COVID-19 update and Metro News Now: Feb. 17, 2021

•On the COVID-19 front, Metro continues to provide service for essential riders. Both Metro and the federal government are requiring face coverings to ride unless you have a medical excuse.

•In brief, the news on the COVID-19 front is that case numbers and hospitalizations continue to trend down in L.A. County while vaccination doses remain in short supply (here and in other paces in the U.S.). As you’ve likely heard, elementary schools in L.A. County have been cleared to reopen — although it remains to be seen when many schools, including LAUSD schools, actually do open their doors.

•The Metro Board of Directors are having their committee meetings this afternoon and Thursday morning. Here’s the agendas, which include links to staff reports on a variety of issues — including project updates. Cautionary note: wonky and kinda interesting but don’t expect Hemingway.

•Metro staff will recommend the hiring of two firms to develop potential transit solutions for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project. This is a run-up to a potential private-public partnership in which private financing could be used to build the project. More at this Source post. Check out this presentation for more deets on the proposals.

•In case you missed it, Metro’s Traffic Reduction Study released some early concepts last week to use congestion pricing (‘tolls’ in English) to ease traffic and improve mobility. I was a tad surprised the concepts didn’t get more media attention — interesting stuff and I encourage you to check out the maps and the Source post.

The idea here in short: to not sit around twiddling thumbs while traffic returns and/or gets worse. I can tell you that in my neck of the woods, the 210 has mostly returned to Pre Hanks/Wilson form. Boo!

•Android and Apple phones can be used as TAP cards now — just hold the phone to the fare validator and you’re good to go. No more having to buy and lose and then re-buy or recover a physical TAP card. And it’s contactless.

In the media…

•As Californians flee California they’re bringing the state’s housing crisis to other cities. The joy! The NYT looks at Boise, Idaho, where real estate prices have steeply climbed and many locals would like Californians to stop driving up home prices.

Which raises the question: why can’t we build more housing here?

Attentive Source readers will recall that fears of traffic have long been one of the big reasons so many developments here have been shot down over the years.

This is kind of a nuanced thing, to the extent the world does nuance anymore. Consider:

•Some developments just add to the sprawl and/or would have consumed some pretty nice slices of nature.

•Fear of making bad traffic worse is, at times, not a completely unfounded fear.

•Our region took its sweet time to begin building a modern transit system that included rail. The late ’80s, to be exact.

•And yes, fear of traffic has also been used to justify other reasons to shut down new housing.  Because fearing traffic sounds nicer than admitting to fearing other types of people.

For all these reasons, we’re now in a crisis. Sure, you may see a lot of new housing developments sprouting around town. But many of those are market rate. Meaning many people can’t afford them unless they get an inheritance or win the lottery.

On top of all this, the rules sure seem stacked for homeowners. Tax breaks? Homeowners — yes! Renters — nope! And this: with interest rates so low, homeowners can refinance and wallow in monthly mortgage bills far lower than those who pay rent. Full disclosure: I’m a wallower.

It’s all kind of nutso-nutty-bananas.

Especially when you view our region from above and realize most buildings are short and squat. Single family homes cover a huge swath of land and commercial corridors adjacent to transit tend to favor strip malls (and the like), parking lots or other low slung buildings.

Go see for yourself in the After Times: ride one of our busy bus routes or rail lines and see how much development has taken place near the stations. While some locales have done a good job (although a lot of the new housing is expensive), most have not.

That said, perhaps change is afoot. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a new law last year that would require most developments to include affordable units in unincorporated areas. The city of L.A. is also looking into it (they were also looking into it 15 years ago when yours truly was covering the Council).

Statewide bills that would allow multi-unit housing to be built in some single-family neighborhoods near transit have gone belly up in Sacramento for three straight years. But cities do have other tools to get housing built near transit. It is not an unsolvable problem.

I say all this because:

A) exporting your affordable housing crisis to other places is kind of rude.

B) L.A. County residents have approved four sales taxes to fund Metro and a long list of transit projects — and it would sure be nice to have a mix of housing that’s affordable near those lines. (Metro does have a joint development and Transit-Oriented Communities programs that are working toward this end on Metro-owned parcels).

C) A lot of people and businesses leave So Cal who would probably like to stay  — if they could afford the housing.

Yeah, I know there are some folks worried that L.A. will turn into Manhattan. Here’s the thing: as someone who has lived in both places, L.A. looks as much like Manhattan as I do Brad Pitt. And neither of things looks poised to change.

To borrow a quote Miranda Priestly, that is all


7 replies

  1. just imagine: if the utilities commission hadn’t restricted fare increases on red and yellow car lines, the rail system might be a little more robust than it is today.

  2. Steve, Regarding the Sepulveda pass line, does this pair of recommendations now mean that Metro has essentially excluded the possibility of the HRT 1 alternative given that Bechtel is only considering the elevated option over Sepulveda?

    • Hi Con;

      These routes are only for the respective pair of PDA proposals; other routes could be studied as part of the project’s upcoming environmental review.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. What I would like to see in your information is about the progress of the Crenshaw Line with it’s construction defects; how is the project progressing? There is no mention about anything about it.

    As far as affordable housing is concerned, I blame the city councils and the state government for allowing developers to get away with what they are doing and have done. They have all done their best to drive up the cost of living in the Los Angeles area. If the state and cities were concerned at all about housing they would insist developers build entire buildings that are affordable, not just a certain number of units per building. What they are currently doing resolves nothing at all. Problem is most elected officials just talk and there is no action to get things resolved.

  4. “The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a new law last year that would require most developments to include affordable units in unincorporated areas.”

    Have these supervisors ever considered this “new law” to be an impediment to new housing development? The coincidental thing is why would they not think housing should be affordable if built affordably with as many units as possible on a lot. The default is the assumption is housing is very expensive and it will always be expensive since rents are expensive and rental stock is restricted. They doesn’t take into account the square footage, amenities, location, size, and the market if availability is abundant. Allow the housing rental market to work instead of artificially prop up lower class housing. If developers are allowed to built small units without expensive mandates, rents will be lower than average. That’s because there’s a ceiling to how much a rent can be for micro units in marginal neighborhoods no matter what the quality of the apartments.

    I find it ironic that housing for the homeless costs $600K on average. This proves our permitting process is broken. A $600K condo commands a $3K monthly rent. That’s the market talking. Building $100K apartments means an under $1,000 monthly rent. This is much more affordable.