The great housing near transit debate; HWR, Feb. 27

Things to listen to whilst transiting: Direct eye contract” by John McPhee about his attempts to see a bear in the wild in New Jersey. This is an audio version of a New Yorker story.

Art of Transit: future Crenshaw/LAX Line art. More here.

Jamie 8A16 REDO

California could upend city building rules in bid to make housing (near transit) cheaper (Governing) 

The development at Wilshire and Vermont. A new state bill seeks to promote more of this near transit stations. Photo by Joe Lemon/Metro.

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill, SB 827, would allow much more development to be built near transit stations.

Proponents say it’s about time, pointing to restrictive zoning by cities that has produced a housing shortage across California and extremely high real estate prices.

Opponents say it’s a one-size-fits-all approach that would toss aside local zoning regs and exacerbate gentrification by replacing affordable units with luxury housing.

The debate has been fierce. Excerpt:

Some prominent city leaders have backed Wiener’s legislation. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo supports it, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg have been receptive. On Friday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he’s “all for” Wiener’s bill, so long as it includes protections against demolishing existing rent-controlled units near transit stations.

But many cities see it as a direct challenge to their authority. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín called it “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.”

The California League of Cities opposes what it calls “another housing bill that takes away local discretion and authority.”

Here is some reaction on Twitter:

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of state bills burp forth each year in the Assembly and Senate and many are not signed into law. I have no idea the fate of this bill but I suspect it will inspire a lot more debate in the coming months.

The bill would certainly impact our region, which already has a huge transit system (Metro alone is the third largest transit agency in the U.S.) that will be expanding into even more cities in the coming years.

Attentive Source readers know that I’ve been exiled to Cincinnati for the past 23 days (parents) and while on my personal Elba, I’ve had the opportunity to check out the local real estate market. Long story short: it’s a lot more expensive than it used to be, but you still get a lot more space for the money than in LaLaLand.

Check out this place in Oakley, a great neighborhood that has been reinvigorated in recent times. Paxton is kind of a busy street but this strikes me as the perfect starter home that simply doesn’t exist anymore in L.A. for my younger friends and colleagues:

The average wage in the Los Angeles metro area, btw, is about $55,000 versus about $48,000 in the Cincinnati metro area. I glanced at a few studies/reports on cost of living that found that L.A. — not a shocker — is a more expensive place to live when different expenses are factored in. I’ve filled my dad’s Mazda 3 a couple times since being here and gas is running about $2.25 to $2.35 a gallon.

Of course, there are also intangibles hard to quantify — if you want to see an ocean or real mountain in Cincy, you’re getting on a plane or going on a road trip. The L.A. area has a greater diversity of everything ranging from people to topography to ecosystems to jobs. However you feel about SB827, it’s hard to argue that we’re paying for that in real estate prices in LaLaLand.

Quasi-related: 12 local communities before and after transit. Our post from October of 2015 is getting a little dated, but you get the idea.

Council to consider future of Big Blue Bus amid ridership decline (S.M. Daily Press)

The headline oversells the story a bit. But ridership is down on every route and at nearly every bus stop. Thus, the Santa Monica City Council tonight is set to begin mulling what to do about it.

There is a deadline of sorts. Excerpt:

The service could figuratively run out of gas by 2021, as declining ridership will exhaust BBB’s reserves over the next few years if the Council does not implement a major overhaul, according to a staff report.

Greece: subway construction unearths ancient Aphrodite statue (Newsweek)

The headless statue was found during digging for the Thessaloniki subway.

If subway construction was a poker game, this would be a good time for competing agencies to fold or raise.

If we raise, I think Metro will need to find a wooly mammoth it can bring back to life to win the hand. Once revived, I propose releasing the wooly mammoth back into the wild, perhaps Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

What could go wrong putting previously extinct animals on a remote island from which there is only a remote possibility of escape?

Dept. of Fun Government Press Releases, courtesy our friends at Metrolink…

LOS ANGELES – In the United States we are a nation of poor sleepers, so National Public Sleeping Day on Wednesday, Feb. 28, is an ideal day for long-distance commuters and others to take a power nap on Metrolink.

Each day tens of thousands of workers and students take Metrolink trains from all over Southern California to jobs in Central Los Angeles, Orange County and elsewhere. With the average 36 miles one way train trip, it’s perfect for catching up on sleep, which is in short supply for millions of Americans.

Nearly a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It reports that more than 40 million American adults, 30 percent, are sleeping six or fewer hours a day.

It’s a serious matter. Sleep deprivation is dangerous because workers who don’t get enough sleep are at an increased risk of injuries. The CDC estimates that 20 percent of all car crashes are caused by drowsy driving.

Studies also have linked lack of sleep to depression, a weaker immune system and memory issues, according to WebMD. Harvard medical researchers have linked sleep deprivation with obesity, high blood pressure and daytime fatigue.

“So instead of dealing with traffic stress while trying to stay awake, catch some zzzzzzs on Metrolink,” says Metrolink CEO Art Leahy. As an added incentive, Leahy noted that on weekdays each Metrolink train has a specially designated “Quiet Car” intended to be a tranquil environment for those who wish to rest without distractions. Loud talking or chatting on cell phones and other noise is taboo in the quiet cars.

For more information on Metrolink go to

For National Public Sleeping Day information, go to


10 replies

  1. Housing near transit stations – why not on top, Hong Kong style? That way, residents get a short commute (down the elevator and onto the train), the transit operator gets more passengers, and (in HK anyway) the transit operator makes a LOT of money from developing and renting out the apartments.

  2. Interesting… I would have thought the BBB connecting all of its routes to Expo stations might increase ridership for those making transfers. Then, last fall, they actually reduced the TAP user fare by 15¢, just like DASH does. Perhaps I’m one of the few who’s ridden more as a result of both.

    They don’t do free transfers within their system, though. I have to wonder if that could help.

    They’ll figure something out, probably involving consolidation of routes and mitigating the number of money losers.

    • Hi Pat;

      Good points. I agree that free transfers would help and I think free transfers are good policy and help build a good system. That said, Metro began free transfers in fall 2014 and our ridership dip began that year. I’m guessing that the free transfers benefited existing riders but wasn’t quite enough to reel in new riders.

      As for BBB, I think they run a good system with good routes. I tend to think Westside traffic isn’t helping them move buses around. I also think it would be interesting to look at the demographics of Santa Monica and the surrounding area. The economy over there is doing pretty well and I tend to think that perhaps an increasing number of people who live and work in the SaMo area are ones who both want and can afford cars.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • I have to wonder whether overlapping routes from both agencies might be an issue. If you’re going outward from downtown SM via Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd, Colorado/Olympic, or Main St, BBB is cheaper, but Metro might get you there faster or take you deeper into Los Angeles. Having more options is good for riders, but not so much for those funding them (ie, taxpayers).

        • Definitely a possibility. And an issue throughout the region with Metro and other muni bus agencies. One reason Metro is working on restructuring of its bus system.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

    • Perhaps this means that most people riding BBB aren’t actually using it to get to the Expo Line. I’d be interested to see if that’s the case. I personally used BBB mostly to get from West LA to Downtown SM, UCLA, and DTLA (R10 for the win – much better than Expo). Only infrequently would I take it to/from Expo.

  3. When people try the Big Blue Bus, they like it. It’s a well-run, exceptionality clean system. The lower fare (1.10 with TAP) could probably be raised if revenues are short.

  4. Do you have time to ride the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar? It needs all the support it can get!

    • Hi Martin;

      I have not ridden but have seen it go past. It’s attractive enough, but not exactly bursting with riders — although my buddy who works along the route says it has busy times, especially on weekends and before/after Reds and Bengals games.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source