Goodbye to 2018! We’re sending off the year with a look back/look ahead in Los Angeles, but, first, we discuss some LA stories.
Hayes checked out the University of Philosophical Research in Los Feliz and had a spectacular time. Scott points out that it has the sort of too-benign name you might expect from a cult, but apparently it is an accredited online university, and, per Hayes, a fun place to spend an afternoon reading.
Alissa is in frozen Colorado for the holidays, but she did have the experience of taking Flyaway out of the city at the busiest time of year for LAX. She (and we) want to know, of all the major changes that could be made to improve the horseshoe, why the Flyaway and other buses/shuttles don’t have their own lane through LAX.
Scott has spent the holidays moving furniture and found it very difficult to accomplish all his errands without the use of a car. He says having to make short trips of about a mile or so is difficult on a repeat basis with Metro’s existing service frequencies (and also, maybe, a mile is too far for the basic implements of urban living).
Next, Hayes wants us to talk about the biggest, most representative, or most important story of 2018 in the city.
Alissa goes first and she thinks that we’ll remember 2018 for moving incrementally toward addressing our homelessness and housing crises. Narrowing it down, she says the Koreatown battle over bridge housing sticks out most in her mind – and Hayes agrees. Alissa says that it is kind of unfortunate that this is the story of the year because the NIMBYism and the backlash that came up in response to a community approach to dealing with homelessness portend bad things for what we can expect to see in 2019.
Hayes wants to know how we move beyond these types of fights, rather than having historically marginalized ethnic groups with legitimate grievances take the same tack that white neighborhoods have taken for decades when it comes to dealing with new homeless services. Scott says that there is potentially more to it than just replicating white NIMBYism. There is a populist anger that is growing in Koreatown that stems from the belief among many in the Korean-American community that the city has actively sought to quash any power they might exercise. In that vein, the Keep Koreatown activists have sought to position themselves (in a manner Scott acknowledges is somewhat hard to believe) as solely anti-City Council, not anti-homelessness services.
Scott also says he wants to see us leave behind the notion that homeless individuals are not real community members. They are our neighbors and homelessness in general is representative of homegrown problems, not imported ones. Hayes says that there are multiple types of NIMBYism, some of which must be ignored and some of which must be listened to. He thinks that Koreatown is the latter type, but says that our discussions still need to find a way to move beyond the pushback so that we can ultimately get services where people are. Alissa agrees that services need to go where people can make use of them and where transit options exist.
Scott says his theme for the year is the lack of strong political leadership from elected officials at a time he says it is needed more than ever. Given the close identification of Los Angeles with multiple Latinx cultures, we are perhaps more than anywhere else a place that is targeted by the racist ire of the Trump administration. Scott uses two examples from Mayor Garcetti’s year: the refusal to say Los Angeles should be a Sanctuary City, and his waffling response to SB827.
Hayes says that lots of mayors did come out to support Sanctuary Cities policies, which makes it even more notable that Garcetti steadfastly refused to do so. Hayes and Scott discuss that Garcetti’s prospective national hopes seem to have played a large role in this, as did the Olympics coming in 2028, which have required the city to seek aid from the Trump administration.
As it pertains to SB827, Scott says irrespective of how people felt about the bill (he notes that he liked the final version of the bill and is optimistic about its follow-on, SB50), Garcetti’s response is striking for the lack of political leadership it demonstrated. While some reactions – CD5’s Paul Koretz infamously made the racialized comparison of SB827 turning the westside into “Dubai” – were predictable, Garcetti’s multiple reactions indicated an inability to take a strong stance. Scott says that he joked in a Metro meeting that he wanted to support it as Metro chair but oppose it as mayor of LA.
As it happened, Garcetti came out, as mayor, and said that he would support SB827 but only if it could be improved to help protect against displacement. Scott Wiener – whose office was already working on such amendments – eagerly seized on the mayor’s supportive comments. But when the amendments were released, Garcetti flipped completely, saying that it was more important to protect single-family neighborhoods, the polar opposite of protecting against displacement. Alissa points out that the mayoral mansion is on a street like what Garcetti railed against, where single-family housing coexists with tall buildings on Wilshire. Scott says this was the most embarrassing turnabout of the year.
Hayes says that he expected that the response to Trump’s election would include more local flag-waving about how Los Angeles, with the country’s largest population of undocumented immigrants, is proof that we can conquer racism and xenophobia and be successful as a diverse culture. Hayes brings up the recent New York Times article that discusses the cities everyone is afraid of becoming, and says that Garcetti should have been out on the road making the case for LA. Alissa says that he did that only in promoting the city’s climate leadership, which she says needs some debunking given LA’s continued struggles transition away from single occupancy vehicles.
Given that, we also talk about the air quality over the Christmas holiday. Alissa says we need to be talking seriously about the re-emergence of LA’s smog problem, which we still brag about having beaten.
Next we talk what we want to see for 2019. Hayes wants to see a movement of working age people show up to support homeless housing across the city. Scott wants to see a concrete plan for congestion pricing in Los Angeles, saying that Metro needs a visionary plan forward in 2019. He also says that the soon-to-be released and much-ballyhooed NextGen study will not be that visionary plan. Hayes wants to know what the order of improvements should be, and Scott says that he would start by banning all on-street parking on major crosstown boulevards and hand those lanes over to buses. Alissa wants to see the city rededicate itself to adding street trees and regrowing our urban canopy. In 2019, we can have a concerted effort to begin addressing warming in the city and climate change with a street tree program that would plant 1 million trees in a year. Yes, we really can do that!