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.”
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.”