Another Roundup: 'Musical Chairs' Among the Electeds. Stadium Bait-and Switch. Transit and Consequences. L.A. Is Slipping Away.
It's about time for another updating of stories that have recently occupied these pages.
For the National Football League, the cheat goes on: There was a time no so long ago when pretty much any wide spot in the road was going to be the home of the NFL in Los Angeles. Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's political career rose and fell in part because of his support of the now abandoned Farmer's Field. Ed Roski's stadium in the City of Industry has been "shovel ready" for years. "Shovel ready" as in ready to be interred. Anaheim? Irwindale? Dodger Stadium? More fields of swiftly broken dreams.
Carson and Inglewood are the NFL's hot prospects today, tarted up with renderings of stadiums to get the hearts of city council members wildly beating. But the ballyhoo - as it is intended to - obscures hard realities.
No NFL team has committed to any of the many stadium proposals and won't until the league crafts a financing plan that guarantees to enrich league owners. Failure to arrive at a deal on the NFL's terms killed Farmer's Field for AEG. Ed Roski might be more flexible than the notoriously tight-fisted Philip Anschutz of AEG, but Roski's stadium proposal turned out to have the defects of Anschutz's - not enough in it for the NFL.
Which might make Inglewood or Carson better prospects for getting what the league wants. The proposed Inglewood stadium even has a team owner attached and a sizable chunk of the former Hollywood Park racetrack to build on.
But St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has a thing about unions, and won't agree to unionize the construction and operation of the Inglewood stadium. In blue-collar Inglewood, it won't be hard for union organizers to stage a delaying referendum on stadium development or elect a city council majority in sympathy with union goals. Kroenke's anti-union stance isn't a deal killer, but I'd wait on buying season tickets for the Los Angeles Rams (of Inglewood).
That leaves Carson, where union agreements aren't a problem (at least so far). Carson has other issues. For one, it already has an AEG-run sports venue, and AEG doesn't like competition. AEG has warned Carson Mayor Jim Dear that the city's haste in sidestepping a long and costly environmental review "is an open invitation to litigation."
If an Environmental Impact Report battle isn't enough, Carson has had a volatile political past. It wouldn't take much to embroil the NFL and team owners in Carson's off-kilter political culture, and that might make a stadium deal too hot for the NFL to handle.
Slip slidin' away, still: In 1929, an entire cliffside community in San Pedro - homes, streets, and sidewalks - sagged, buckled, and in time tumbled onto the surf to become the chaotic landscape called the Sunken City. Starting in late 1937, a hillside in Elysian Park overlooking the Los Angeles River peeled away, eventually rolling boulders into the doorways of the riverside businesses below. In 1956, nearly 300 acres of the Palos Verdes peninsula began sliding into the Pacific, carrying away another neighborhood of homes.
Local landslides are still on the move. The latest concern is the strip of coastline adjacent to the Sunken City and the strip of San Pedro's White Point that tore away in 2011. Although a catastrophic rupture isn't imminent, say city geologists, concerns are being raised about the stability of the cliff on which the historic Point Fermin lighthouse and park are located.
The cause of potential failure at Point Fermin is, oddly in a year of drought, too much water. Groundwater seepage through fractured layers of sediment and alluvial deposits is assumed to be lubricating future slippage of the cliff face.
Los Angeles has installed monitoring wells and measuring equipment. Community members, through the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, have joined in monitoring the cliff's condition. It may be necessary - and costly - to install a system of groundwater drains to keep Point Fermin from becoming a suburb of the Sunken City one day.
Our perennial politicians: Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee revisited a theme from many of these pages - How come we keep seeing the same political names in office in Los Angeles County?
Walters notes that "Four of the five county supervisors, for instance, are former state legislators, including the two newest members elected last year, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, the latter also a former member of Congress. Seven of the 15 Los Angeles City Council members are also former legislators, as are 12 of the county's 15 congressional members."
Walters could have dug into the elected boards that constitute a sort of shadow government in Southern California. Although the pay and perks are lesser in these obscure elected offices, the space for political maneuvering, nepotism, and deal making, as the Calderon family discovered, is surprisingly large.
Term limits were supposed to give us citizen politicians. Instead, Los Angeles voters got political churn.
The churn affects appointed officials too. According Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times, the sudden departure of Metro boss Art Leahy and his sudden appointment as CEO of Metrolink was propelled by Metro chair (and Los Angeles mayor) Eric Garcetti, whose reasons for leading board members in pushing Leahy out haven't been revealed.
Garcetti seems to have been working on getting rid of Leahy for at least a year. Political payback may be one of the reasons, since Leahy's ties to a rival of Garcetti's figure into Leahy's brisk jump from one transit agency to another.
Leahy's landing at Metrolink was apparently engineered by former Assemblyman Richard Katz, who served 16 years in the legislature before he was termed out. The well-connected Katz was close to former Mayor Villaraigosa, who appointed him to the Metro board. Katz, however, made the mistake of endorsing Garcetti's opponent in his run for mayor. Gone soon after from Metro, Katz was welcomed by Metrolink.
And when Leahy was pushed out in one political power play, he was elevated by another. And the game goes on.
Unintended consequence? Speaking of public transit, the ever skeptical LA Weekly argues that transit-oriented-development around light rail stations is boosting the already high cost of L.A. housing. According to a study by RadPad, an apartment finding site, the rent for a basic, one-bedroom apartment within a half-mile of new Metro transit stops will be 25 percent higher after the light rail or subway improvements are completed. (At least it's not like Boston, where "transit local" rental costs are more than 60 percent higher.)
With many Angeleños living on the margin of housing availability and ability to pay, the premium demanded for transit adjacent housing can seem heartless.
Ideally, transit-oriented development is supposed to create complete neighborhoods where jobs, services, and housing are within walking and biking distance of each other or only a short transit ride away. But the jobs in mixed use developments today won't cover a premium rent for a high-rise unit above the coffee bar, yoga studio, or sandwich place.
The city planners I talk to pin their hopes on a future economy where good-paying jobs will be done at home or in a nearby work center linked through high speed Internet connections.
Walkers and bikers best be wary, because data collected by Los Angeles Walks show that 19,000 vehicle/pedestrian accidents occurred on Los Angeles streets between 2003 and 2009.
Some of the collision prone intersections are near transit stops, not surprisingly; others are along pedestrian dense downtown streets.