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96th Street

A slow time of year for ads, and the Weekly checks in at 96 pp soaking wet. Five are devoted to Steven Leigh Morris's Son of Density Hawks cover story. The original Density Hawks story, from a time when the Weekly was up there around 165th St., followed this insightful bloggie item by yours truly by about six weeks.

Why is the Weekly so down? Well of course, the ads have dried up...

My goal is not to pick on Morris, who has spent his career mostly talking to theater people, and who now exudes confidence when talking land use--a subject many theater owners know passably well. But I'll continue to think aloud that the Weekly is in over its depth taking on this new direction, and is actually doing the City a profound disservice by attempting to get in the way of the CPIO Ordinance in the name of fighting "density." I'll again attempt to explain why...

The Cary Brazeman CPIO stuff is nonsense first and foremost because of the still-high value of land in the City and from neighborhood to neighborhood, even through the depth of this recession. No CPIO zone under any circumstances would ever be created without tacitly expressed developer interest, and no developer will get interested enough to tacitly push for a CPIO zone unless they can somehow get land on the cheap. CPIO zones will thereby occur only in blighted commercial or empty industrial strips--precisely the kind of strips any City would love to redevelop, especially so in a menacing economic downturn.

The CRA used to help developers a lot in the redevelopment process, but that's evolving, for reasons I outlined to many editors last year, including the ones at the Weekly; namely, the CRA is becoming more of a job-creation agency than a property development agency. This story hasn't been written yet, but that's the fault of editors, who can't seem to get their arms around it because they never really learned how the incremental property taxes worked and how the CRA's budget was so elastic from year to year. But to be sure, even when the CRA was running on all cylinders and tried to give out land on the cheap, land still often went begging--ask anyone in Boyle Heights or Sylmar, for instance. (Some savvy developers flipped land to others in a hurry, but when this happened the land typically ended up outside of CRA purview, say for a school.)

With CPIO zones, the public will actually become party to any redevelopment conversation earlier than they would were the CRA handling the redevelopment of a special zone. That can only be a good thing, something NIMBYs would even prefer were their minds not already made up that any change to Planning is a bad one.

Regardless of the purported "complexity" of planning issues, I think nearly anyone can understand that no developer is going to try to first get the City to modify a zone in order to buy a half-block of pricey or even moderately-priced real estate, only to knock down these real neighborhoods to build something else they hope will fetch more money still. It makes no sense to develop anything this way--land is cheaper and bars are lower outside of the city, and the risk is far lower as well.

In trying to foment opposition to the CPIO and Core, The LA Weekly is missing the boat on this one, bigtime, creating a lot of nonsense over nothing. Just because Austin Beutner is for something doesn't mean you should automatically be against it. The Volkswagen was not invented by nice people but it was a good idea too.