|Williamsburg in Los Angeles.|
The young political consultant nodded along politely. I unspooled my own experience to him; I have endured New York City's time of troubles in the late 1970's. Now, that was a city that was in a political and economic mess. Trash wasn't picked up sometimes for a few weeks. Toll booth workers went on strike. Subway fares went up, and up again. The murder rate was through the roof; there weren't just murders every day, there were murders on the subway every day. There was no way for the city to pay anything...
How did we cope? We didn't. Mostly, we tuned it all out and made art and culture. And everyone else, they were doing it too. The City at that time produced what it would become known for--in arts and culture. Pavarotti. Richard Serra. CBGBs. &c. It was dilapidated and decadent. However they were going to fix the city, it was their business. We were going to have our city life anyway.
The young pol asked for the check. It came--two coffees over two hours. "Whatever we're doing politically, we've obviously failed," I said. "Just look at San Pedro--an open race, all those candidates--and even there we can't crack 15% of the voters [NOTE: City Clerk final total is 18%]. But maybe we're not failing culturally. So I'm trying to reach people with culture right now. Like that piece on Playa Vista I did...it's really a chance for someone to see what's happened to a part of the city. And that piece I did for Zocalo on Los Feliz, and the quiet one on downtown."
"New York took some bad turns in solving its crisis too," I said. "The city sanitized itself, but it produced Williamsburg too, some yuppie haven, a kind of re-enactment of revitalization. NYC and LA, both have too few homeowners. We have little Williamsburgs, they're spread all throughout the city. To give them credit, the Latino councilmembers excepting Garcetti seem to worry about the number of owner-occupied homes available to own in their districts. But the Anglos and Blacks don't, and Garcetti doesn't."
"What's the ratio in NY?" the consultant asked.
"It's about the same as in LA, about 60-40 rentals to homes. It's 50-50 in healthy cities, and in healthy parts of the city. Young couples there can't find real affordable housing either. But here, people who should be finding a starter home are forced to rent way longer than they should be. The city just keeps building rentals and pretending the city is growing, even though the city already has enough rentals to last for two decades and hasn't grown for one."
"Doesn't Garcetti think about these things?"
"He must, but I don't understand why he hasn't been more interested in making more homes to own in his district. Instead, he and the Mayor went off on an affordable housing and transit hub rental binge. But if affordable housing as the city practices it really worked--it's been around for twenty years now--wouldn't the city already have enough of the stuff by now? Every affordable housing project is really just a redevelopment project--which raises prices in neighborhoods instead of lowers them--and a little lottery for about fifty to two-hundred Section 8 people to win. Really, developers are the only winners. We're about two steps away from Cleveland--Cleveland with a movie colony."