Santa Monica is about to get a multi-billion dollar rail line and is sitting on some of the most desirable real estate in California. Yet like many other coastal communities, homeowners there are starting to shut down any new housing developments, even when they’re well-planned, near transit, and providing badly needed housing.
You now start to see the backlash to plans that had been put in place a few years before. So, you see, essentially, a lot wealthy homeowner groups, to my understanding funded by some businesses for competitive reasons, organizing and hiring attorneys to shoot down a badly needed development project with a lot of new housing and great transportation improvements for the city, to shoot that down through the threat of voter initiative, I think that was really a key turning point, not just for Santa Monica, but for all of Los Angeles.
The region is now spending tens of billions of dollars on rail expansion and if the locals don’t allow development around those transit stations, it’s essentially a waste of money. It’s a waste of the entire county’s investment if we don’t allow the development to happen because, then, you aren’t going to get the ridership numbers that you need. You aren’t going to see the development patterns that mean people will have more jobs, homes, and services in that immediate area to take advantage of the [rail] line.
It’s a real tragedy, certainly for L.A. County and it sends a chilling signal across California to developers who might want to take advantage of these rail transit areas and build neighborhoods and communities that really work with the transit system.
If they aren’t allowed to do it because of a citizen revolt of all the homeowners who are already established in the neighborhood who don’t want any new residents, then we’ve got a real problem because what that does is reinforce the status quo. The status quo doesn’t provide enough housing for people, it creates a lot of economic inequality and environmental degradation. Those trends are just getting worse.
Many thanks to Santa Monica Next for the opportunity to share my views. I’ll post Part II when it’s available.