Why Leaders Say Measure S Could Halt TODs, Devastate City
Transit-oriented development is often offered as one solution to help decrease traffic, provide housing and improve the quality of life in Los Angeles, but Measure S, which would halt large developments, could put a freeze on planned TODs and create a worse situation than the one it is trying to fix.
Some of the city's key players see Measure S, which would place a two-year moratorium on big developments, banning most spot zoning and other amendments, as being problematic when it comes to future development projects. Measure S is also known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and goes before voters in March.
Not enough housing units are being built in L.A., CityView CEO Sean Burton (second from right) said. As a result, traffic is worse because people have to live farther away and commute to their jobs.
CityView has about a dozen projects between San Diego and San Francisco, and nearly all of them are near transit hubs. Burton said the firm has projects in Koreatown, "the densest part of L.A.," and DTLA.
"We see a tremendous amount of opportunity, but the biggest threat to that, from our perspective, is the anti-development sentiment," he said.
If Measure S passes, it would be devastating not just for real estate, but also for L.A., according to Burton.
Mirisch (far right) said he thinks L.A. is looking at 20th century solutions for 21st century problems.
Contrary to others on the panel, Mirisch said TODs are not the answer. Instead, the city should look at autonomous-oriented developments, or AODs. He said integrating autonomous vehicles with public transportation will change the way we plan cities.
Solutions need to be determined by individual cities based on their own needs, he said. When it comes to development, skyscrapers, for example, are not appropriate for Beverly Hills but are for DTLA and other parts of the city, he said.
"There are 88 independent cities within the county, countless more communities, and I think we have to be respectful of how they are and how they want to develop," Mirisch said.
He said he believes Measure S was born out of frustration. He said L.A.'s planning system lies at the root of the problem driving that frustration, and that is the first thing that needs to be addressed.
Lall also sees Measure S as being the biggest threat to L.A. as the city works toward trying to resolve traffic and housing issues. While Lall said there are outdated zoning codes, she said Measure S goes too far in trying to rectify those. She said DTLA has a lot of TODs, making it a great example of how they can work in the city. And DTLA has more room for growth. The Bloc just opened its Seventh Street Metro Stop in DTLA.
L.A. Metro community relations manager Eric Geier filled in for L.A. Metro CEO Phillip Washington, who missed the meeting because he was stuck in traffic. Geier said he agreed with Mirisch that autonomous vehicles could work well with a transit system because it could solve the first and last mile problem of how people get from their homes to public transit. He said people are already using ride-sharing to make that type of connection.
McKinsey Global Institute director and senior partner Jonathan Woetzel (above left) said transit-oriented developments are a big tool and an important gap-filler when it comes to helping solve the housing crisis.
Fifty percent of California households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, according to Woetzel.
His research shows 3 million to 5 million units, including TODs, could be built statewide to ease the housing crisis. It is about densifying around transit, according to Woetzel.
There is also opportunity to do better in the construction and development sector, which has not improved productivity over the past 40 years, he said.