1. The title quote comes from this gem of an LA Weekly article about proposed changes to Hollywood’s zoning code which would allow for taller buildings and denser development. According to the Weekly, “For decades, zoning that governs height and size has preserved thousands of affordable, low-slung, older apartments, bungalows and commercial buildings in Hollywood.” The words “preserve” and “affordable” rarely belong in the same sentence.
2. Once again in New York upzoning is linked with affordable housing. Expanding student housing at NYU also depends on the university providing land and potentially a building for a public school.
3. In San Francisco, an activist is working with developers to achieve upzoning approval for waterfront property. Despite the positive upzoning, on the surface this deal wreaks of crony capitalism. But the real kicker comes from the proposed funding:
First up, the plan to build a high-rise residential tower near the waterfront at 8 Washington St. with funding from the state teachers’ retirement fund.
The plan is being backed by Pak’s business allies, developer Simon Snellgrove and lobbyist Marcia Smolens. The project spokesman is P.J. Johnston, former spokesman for Brown.
Approval of the deal could yield millions of dollars in affordable-housing money to help fund one of Pak’s pet projects, a $32 million apartment complex being built on Stockton Street by the nonprofit Chinatown Community Development Center.
In my job I do a lot of work with pension reform, and this project would be an egregious abuse of CalSTRS, one of the most underfunded public pension plans in the country. Public pension funds should be managed to minimize risks for retirees, employees, and taxpayers, not to provide kickbacks to business interests.
4. Last note on special interests in upzoning: At least some property owners must hope to sell in the future rather than hold on to their real estate forever. In upzoning cases, why don’t we see these groups coming out as loudly in favor of the change as those who oppose increased density in their neighborhoods? Since upzoning in a place like Hollywood will unambiguously make land more valuable, why don’t these stakeholders lobby in favor of the change? If it’s a matter of their financially-driven motive sounding too crass compared to NIMBYs with lofty goals like preserving Hollywood, these bootleggers just need to find themselves some Baptists in the form of density-loving environmentalists.