04 Feb CD14 City Council Candidates respond to Casitas lofts Development
In the spirit of encouraging robust participation in our local democracy, Friends of the LA River distributed a five-subject questionnaire to all certified candidates for public office in Council Districts 2, 4, 12 and 14. Find your Council District here. The following responses were received from candidates in CD14 with relation to a hot topic and developing story: the proposed Casitas Lofts development. We asked the candidates how they would balance restoration and development. Read their responses below, and stay tuned for more candidate responses in February 2020.
FoLAR: River advocates have successfully pushed state and city agencies to see their adjacent park lands in the mid-River a part of 100 continuous acres of open space. A private luxury development, known as Casitas Lofts, threatens access at the north end of the 100 continuous acres, and has inspired a coalition of advocates to oppose this development, as is. Please explain how you would balance the need for housing development, with environmental health and restoration, climate resilience, and equitable public access to our natural resources with respect to River-adjacent developments. (Underlines added by FoLAR)
Kevin De León: In the midst of a homelessness and housing crisis, Luxury development is a non-starter for me. We need to balance access and preservation of green and open space with need for affordable housing. I would explore options to protect the renters, who are the most vulnerable to serious threats of displacement as property values along the river continue to rise.
Mónica García: We need to preserve and better the working class communities along the LA River. The River should not be yet, but another opportunity for irresponsible developers. We have more than enough places to build in LA the housing we need. We do not have enough park spaces.
Cyndi Otteson: First of all, developers who contribute to political campaigns hold too much sway over our current City Council. My commitment to an all-clean-money campaign means that I will approach any development in CD14 with a focus on putting our families and neighborhoods first, and making sure that any projects proposed and built in CD14, large or small, are a net win for residents. That includes making sure that a historically underserved and environmentally burdened community doesn’t lose out on the benefits of river restoration: The greatest drawback of Casitas Lofts is the potential for this luxury site to hamper free and fair access to a newly beautified area, and become a repeated of longstanding battles at the Coastal commission regarding beach access. The L.A. River can’t become Malibu East, but that takes Councilmembers who pay attention, and take the long view, with their eyes on equity and social justice.
Raquel Zamora: In the City and especially in Council District 14 there is a dire need to preserve and develop open space. I for one do not support developments such as the Casitas Lofts, and it is my understanding that there is a 60% vacancy rate of existing lofts in the City. Lofts merely price families out that can’t meet market rates. If there were a need for that type of development along the river I would advocate for single-family cabins or possibly workforce development affordable single-family river homes. I do not support loft developments as the 14th Council District is already dense and there are many vacancies in Downtown Los Angeles, as folks cannot meet the market rates.
The River is now “hot” and property values are soaring — but Casitas Lofts is only the beginning. It is no secret that the project is an opportunistic approach to profit that benefits mightily from the work of FOLAR and community groups, volunteers, and public funds. The first question to ask with Casitas Lofts is, why does the city suggest we need this kind of luxury development (and its tax revenue) to fund the river revitalization? That seems like predetermining it will become a highly commercial zone, like the San Antonio Riverwalk. Why not predetermine instead that our river is a valuable natural resource, that it will be maximized when it is as free as possible from heat-inducing, climate-warming concrete? The answer, of course, is profit — but it doesn’t have to be that way. We are at an enviable early moment with the L.A. River, where we get to decide the future, if we have the courage. Revitalization should not mean handing the river over to moneyed investors at the expense of our neighborhoods and social fabric.
These responses include all submissions that directly answered FoLAR’s question regarding development.