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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Valley Panel Opposes City’s Housing Plans

The North Valley Area Planning Commission, one of two neighborhood planning groups representing the San Fernando Valley, has written to city officials stating its blanket opposition to inclusionary housing as the ordinance is being readied to go to committee next year. The commission is one of numerous groups that have weighed in both for and against the plan, which would set aside new housing units for rental or sale below market rates for those whose incomes are below median levels in exchange for incentives to help developers absorb the added cost of these units. But unlike most of the other groups, which sought to shape the details of the ordinance, the NVAPC members say they want to halt passage of the ordinance in any form, claiming that such a regulation would upset the character of neighborhoods and interfere with existing development guidelines designed to protect residents while failing to provide housing that is affordable to the poor. Pricing, they add, should be left to market forces, not government, and the current high cost of housing will correct if and when the relationship of supply to demand changes. “If I want to drive a Rolls Royce, and I can’t afford a Rolls Royce, why don’t I go down to city hall and say, ‘I want a Rolls Royce?,'” said George Stavaris, vice president of the NVAPC. ” If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. I’m sorry to hurt your feelings, but hey.” The inclusionary housing ordinance, a response to what most believe is a severe shortage of housing that is only going to get worse, was drafted by city councilmen Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes earlier this year, and they and others have been making the rounds of neighborhood councils, area planning commissions and other local groups since then to gather comment and suggestions, which will be incorporated into a proposal expected to go the council’s housing and economic development committees next year. But their job is made all the more difficult by what is essentially a complex issue and resulting ordinance, difficult for the average citizen to sort out or understand. “What I have found is that people don’t have the baseline information about how development happens, and so they take a sound bite approach to the proposal,” said Beth Steckler, policy director for Livable Places, an L.A. advocacy group that has been active in promoting the inclusionary housing ordinance. “The proposal doesn’t make a whole lot of changes in the planning code, and there’s been a lot of misperceptions of what it would do.” In making its case against affordable housing, for example, the NVAPC says in its letter, “Inclusionary zoning/housing is not a reasonable method to create affordable housing. If a new home were built and discounted at a 30 percent discount, an $800,000 home would sell for $560,000, how does that create affordability?” In fact, the current draft ordinance, in seeking to define what price levels would be affordable, sets the figure at 30 percent of the targeted income of eligible families for renters, and 35 percent for owners, not 30 percent of market rates. “It’s unfortunate that that was their take,” said Josh Kamensky, spokesman for Garcetti. “From our office’s perspective we would be happy to spend some time with the planning commission to explain how the 30 percent set aside works.” Other objections The NVAPC drafted the letter after hearing a presentation by Garcetti and, in a subsequent meeting, comments by others which the group says represented a broad cross section of the community. The potential effectiveness of the proposal in spurring affordable housing is not the only objection voiced by the NVAPC. “Inclusionary zoning is an attack on the very basic premise of what planning is supposed to be about,” said Sandor L. Winger, president of the NVAPC. “An individual has a right to buy a home, let’s say that’s 4,000 square feet, and they have a right to set up a community based on that style of home. “Now you come along and say, we’re going to have inclusionary zoning and we’re going to set up homes in that area that will be 60 percent of that size, so the 4,000 square foot home is one million bucks, and the 2,400 square foot home is going to be $750,000. Who does that help? All it does is bring down the value to a community of people who want to live in a more expensive neighborhood.” The group also worries that by offering affordable housing side by side with market rate housing it will dilute the value and the desirability of the market rate units. “From a supply and demand standpoint, if that unit is selling for less, I want the lower number,” Stavaris said. Those in favor of the ordinance say that these types of price discrepancies occur throughout the city. The existence of rent control apartments in a building doesn’t keep new renters from signing up at market rates. And the recent housing price hikes, which have created wide discrepancies in the property taxes people on the same street pay, hasn’t slowed the housing market. Varied reaction Reaction to the proposal thus far has varied widely, say those who have been involved in disseminating information about the inclusionary housing ordinance. The South Valley Area Planning Commission didn’t take a stand, but rather took public comments, and its own and forwarded them on,” said David Iwata, president of the group. “Some neighborhood councils support inclusionary housing,” said Steckler, pointing to Venice and one of the Hollywood councils by example. “Silver Lake had some more qualifiers. And most neighborhood councils took the Silver Lake letter and modified it, but that’s not to say that the feelings don’t run very strong.” Meanwhile, the drafters of the ordinance say they’re confident the inclusionary housing proposal will eventually get the nod of the city council and become a part of the city’s development agenda. “Obviously any opposition is some degree of a problem, but then there’s plenty of opposition to doing nothing,” said Kamensky. “What Councilman Garcetti’s position has been is we’re not dealing with people who say no inclusionary housing policy could work, and we’re not dealing with people on the housing advocacy side who say no matter what the cost, developers can suck it up and neighborhoods can absorb it. The people we’re in conversation with understand that something needs to be done, and not everything is in reach. That’s really how you do politics.”

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