Attempted Eviction of Tenant Ends in Apparent Suicide

Graphic from LAist, July 6, 2021, https://laist.com/news/housing-homelessness/where-are-tenants-falling-through-the-cracks-of-californias-eviction-ban

On Thursday morning LA Sheriffs arrived at an apartment building on Cahuenga in Hollywood to serve an eviction notice. Before they were able to enter the apartment, they heard a single gunshot from inside. Eventually they gained entry, and found an individual who had died from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Hollywood Freeway Reopens After Armed Standoff, from Hollywood Patch, November 10, 2022

Earlier this year, the annual survey conducted by the LA Homeless Services Authority found there were 41,980 people experiencing homelessness in the City of LA (a 1.7% increase from 2020) and 69,144 people experiencing homelessness in LA County (a 4.1% rise from 2020). Apparent inaccuracies that have been found in the survey have led many people to believe that the actual numbers are far higher.

2022 Greater Los Angeles Homeless County, from LAHSA

In June 2020, the LA Housing & Community Investment Department released a report estimating that there were between 85,000 and 100,000 empty housing units in the City of LA. (See page 5.)

Council Report Back on the Amount of Vacant, Habitable Housing Units in Los Angeles, from LA Housing & Community Investment Department, June 11, 2020

In their 2020 report on vacancy in Los Angeles, SAJE, ACCE and UCLA Law found that the City was producing far more expensive units than affordable ones, leading to excessive vacancies at the high end and a shortage of supply at the low end. (See page 5.)

“Simply put, new expensive housing remains disproportionately vacant, thereby failing to free up units for lower-income families. In addition to the intentional maintenance of overpriced units for rent or sale described above, the system of housing production in Los Angeles has created, on the one hand, a surplus supply of high-rent housing with elevated vacancy for new and higher-priced units, and on the other hand, a massive shortfall of low-cost housing that has contributed to the houselessness crisis.”

The Vacancy Report, from SAJE, ACCE, UCLA Law, 2020

The LA Tenants Union posted a response to the apparent suicide of the tenant in Hollywood.

LA Tenants Union Response to Evicted Tenant Suicide In Hollywood

We don’t know much about the renter who took his life on Thursday, but it seems likely that, knowing he was about to be evicted from his home, he shot himself because he felt he had no place else to go.

How is that possible in a city where tens of thousands of units sit empty?

“This entire city government is in need of an exorcism.”

It’s hard to know where to begin.  The chain of events that’s unfolded in LA over the past few days is extraordinary, but maybe it’s just the logical outcome of the way this city has been run for the past several years.  Honestly, while it’s surprising that the recording of three councilmembers talking about redistricting has been leaked, there’s really nothing surprising about the discussion.  Anybody who’s been following LA City politics over the last decade knows that Los Angeles is run by a corrupt elite that’s rigged the system.  We should all be angry, but I don’t know why anyone would be surprised. 

The first City Council meeting after the Times broke the story was intense.  I watched it on video.  The Council chambers were filled with angry people chanting and yelling.  President Pro Tem Mitch O’Farrell kept trying to calm the protesters down, but they were furious and wanted to let the Council know it.  The crowd finally got quiet when it was announced that Councilmember Mike Bonin was going to speak.  Bonin’s son was the target of one of the numerous racist slurs that Nury Martinez utters on the recording, and Bonin was visibly upset.  He gave an emotional speech condemning racism in general, and thanking all those who had reached out to support him and his family since the news broke.

It’s understandable that Bonin was shaken by the release of recording, and I don’t doubt that his speech was heartfelt.  He loves his son, and he knows that this episode will likely cause his son to feel pain and anger.  But I wish Bonin would acknowledge all the pain that he’s inflicted on low-income people of color during his time in office.  When public comment began, I wasn’t surprised to hear one of the speakers accuse Bonin of hypocrisy because of his actions as a member of the City Council.  Referring to Bonin, the speaker exclaimed, “The one that’s pointin’ the finger has done the most name callin’.  Put us off Venice Beach.  All the black people.  He put us all off Venice Beach for some real estate.  Fuck you, Mike Bonin.”

Now, I’ve never heard Mike Bonin use any racial slurs, but there’s no doubt that Venice has grown a lot wealthier and whiter during his two terms on the City Council.  (Bonin didn’t start this trend, but he’s done nothing to stop it, either.) And Bonin has taken plenty of campaign cash from developers and lobbyists during that time.  While Bonin may talk about ending racism and creating a just society, he’s voted over and over again, along with the rest of the City Council, to support policies and projects that promote displacement and gentrification. 

Former Councilmember Jose Huizar is facing trial on corruption charges, in part because he helped a developer reduce the amount of affordable housing required for the 520 Mateo project in Downtown.  Did Mike Bonin object to reducing the affordable housing requirement?  Hell no.  He voted to approve the project. 

Interestingly, many of the biggest residential projects recently approved in Downtown have zero affordable housing, and the developers of these projects are often allowed to skip paying the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee.  Other residential projects in LA have to provide affordable units to get increased density, but in Downtown they can get more density by asking for a Transfer of Floor Area Rights.  Has Bonin spoken out against developers using this loophole to dodge affordable housing requirements?  Hell no.  He voted to approve these projects just like the rest of his colleagues on the Council. 

When a property owner wanted to demolish 40 rent-stabilized units in Hollywood to make way for a new hotel, did Mike Bonin object to the eviction of low-income families in the middle of a housing crisis?  Hell no.  He voted to approve the project.  Mike Bonin has joined his fellow councilmembers over and over again in awarding zone changes and general plan amendments to developers, delivering huge profits for investors and fomenting real estate speculation while thousands of low-income people of color were kicked out of their homes and LA’s homeless crisis spiralled out of control.  During his time on the Council, Mike Bonin has presented himself as a progressive who wants to fight injustice, but if he really wants to learn about the root causes of injustice, maybe he should take a look in the mirror. 

The other speaker who caught my attention was Damien Goodmon, of Downtown Crenshaw Rising.  Damien’s comments at the meeting were thoughtful and incisive, as usual, but one thing he said rang especially true for me….

“This entire city government is in need of an exorcism.”

That sentence really sums up how I feel about City Hall right now.  The environment created by the Mayor and the City Council is so toxic, and the poison has also bled into the City departments and boards and commissions that are supposed to be serving the people. 

Instead of real planning to confront the challenges that LA faces, we get plans formulated by lobbyists and land use attorneys that seemed designed to enrich their clients.  Instead of meaningful debate on the issues by well-informed public servants, we get cheerleaders who pat each other on the back for doing a great job, no matter how bad the outcomes are.

Damien is right.  LA City government needs an exorcism.  But holy water and Latin chants aren’t going to do the job.  Instead, we, the people, are going to have to take action.  This isn’t just a matter of electing a new mayor and a few new councilmembers.  This is a matter of changing the deeply corrupt culture at City Hall.  We need to pay attention to what they’re doing.  We need to call them out when they’re serving themselves instead of the people.  We need to show them that there are consequences for their actions, whether that’s at the ballot box or in the courts. 

And this isn’t a short-term commitment.  This will take much more than a year or two.  This is about long-term, concerted activism with the goal of making sure our public servants really serve us. 

Are Downtown Residents Really Dumping Their Cars for Transit?

The pandemic wasn’t really over in April, but a lot of people, including me, were tired of being shut up at home. I wanted to get out into the world again. I’d been thinking for a while about paying a visit to Los Angeles State Historic Park on the outskirts of Downtown. I finally just got on the train and headed down there.

The park has been a work in progress for over a decade. I wrote a post about it in 2014, when many people still called it The Cornfield. Back then it was mostly just grass and dirt. Since then, it’s been transformed into a well-manicured open space….

It certainly seems popular. On the day I showed up there were plenty of folks enjoying the park, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s impeccably landscaped, with gently curving paths winding through the grass, and rows of beautiful trees. There’s a good-sized field for those who want to get a game going. It seemed like the crowd was mostly younger, with a number of moms and dads and little kids.

It also seemed like the crowd was mostly made up of relatively affluent millennials. I have no hard data on where they came from, but I suspect that many of them live in Downtown. If that’s the case, they’d have to be making fairly good money. The listings on Apartment.com show that most of the studio apartments in the 90012 zip code start around $2,000, with one-bedrooms going for between $2,500 and $3,000. Rents at the Llewellyn, a fairly new building just across the street from the park, go from $2,450 to $5,155.

The City has had a good deal of success in luring people to Downtown, but let’s face it. Downtown is not open to everybody. If we go with the standard assumption that you’re supposed to spend about a third of your income on housing, you’d need to make $72,000 a year to afford a studio apartment in the area. A small family would probably have to have a combined income close to six figures just to get into a one-bedroom.

Back in March, I was listening in on a meeting of the City Council’s PLUM Committee where Director of Planning Vince Bertoni boasted about how proud he was of the City of LA’s Transit-Oriented Development program. I can’t imagine why. While City Planning has approved numerous residential skyscrapers near transit stops over the last decade, transit ridership has been declining steadily since 2014. Even in 2014, LA Metro was actually serving fewer people than it did back in the 80s, and it’s only been downhill since then.

If you want to know how successful LA’s attempts at Transit-Oriented Development have been, take a look at the parking area next to the State Historic Park. It was packed with cars on the morning I was there. And Spring St., which is on the park’s perimeter, was also lined with cars.

Please note in the last photo above that the L Line (Gold Line) Station is visible in the background. I’m sure some of the folks who showed up at the park that day rode the train, but obviously a lot of people decided to drive instead, in spite of the fact that the station is just a few hundred feet from the park entrance.

LA City Planning talks a lot about revitalizing LA’s urban centers, but we need to ask what they actually mean by “revitalization”. The cost of renting an apartment Downtown makes it clear that living there is mostly for the affluent. While thousands of new units have been built in Downtown over the past decade, the vast majority of them are for the upscale crowd. The same is true citywide. According to LA City Planning’s Housing Progress Dashboard, of the more than 184,000 new units that have been approved since July 2013, only about 26,000, or 14%, have been for middle-income, low-income and very low-income households. To be clear, these three categories COMBINED make up just 14% of the new housing approved.

As I said before, the City has been successful in luring people to live in Downtown, and I’m glad of that. Looking at US Census data for the 90012 zip code, which covers much of central Downtown, it’s clear that the area has seen substantial growth. According to the American Community Survey (ACS), the population in 90012 has grown from 29,298 in 2011 to 37,268 in 2020.

Unfortunately, even as Downtown’s population has grown, ridership on transit lines serving the area has been dropping steadily. The graph below shows the changes in ridership on lines serving Downtown in 2014 and 2019. It includes all rail lines serving the area, but only selected bus lines.

You can see there’s been a significant drop. It’s important to point out that the biggest decline was on the A Line (Blue Line), and much of this was due to the fact that portions of the line were closed during 2019 for repairs and upgrades. (They didn’t do much good. Problems arose soon after the line re-opened.)

But even if we pull the A Line out of the chart, we still see a loss in ridership. If the City’s Transit-Oriented Development program is such a success, then why is transit ridership declining in Downtown, even as the population grows. (If you don’t trust my numbers, and you want to do your own research, visit Metro Ridership Stats. Under the heading Systemwide (Bus and Rail), click Details.)

I think the answer has to do with the kind of people who are moving to Downtown. While I hear a lot of hype about young urbanites who love walkable neighborhoods, the crush of cars I saw crowding around State Park leads me to believe that many of Downtown’s new residents own some kind of vehicle. Of course, that’s just my personal view based on my personal experience. To get a more accurate idea of how many Downtown residents are car owners, let’s take another look at the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.

Looking again at the 90012 zip code, let’s check out the stats for vehicle ownership in 2011.

2011 ACS Data on Vehicles Available to Population in 90012
Workers 16 Years and Over in Households

No vehicle available 10%

1 vehicle available 42.9%

2 vehicles available 36.4%

3 or more vehicles available 10.7%

Now let’s look at the stats for 90012 in 2020.

2020 ACS Data on Vehicles Available to Population in 90012
Workers 16 Years and Over in Households

No vehicles available 6.6%

1 vehicle available 42.4%

2 vehicles available 40.0%

3 or more vehicles available 11.0%

You can see that the number of workers 16 years and over with no vehicle available dropped from 10% to 6.6%. The number with one vehicle available is basically unchanged. Those with two vehicles available went up from 36.4% to 40%. These are not huge changes, but they do show that percentages of workers 16 years and over with access to a vehicle has gone up, not down. And when we consider that the population in 90012 rose from 29,298 in 2011 to 37,268 in 2020, this seems to indicate that there are a lot more cars than there used to be in Downtown. Put this together with the drop in transit ridership, and it’s hard to understand why the City thinks its efforts at Transit-Oriented Development have been a success. (If you believe there are a lot more people walking and biking in the central city, feel free to show me the data. I’ve looked, and I can’t find anything less than six years old.)

I want to emphasize that I’m a transit rider and I don’t own a car. I also want to say that I believe we need to focus new development around transit hubs, in areas where jobs and businesses are close by. In theory all this is great. In reality, though, the City of LA doesn’t seem to have achieved anything. In fact, it seems like the numbers are going in the wrong direction. And if we’re going in the wrong direction, shouldn’t the City assess the situation, find out what’s wrong, and try to do better?

Unfortunately, rather than being used as a strategy to create a more sustainable city, Transit-Oriented Development seems to have become an excuse to approve residential projects that are far too expensive for the average Angeleno. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at hearings held by City Planning where staff and/or Commissioners claim that big, new residential projects geared toward the affluent are exactly what the City needs to get people out of cars and onto busses and trains. When I present data showing that transit ridership has been going down since 2014, they don’t seem to hear. I’ve never gotten a response. The projects are always approved.

I think the State Park is cool. I’m glad people are spending time there. But I don’t buy the story that young urbanites are ditching their cars for busses, trains and bikes. The cars lined up across the street from the park seem to tell a different story, one that City Hall doesn’t want to hear.

Why Should LA Worry about Pakistan?

By Carport – Own work, usingFile:Pakistan location map.svg by NordNordWest.STRM-30 data for the relief, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23198633

If you’ve been watching the news at all, you’ve heard about the unprecedented flooding in Pakistan.  Millions have been displaced.  Over 1,300 people have died.  It’s hard to estimate the impact on the economy at this point, but it’s likely that much of the population will be facing extreme hardships for a long time to come.   

Many of the news sources reporting on this catastrophe have quoted scientists who believe that this extreme weather event is linked to climate change.  The horrible irony is that Pakistan produces only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, and yet it’s suffering some of the worst impacts. 

Who are the biggest culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions?  China and the US are the top two nations pouring CO2 into the atmosphere, but even though the US is second in overall emissions, its per capita emissions are about twice that of China.  Within the US, California has over 14 million registered vehicles, far more than any other state, and the vast majority of them run on fossil fuels.  Of that 14 million, over 7 million are registered in LA County.

So we definitely need to take some of the responsibility for the climate crisis.  But we shouldn’t waste time feeling guilty.  We should get to work on changing the situation.  There are a number of things we can do.  We can start by driving less.  This could mean taking transit to work one day a week, or carpooling with a friend, or if your job allows it, working from home when it’s convenient.  We can also try to minimize the amount of plastic we use.  This may sound easier than it really is.  Many of the products we use in daily life are made of plastic, and so much of what we buy comes wrapped in plastic.  But if you start thinking about it, you can probably find at least a few items that you can do without.  And if you shop on-line, it’s important to consider the way things are packaged.

But we also need to support legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This is the hard part, because there are powerful interests targeting bills intended to curtail the use of fossil fuels.  This year the Western States Petroleum Association and the California Independent Petroleum Association used their clout to either stop or weaken a series of bills that were written to address climate change.  Capital and Main lays out the gory details in this article. 

California Oil Industry Continues to Thwart Climate-Related Bills

We shouldn’t be discouraged.  We have clout, too.  According to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 80% of the state’s residents say that climate change is a serious threat to our economy and quality of life.  That means an overwhelming majority of California voters understand the gravity of the situation.  We need to let our representatives in Sacramento know that they should be listening to us, not the fossil fuel lobby.  If you don’t know who your representatives are, use this link to find out. 

Find Your California Representative

We need to think about how climate change is affecting our lives in LA.  We need to think about how climate change is affecting the people of Pakistan. 

We’re all in this together. 

Water Isn’t Just a Local Issue: We Need a National Water Policy Now

While this blog is mostly focussed on LA, it would be foolish to think that Angelenos live in a magic bubble that isn’t affected by what’s happening in the rest of the world.  (Thought we often act that way.)  Crucially, we need to understand that the water shortages affecting this area aren’t just local, they’re global.  In order to understand LA’s water problems, we have to look at the larger context. 

This morning I read an interview with Jay Famiglietti that lays the situation out in the starkest terms.  It’s a disturbing message, but one we all need to hear.  Famiglietti is Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, and formerly lead researcher at NASA’s water science program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.  He’s spent years studying the water landscape and he knows what he’s talking about.

First, please take a look at the graphic above from the U.S. Drought Monitor.  It shows that all of LA County is in severe or extreme drought.  Looking at the rest of the state, you’ll see that almost all of California is experiencing conditions ranging from severe drought to exceptional drought.  My only problem with this map is that they use the word “drought”, which doesn’t describe the situation any more.  “Drought” implies we’re in a dry period, and that things will eventually go back to normal.  That’s no longer true.  Because of climate change, scientists agree that our fresh water resources will continue to decline for the foreseeable future.  This is the new normal.

This isn’t just a problem for LA or California, this is a problem that the whole country needs to deal with.  Famiglietti talks about how we need a national water policy and we need it now.  We can’t afford to wait while cities and states bicker over what they can and can’t do, while lawsuits are filed and politicians posture.  We need to take action as a nation now.

Famiglietti isn’t the only one saying this.  Back in 2009 the Clean Water America Alliance published a paper explaining the need for a national water policy.  Here’s a brief excerpt….

Each day, more and more Americans are confronting an unsettling fact of life in the 21st Century – our supplies of clean, dependable, economical water are more fragile than at any time in our recent history. Population growth, economic development, changing weather patterns, new energy supply strategies, and the needs of endangered ecosystems are threatening to overwhelm both the physical infrastructure and management systems that have previously provided for our water needs.

What have we done since then?  Not much.  And we can’t afford to wait.  Things have gotten much worse over the last decade, and many scientists believe that climate change is accelerating. 

Here’s the Famiglietti interview.  Read it and weep.  No, seriously, don’t weep.  Take action.  Contact your representatives in the House and Senate and ask them what they’re doing about creating a national water policy.  If their answer isn’t good enough, keep after them. 

As Colorado River Dries, the U.S. Teeters on the Brink of Larger Water Crisis

Find Your Representative

LA’s Water Resources: It’s Getting Scary

Graphic from NASA Earth Observatory

The water situation just keeps getting more dire.  A brief recap: Last August the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) declared a Tier 1 shortage on the Colorado River, the first time it had ever taken this step.  This was not good news for Southern California, which relies heavily on water from the Colorado.  Then, in March of this year, California water officials announced that they’d be cutting allocations for the State Water Project (SWP) to 5% of requested supplies.  Another blow to Southern California, which also gets much of its water from the SWP.    

Things got even worse today, when USBR announced the first-ever Tier 2 shortage on the Colorado River.  This will not affect California immediately, since the State has senior water rights, but the way things are going it’s likely that we’ll be impacted in the next couple of years.  Scientists are predicting that the Western US will continue to get hotter and drier for the foreseeable future. 

The City of LA is in especially bad shape.  While some cities in Southern California have significant groundwater resources, Los Angeles’ supply is relatively small.  In recent years, groundwater has made up about 10% of what we use annually.  We do get water from the LA Aqueduct, but that’s not as reliable as it used to be, since snowpacks in the Sierra Nevadas have continued to decline in recent years.

Recycled water?  LADWP has been talking about that for years.  While there are big plans to reuse more of our water, right now recycling only accounts for about 2% of our supply.  It will be years before that number grows much.  Then what about desalination?  It’s very costly, very energy intensive, and causes significant environmental impacts.  There are other experimental processes out there, but nothing we can scale up quickly to replace what we’re losing from the SWP and the Colorado.

There are no easy answers.  Scientists do not see a turning point in the near future.  We’re going to have to learn to live with less water.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Over the past few decades, the City of LA has already cut its per capita water usage by quite a bit, and there’s still more we can do.  But remember, we don’t know how far this trend is going.  It’s likely we could learn to live with the level of water deliveries we’re getting now, but scientists predict that our snowpacks will continue to decline and our climate will continue to get warmer.  We haven’t seen the worst yet.

I have to say, the older I get, the more I question the wisdom of building a city of 4 million people in a place with such limited water resources.  People talk about how Hoover Dam and the State Water Project were great accomplishments, and yeah, in a way they were.  But as the water level in Hoover Dam continues to decline, as the State Water Project continues to suck the life out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, I have to wonder where this is all going.

Right now, it doesn’t look good.

Here’s an excellent breakdown of the current situation from CalMatters.

Four Things to Know about Colorado River Water in California

Hollywood Loses another Hangout: The Bourgeois Pig Closes

Another depressing loss for the Hollywood community. After 32 years, the Bourgeois Pig closed its doors on June 17.  Located at the corner of Franklin and Tamarind, the Pig was a cozy space where writers worked on their novels, actors chatted about auditions, and an assortment of locals just lounged on the sofas and sipped their espresso.  I was never a regular, but used to drop in once or twice a year.  It was a really comfortable place to chill.  I loved the twilight atmosphere and the low key vibe. 

Apparently the owners are trying to keep the Pig alive, so hopefully they’ll find a new location.  They’ve started a GoFundMe page, if you want to make a donation.

Go Fund Me Link

Or, if you’d like to share a memory, visit the Pig’s Facebook page.

Bourgeois Pig Facebook Page

Rack outside the Bourgeois Pig where people left cards, flyers, etc.
Close-up of the rack.

It’s depressing to see another neighborhood coffee house close down.  Corporate chains have taken over more and more of our communities with their oppressive sameness and lousy coffee.  The people who ran the Pig had imagination and heart.  I’ll miss them.

California’s Water Crisis: Promising Way More than We Can Deliver

Source: US Drought Monitor

Even if you don’t pay attention to the news, you’re probably aware that Los Angeles has been unusually dry for the past few years.  If you do follow the news, you may have heard that right now California’s snowpacks are well below their 20th century average.  And if you really pay attention to this stuff, you probably saw the news that the past 22-year period is the driest the American West has experienced in over a millennium.

Scary stuff.  And as the impacts of climate change grow more pronounced, there’s a good chance things will get even scarier.  Since it doesn’t seem likely that government officials or the public at large are going to make any real progress in cutting back on fossil fuels, the weird weather we’ve been seeing for the past couple decades is likely to get a whole lot weirder. 

So what can we do?  Well, the first thing we should do is stop lying to ourselves about how much water we have access to.  A recent study from UC Davis shows that water rights allocations to California’s water users are about five times the state’s annual runoff.  In other words, we’ve promised to deliver about five times more water than we actually have. 

How did this happen?  Well, back in the 20th century, when everyone was convinced that California was going to keep growing forever and that we had endless supplies of everything, Federal, State and regional agencies built a ridiculous number of dams and canals to deliver lots of water to everyone who wanted it.  Two decades into the 21st century, it should be clear to all of us that we can’t keep growing forever and that our resources are definitely limited.     

CalMatters recently ran an excellent piece by Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of California Water Impact Network, where Krieger clearly states the most important takeaway from the UC Davis report: We have to manage our water resources based on the amount of water that’s actually available.  Here’s the link to Krieger’s article. 

Here Is the First Step to a Sustainable Water Policy

California faces huge challenges in meeting its future water needs.  The first step is to be honest about how much water we actually have.  Let’s stop pretending.  It’s time to get real. 

FOLLOW-UP:

I want to add some additional info as a postscript to this post.  I was looking at On the Public Record, a blog I follow that deals with water issues in California.  (I recommend it highly.)  The author wrote a post on Max Gomberg’s resignation from the State Water Resources Control Board.  While the post itself is well worth reading, one of the comments raised questions about the accuracy of the UC Davis report that Carolee Krieger cites in her CalMatters post. 

There are lots of comments, but I’d ask you to scroll down to those written by Waterwonk, who questions the methodology used by Theodore Grantham and Joshua Viers, the authors of the UC Davis report.  According to Waterwonk, Grantham and Viers make the mistake of adding up the face value of water rights without looking at terms and conditions and overlapping rights.  For instance, Waterwonk says that some users have the right to divert water, store water, and then redivert the stored water.  Waterwonk asserts that Grantham and Viers added up the face value of the water in cases like this, when in fact these separate rights apply to the same water. 

Waterwonk believes that Grantham and Viers got some things right, but says their claim that California has handed out water rights amounting to five times what’s actually available is grossly overstated.  I don’t understand these issues well enough to judge who’s right, but I think Waterwonk makes effective arguments.  I wanted to include them for those readers who are interested in digging further.  Here’s the post from On the Public Record.

On Your Watch

There are lots of comments, including from Carolee Krieger.  You’ll have to scroll down a ways to find Waterwonk’s arguments. 

But whether or not Grantham and Viers’ work is accurate, there’s no question that State agencies and local governments have been over-promising for decades when it comes to water.  The status quo is not sustainable.  We have to be more realistic about how much water is actually available.

The Latest Bad News From Metro: Fewer Drivers, Less Service

More depressing news on the transit front. Metro will again be making cuts to service as of February 20. Service on bus lines will be reduced by about 12%. The B Line (Red) and D Line (Purple) will see a reduction of 5%, and the rest of the rail lines will be cut by around 14%.

The reason for this? Like employers all across the nation, Metro is losing drivers faster than it can hire them. This is not too surprising. The starting pay for bus drivers is $17.75 an hour for a 30-hour work week. Would you be willing to spend your day fighting LA traffic for $17.75 an hour? And as more drivers leave, those who remain must do mandatory overtime to fill in the gaps. Apparently morale is pretty low. Metro is currently offering a $3,000 signing bonus, and they also plan to raise the hourly rate for operators to $19.12, but that’s just part of a temporary pilot program.

And bus riders aren’t too happy about the situation, either. According to LAist, in the month of January about one in five scheduled bus trips were cancelled. If morale among drivers is low, you can imagine how it must be among riders.

On the one hand, you can’t really blame Metro for having staff shortages, since employers all over the country are facing the same situation. On the other hand, this is just the latest round of bad news from an agency that seems incapable of doing the job it’s supposed to do.

There was the botched rollout of service changes last year.

Before that we had cost overruns and delays on the Crenshaw Line, which is still not complete.

And who can forget the disastrous re-opening of the A Line (Blue Line)?

Remember, ridership had been dropping for years before the pandemic kicked in. From 2014 to 2019, Metro lines saw about a 20% drop in ridership. During this same period Metro kept hyping their efforts to build more rail, even though weekly rail ridership was in steady decline. Apparently this does not bother the Metro Board at all. If you look at their blog, The Source, it’s full of news about rail, rail and more rail, including the proposed Sepulveda Transit Corridor, the D Line (Purple Line) Extension and the West Santa Ana Branch Line. And from Metro’s perspective, there’s nothing but good news. Scrolling through the posts on The Source, it’s just one upbeat story after another about all the great things they’re doing. The news about the service cuts was buried under the heading “Recap of Metro Board of Directors January Meeting”.

This is the thing that bothers me most about Metro. It seems the Board is completely out of touch with reality. They go merrily along, throwing billions of dollars of taxpayer money at projects that seem to always run behind schedule and over budget, while claiming that they’re delivering state-of-the-art transit to the masses. If you listen to them, it’s all blue skies and sunshine. Meanwhile, the rain just keeps falling on those of us who actually have to rely on busses and trains to get around.

In this article LAist delivers the latest bad news.

LA Metro Is Cutting Service Again As It Struggles To Hire (And Keep) Bus Operators

Newsom’s Budget Targets Housing

With the State continuing to enjoy a strong surge in revenue, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget includes substantial funds to address housing needs.  Newsom wants to spend $2 billion on homelessness, and another $2 billion to address housing in general.  Of course, there are those who say this still isn’t enough, and others who say Newsom’s priorities are wrong, but there are a lot of good things in his proposed budget.  I’m not a Newsom fan, but I think that in some ways he’s on the right track.  As usual, the devil is in the details.

One of the things Newsom wants to promote is urban infill development, in other words building dense residential housing where infrastructure already exits, as opposed to more suburban sprawl.  This is nothing new.  State and local politicians have been pushing this for years, and in theory it makes perfect sense.  One of the main goals of this policy is to make people less reliant on cars, encouraging them to take transit instead, or to ride a bike or maybe even just walk.  The overriding goal is to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem is that we’ve been doing this for years and it hasn’t been working.  In fact, it seems like we’re going in the wrong direction.  LA and San Francisco have been building thousands of new residential units near transit hubs, and yet transit ridership has been falling for years.  Worse, in Southern California the rate of car ownership has been climbing steadily since 2000

So what do we do?  Well, there is evidence suggesting that high-priced new development in urban centers is causing gentrification, which displaces low-income transit riders.  I can tell you I’ve seen numerous instances in Hollywood where low-income tenants have been thrown out of their apartments to make way for new projects.  We need to preserve existing housing that’s accessible to low-income households, and to build a lot more affordable housing.  That’s why I’m glad that Newsom is setting aside $500 million for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and another $500 million to preserve and increase affordable housing stock.  Of course, much more money is needed, since the federal government has slashed funding for affordable housing over the last several years.  But the money Newsom is providing is a step in the right direction. In LA, the vast majority of transit riders live in low-income households. We need to help them remain near the transit hubs they rely on.

Another smart move Newsom has made is to earmark $100 million to support the conversion of office buildings to apartments.  This makes a lot of sense, not just because more people are working from home these days, but because it helps minimize the significant environmental impacts caused both by the demolition of old buildings and the construction of new ones.  As many people have said, the greenest building is the one that’s already standing.   

The funding Newsom has proposed will not solve our housing problems, but it will help.  That is, assuming the legislature supports his budget.  This article from CalMatters offers a more detailed breakdown.   

Newsom on Homelessness: ‘We’ve Gotta Clean Up those Encampments’