Make 2016 the Year We Change Housing in LA

By now, you’ve probably heard of the latest anti-development NIMBY initiative in LA. Like many bad policies, it comes wrapped in an ambiguous but benevolent-sounding name, the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.” It is not clear to this observer what this initiative has to do with the admirable accomplishments and laudable missions of some of the organizations backing it.

What is clear is that this initiative will make LA’s housing crisis worse. It will make it more difficult to build housing near transit, destroy the city’s ability to secure new affordable housing units in exchange for additional density, and cost the region good-paying construction jobs at a time that blue-collar workers are struggling to keep up. By driving up rents, it will reduce the amount of money that ordinary people have to spend on necessities like food and health care.

NIMBYs complain that the city is violating zoning regulations by approving additional density for housing developments. This is daft. The city creates the zoning regulations, the zoning regulations allow for exceptions, and the city council can enact changes when it chooses. The city does not violate its own zoning regulations by granting exceptions in the same way that the Legislature does not violate CEQA, a law it passed, by amending CEQA.

NIMBY planning has been worsening LA’s housing crisis for over 40 years. But being wrong (again) doesn’t mean they won’t get their way. Policy doesn’t get enacted because it’s right (though that doesn’t hurt), it gets enacted because people organize to get it. And unfortunately, NIMBYs are well organized.

That means it’s time for us to organize. We’re not going to solve the housing crisis unless we put political pressure on cities in the region to allow more housing. And the first order of business is not going any further backwards, which means defeating this initiative.

Let’s make 2016 the year we organize and demand change. Let’s bring people across LA together to meet the housing crisis head on. Let’s work for an open and inclusive LA, where anyone is welcome and can find housing at a reasonable price.

Stay tuned for more…

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