Ballot Box: Development concerns take the spotlight at Echo Park candidate forum

With real estate prices, rents and new buildings rising across Echo Park, the topic of real estate development emerged as the main issue discussed at last week’s city council candidate forum hosted by the Echo Park Improvement Assn. A group of candidates running in the Council District 1 and Council District 13 races were quizzed on how they would change zoning, restrict hillside development, replace rent-controlled housing and other related topics.

The responses hit close to home, with candidates Jose Gardea and Emile Pack coming out against the building 800 units on the property of Barlow Hospital, which was the site of last Thursday’s forum (Some of the high-profile contenders – including former Public Works Commissioner John Choi,  State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo  and fomer Mayor Villaraigosa aide Matt Szabo – were no shows.)  Here’s a round up of some of the candidate’s responses:

Jose Gardea, Chief of Staff to Councilman Ed Reyes

The newly elected council members will have to look at how to devote more resources to the city’s Planning Department in order f to work on new ordinances and zoning to deal with a variety of  development issues, including  the protection of hillsides and promotion of inclusionary zoning.

Roberto Haraldson, Business owner and former member of Silver Lake Neighborhood Council

Any new development or condominium conversion that eliminates housing occupied by low-income residents would have to replace the same number of units within the district, said Haraldson.  “The real value in our community is the people who are here. We can build all sorts of great beautiful buildings  but that’s not going to increase the value of our community.”

Emile Mack, LAFD Assistant Fire Chief

Mack said he would oppose Mansionization, the term often used to describe new homes that are much larger than existing houses.  Someone comes into a neighborhood and just destroys the total character of a neighborhood. I will fight that because it just looks ridiculous.

Mitch O’Farrell, Former Senior Advisor to Councilman Eric Garcetti

I would take a look at rezoning our residential areas in Echo Park, and I am also going to take a look at down zoning our commercial areas. What’s allowable on Sunset Boulevard in downtown Echo Park is 75 foot-high structures. I think that’s out of scale with what the community really wants to see.”  O’Farrell said he would also look at restricting the use of the city’s small-lot subdivision ordinance, which allows lots be carved up into smaller home-building sites, in hillside areas.

Alexander Cruz De Ocampo, Senior Director of Saban Family Foundation

“I have seen Echo Park change and I have seen how some developers push these limits. I want to make sure I am getting all feedback from every community stakeholder and …  make sure these developers know that they cannot push these limits.”

Octavio Pescador, University Professor

Pescador said funds need to be raised and new laws created to support affordable housing and deal with the impact gentrification. “We should create an ordinances that ties development and affordable housing . The state and federal government should help Los Angeles bring resources from abroad so that we can subsidize that particular affordable housing law.”

Josh Post, State Deputy Attorney General

Hillside development  “has gotten a bit out of control”  and he would like to see more restrictions. “I think we need to focus on where we can put development … near transit hubs and main thoroughfares where there is [walkable and bikeable] areas. When you are talking about hillsides, you really need to preserve that.”

Jesse Rosas, Businessman and community volunteer

“How are you going to develop hillsides? That’s a no-no for me because that’s the open land,” he said.  “Urban development is going to happen but it has to be smart development. How are you going to do that smart development? It has to be with town hall meetings … so City Hall can be accountable.”

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  1. It figures that Cedillo is a no show. I am supporting Jose Gardea for CD-1. He shows up for meetings. Our communities need a Councilmember who will be engaged and proactive. Vote for a candidate that has been here in the community like Jose Gardea.

  2. Change of zoning laws is the KEY to preserving Echo Park and it will be difficult to obtain, given the fact that the City and County make money off the applications, permits, increased property taxes, and payroll taxes of those involved in creating these monstrosities. As a result, there is little incentive to preserve the existing community. The motivation of our public officials to do something about this situation will be when their jobs are on the line – so please vote, and vote thoughtfully. Whether you are fighting the Blackbirds development or the Barlow Hospital development, we need all coordinate to demand that Echo Park zoning be revised a.s.a.p. Otherwise, we will be up to our eyebrows in these ugly stucco multi-colored cubes.

  3. Candidate Mack was especially critical of the Semi-Tropic Spiritualists Tract development. But no one on “The Hill” recalls meeting him.

  4. I attended this Forum and found it very informative…

    I now question all Candidates that did not show up to this very vital Outreach opportunity.

    What were you all afraid of? Facing the people that will decide who will be our new Council members?

    Are you depending on low information votes to usurer you into power?

    Tricks that might have worked on the Neighborhood Council level won’t work in this race.

    Face the music let the people see who you are next to your opponents.

    • The article stated “high-profiled” contenders and the former GEPENC President (now CD 13 candidate,) definitely is not a “high-profiled” contender (even The Eastsider LA made no mention of his name.) Could there have been a District 9 event that kept him away from the EPIA Candidate Forum? All that money those at Barlow Hospital contributed to his campaign and he was a no-show at Williams Hall.

  5. if you care about the future of open spaces in LA, vote for Jose Gardea. If you care about supporting big corporations like Chevron, vote for Gil Cedillo. Seriously. Look at who is spending the big bucks on trying to get Cedillo into the CD 1 seat!

  6. Opponents of the barlow project endorse Gardea… http://saveelysianpark.org/what-can-i-do-2/ For that reason alone, he’s got my vote.

  7. Mansionization is a good topic to focus on because it is a problem that until now can barely notice on developing countries. We should utilize the use of space and be more aware of our neighborhood not only considering our own good.

    • If Westcombe Homes, (London, England,) fancies developing countries, may I recommend Sierra Leone? Do not tread upon the hillsides of this community.

  8. I live in CD-13 and am receiving around 4 candidate mailers a day. Take a look at the responses. Got to say that Mitch was spot on. Makes a difference. Anyone who’s had to deal with Councilmembers and staff knows what a hurdle it is to have to explain a concept or issue involving City bureaucracy to someone with no specific experience in the field. No matter how brilliant the resume, that experience counts.

  9. Hillside develoment is out of control? It is already a nightmare to try to build in the hills. the Baseline Hillside Ordinance has made a huge numer of lots completely unbuildable. The NELA hillside ordinace is even worse. If you haven’t tried building in the hills, especially in NELA, you have no idea just how incredibly restrictive the existing ordinances are.

    • And thank goodness for those restrictions! Unfortunately, EP is not an officially-designated “hillside” area….. ergo the need for zoning change. Mitch?

  10. There is one candidate who has been actively involved with the residents and businesses of CD13 for over a decade. Through hundreds of community meetings and neighborhood forums from Hollywood to Atwater Village to Echo Park he has developed a sterling reputation for honesty, empathy and results. His name is Mitch O’Farrell.

  11. Is there some reason you didn’t link to Josh Post’s website? Let me help you out; it’s here: http://www.joshpost.com

  12. Figures “THAT” candidate had a price … Why mention his sold out sell out ideology. We saw it personally on our NC board. For those pointing fingers. U where not pointing when you two where on the same page an took the money. So shut up you LOST ur right to critize you had chance power to create change an you DIDNT.

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