Friday, September 26, 2008

Odd and Ends 84

Here is an article that appears on "Citywatch":

Full Disclosure by Developers would Help Level the Playing Field for LA’s Stakeholders
By Jack Humphreville

At a recent CityWatch hosted discussion at City Hall about the Mayor’s new Housing Plan and its Mixed Income element, I came away with the conclusion that we need significantly more transparency in the zoning and planning process.

In Los Angeles, the City has extraordinary power to create huge value out of thin air just by changing the zoning regulations. As County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has said on many occasions: In most places, the value is based on zoning. In Los Angeles, the value is based on what you want the zoning to be! So it is not surprising that the real estate developers and their lobbyists and lawyers are a constant presence at City Hall. And we, the residents of Los Angeles, who do not have the resources and time to understand the multi-layered and complex approval process or the money to finance research, lawyers and lobbyists, often times have to pay the price, whether it be large scale construction projects, more traffic, higher densities, and less parking, and have no clue how their neighborhood got shafted.

However, greater transparency might help level the playing field. In particular, all projects that come before the City for zoning changes or other special concessions should be required to make full and complete financial disclosure about the project and other related matters, including water use and replaced housing. Such disclosure would include the economics of the transaction, the rates of return, the investors, the lenders, and any other pertinent and relevant information. The disclosure would include a list of all participants, including lobbyists and lawyers, as well as all actual and bundled political contributions. An executive summary would be mandatory so we are not drowned in paper work.

An example of massive wealth creation is Camerford Lofts, a Melrose Avenue development, just east of Rossmore. The developer is asking to build an extra 150,000 square feet, a 50% bonus, over what is allowed. This will result in additional profit of $100 a foot, or $15,000,000, of which $900,000 is being contributed to various “pet” projects. Not a bad deal! Yet, despite repeated requests, the developer has stonewalled the Neighborhood Council. The net result is that the developer walks away with an extra $14,100,000 in profit and we get struck holding the bag.

Likewise, BRE Properties wants to develop a "scaled down" 562 unit, block filling, traffic clogging, two story monster project at La Brea and Wilshire Boulevards which will require significant concessions from the City. At a recent presentation to the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, BRE Properties refused to disclose the basic economics of the transaction and the value of the benefits that this multi billion dollar company would receive from the City. What’s to hide? $100,000,000 for starters!

And the mid Wilshire area is not alone. Ponte Vista is a density and traffic nightmare for the San Pedro community. Bisno Development of Beverly Hills wants massive concessions - a four fold increase in density, but refuses to disclose even basic financial information. Is it the community’s fault that Bisno overpaid for the land in the hope of favorable treatment? Should San Pedro have to pay for Bisno’s foolish greed with massive traffic jams?

Furthermore, if a developer receives zoning and financial (tax breaks) benefits from the City, the developer should be required to disclose financial information about the project every year so that if the developer hits a home run, the City could recoup its tax breaks, with interest. Think LA Live!

We, the residents of Los Angeles, need to level the playing field. It is not a fair fight. Increased disclosure is a start.

(Jack Humphreville is a publisher and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville writes for CityWatch.)
CityWatchVol 6 Issue 78
Pub: Sept 26, 2008

I have been not dealing with the Ponte Vista issue this week as much as I have in other weeks.

Many members of OUR community lost a great friend, exceptional facilitator, and truly wonderful woman when we all lost Ms. Michele Burk last Saturday.

Michele passed away in her sleep.

Michele was one of the three women that can take credit for doing what was thought impossible. With help from Ms. Barbara Dragich, the Leader of Vista del Oro Neighbors Against Condos and the tremendous work done by Councilwoman Janice Hahn and her staff, San Pedro received its first "Q" Qualification Condition on two properties at the corner of 20th Street and Walker Avenue.

When a developer bought the old McCowan's Market only to tear it down to build houses and an up to 18 units condominium structure, Barbara and Michele gathered the community together and learned and worked to find ways to stop what would have been severe overdevelopment in the neighborhood.

When Councilwoman Hahn came on board to support the cause started by the women and members of OUR community, she and her staff were able to create the situation that found the entire L.A. City Council backing OUR community in this matter.

The Q Qualification Condition placed on two properties formerly zoned C1-1XL made certain that only single-family detached houses on lots of not less than 5,000 square foot lots are built on the site of the former beloved Market.

Michele also served two terms as President of the San Pedro High School Lady Boosters, even though her 'kids', Chuy and Pretty Boy live only about 6 blocks from the campus.

(Chuy probably needs to attend some type of school, he is a bit onry and not very sociable.)

Michele was extremely knowledgeable concerning the history of San Pedro High School and she was central to The Mystics, Class of 1972 and their reunions. This was a remarkable thing do to the fact that The Mystics was and will forever be the largest graduating class at San Pedro High School, with 1,053 graduates.

I created a post at:

Folks are welcome to posts comments about Michele at that site, too.

Marie Callender's has been closed recently while it is undergoing a remodel. It is a larger restaurant close enough to Ponte Vista to receive mention.

The thought that is would leave its current site went away when the owner of the store signed a 10-year lease.

"Think Prime" looks to still be in the works on Western Avenue near Summerland.

It would be great is a restaurant venture would finally break the 'curse' considered by many to be on the site of the old Tasman Sea Restaurant.

There are plenty of supporters and opponents of Bob's current plans who come together to enjoy the music, plays, and happenings in the downtown San Pedro area.

The Relevant Stage and Little Fish Theatre Companies have new productions beginning soon.

The Golden State Pops Orchestra begins another season in the latter part of October.

The Warner Grand Vision Annex is a new space and has productions coming up.

New showings of art will come forward and be shown in the studios in downtown San Pedro.

The entertainment venues we have allow all of us to come together, greet each other and enjoy talking about things other than Ponte Vista, which we don't really enjoy talking about.

No comments: