Clearly L.A. has more serious poverty problems than its neighbor. Even so, what lessons can LAand other citieslearn from Santa Monica? Cities can do a great deal to address the housing crisis, even if they can't solve it. Learning from Santa Monica and other "best practices" around the country, LA should:
Take a comprehensive approach. No one policy, on its own, will do the trick.
Make a significant public investment in building affordable homesprimarily rental but also condos and townhouses.
Require private sector developers to build affordable homes as part of all market-rate projects.
Revise local zoning laws to permit more density, particularly along transit corridors
Enact a law to limit the demolition or conversion of rent-controlled apartments until the vacancy rate reaches an acceptable level. Relocation fees aren't enough when there are few places to move to.
Adopt a granny-flat ordinance, which makes it easy for homeowners to build a second unit in their backyard
Adopt a policy to make it easier to rezone industrial land for affordable homes
Create a really fast-track approval process for developments that have 30% or more of their units designated as affordable
This isn't meant to let Washington or Sacramento off the hook. None of this will happen without a broad grassroots movement for housing justice.
Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban & Enviromental Policy program at Occidental College. He is coauthor of three books: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century; The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle For A Livable City; and Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together; and co-editor of Up Against the Sprawl.