, or a few dozen homes with gardens. A study by the local council last year found that protecting it serves no discernible purpose. Developing it would cause Harlow neither to sprawl, nor to annex another town, nor to lose its character. Yet protected this wasteland shall remain; a useless eyesore trapped in the insensitive, crushing grip of London’s green belt.

 

With that as our opening, let’s consider a sixty-five-year-old policy that should now be, as the British would say, made redundant, and in whose ironic honor we will make our section titles green.

 

 

 

1. ‘Preservation’ is a much more abstraction than reality

 

Protect the fantasy, ignore the reality

 

To make proper bookends of the two Economist stories, we must shift our focus westward, to a city that prides itself on being the future even as its land use clings stubbornly to the past:

Is that like, ‘do blogging work’?

 

Measure S, also known as the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative”, would pause for two years [commencement of] construction on projects that require exemptions from existing rules on zoning and height.  The proposal that will appear on ballots in Los Angeles on March 7th along with choices for the city’s mayor.

 

[It did so appear; I’ll report the results later in this multi-part post. – Ed.]

 

Among global cities, New York, London, San Francisco and Los Angeles have long been my personal Final Four of self-righteously self-interested self-defeating policies – suggesting that often the dumbest land use and urban growth policies arise in communities with the most boffins – and I’ve formed a theory as to why.

 

The facial expression is a critical element

 

Living as I do in Our Fair City, I’ve had four and a half decades of watching how remarkably intelligent people can by working together produce remarkably asinine and ineffective policies that are nevertheless remarkably durable. 

 

[Between Cambridge’s rent control (now thankfully dead and buried these twenty-two years) and our city council voting system, which is perplexedly cited as ‘advanced’, we manage to produce a city where the mayoralty is entirely symbolic, the city council both grandiloquent and ineffectual, and the whole business is actually run by the unelected city manager. – Ed.]

 

Happy Indigenous People’s Day

 

Close study has allowed me to conclude that too many intellectuals in one political hothouse environment will sub-optimize because they will talk themselves into believing that since it takes intelligence to replace something simple with something complicated, the complicated must be inherently better. 

 

Even when it’s not.

 

[My own epiphany on this topic was doing poorly in the 1980 Prisoner’s-Dilemma computer competition run by Robert Axelrod, where Anatol Rapoport’s TIT-FOR-TAT vanquished all comers.  That one little adventure taught me several powerful lessons about effective systems that have stuck with me ever since. – Ed.]

 

I blog about you, Professor Axelrod, you blog about me?

 

So it is in Los Angeles, where the homeowners want to stop time – at least, the real estate development aspects of it:

 

The Measure S camp shudders at the “Manhattanisation” of the city.

 

To me, and I suspect to many people, Manhattan would be an improvement.  Though I love Los Angeles’s weather, if given the choice of two days all expenses paid, it would for the boss and me be New York, not least because Los Angeles’s infatuation with horizontal space has made Angelenos prisoners of time, endlessly circling the freeways in their vehicles.  Had the cell phone not been invented

 

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Long Beach and Santa Ana, is the densest in the country. But the city itself is far less dense than other comparably sized cities. It has a mere 8,474 people per square mile; New York has more than 28,250. 

 

Remember, New York City is comprised of much more than just Manhattan.  While Manhattan has 72,000 people per square mile, that’s only 8% of the city’s land area.  The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are the bulk of its residential inventory. Los Angeles’s residential density roughly matches that of Staten Island.

 

Staten Island housing

 

And that implies what is in fact the case: Los Angeles is zoned as if it were a suburb:

 

As of 2014, nearly half the city was zoned for single-family housing.

 

This.  Is.  Stupid.

 

 

[Continued tomorrow in Part 2.]