Despite its stated goals of promoting transit-oriented development and improving affordability through dense new housing supply, nearly every housing justice organization in California has vehemently opposed SB 827. To unpack the impacts of the bill, TPR turned to two experts on transit and equitable development: Denny Zane, leading transit advocate, former mayor of Santa Monica and executive director of Move LA; and Cynthia Strathmann, executive director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), a long-standing non-profit for equitable development and tenant rights in South Los Angeles.
Some Californians bring up the presumed “regressive” nature of sales taxes because they believe lower-income people pay a higher proportion of their incomes on sales taxes than people who make more money. But, while low income Californians are not exempt from sales taxes, the state has done the next best thing. California’s sales tax exempts all the basic necessities of life, including rent and utilities, groceries, transit fares/passes, and health care and prescription medicines.
Moreover businesses and tourists pay more than 2/3 of all sales taxes collected in LA County, while individual households pay just 1/3.
This was confirmed by a study by the LA County Economic Development Corporation in 2016, which found that: "Purchases of taxable goods by households in LA County generated $4.1 billion in sales taxes collected in 2013, approximately 32% of all sales taxes generated in the county. Tourist purchases generated an estimated $760 million in sales taxes—6% of the county total. The remaining sales tax revenues, an estimated $7.8 billion or 62% of the total, was paid by businesses and others not counted, such as day-trippers and in-commuters."
In addition, the nonpartisan Washington DC-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which periodically surveys the fairness of tax systems in all 50 states, says California taxes overall are the "second fairest in the U.S." The institute's most recent report on the topic, in 2015, found that "California has one of the least regressive tax systems due to its heavy reliance on a very progressive income tax." Only one other state, Delaware, was found to be more fair, along with the District of Columbia.
Move LA has championed several sales taxes in LA County to fund investments that significntly benefit low-income people as well as all other residents. Move LA campaigned for Measure R in 2008 and Measure M in 2016, which together are providing $160 billion over 40 years for transportation improvements—including significant funding for transit expansion and operations and for bike and pedestrian infrastructure. We also campaigned for Measure H in 2017, which provides $350 million/year for 10 years for homeless services throughout LA County.
Our new Vision 2020 presentation is like a big picture book for adults! It takes just a few minutes to understand our plan to meet Southern California's clean air challenge and abate climate change. And we hope it convinces you to buy in. It's our most ambitious plan yet. We are beginning the extended dialogue with our coalition partners that occurs before we can agree on a grand bargain about what to fund. SEE and DOWNLOAD it HERE!
The League of Women Voters asked us that question, so we put together this Powerpoint (HERE) to show members of the League what we see in our crystal ball: We will have ended air pollution and abated climate change in Southern California—seriously, it would only take one 4-county ballot measure (we have a plan!). And we will have created a system of Grand Boulevards on what are now underutilized commercial corridors, with frequent bus and bus rapid transit service, better sidewalks and bike lanes, and improved and safer bus stops with shade in the daytime and lighting at night (we are working on it). And we'll have replaced good, old-fashioned redevelopment with tax increment financing districts that provide the funding for mixed-use districts along these Grand Boulevards at bus stops and around rail stations—where people of all incomes can live, including those who ride transit most often! These so-called TOD-TIFs or "transit-oriented-development tax increment financing districts" will fund all kinds of improvements: affordable- and moderate-income housing, urban greening, first-last-mile connections and mobility hubs. If you don't believe it CLICK HERE to see what we have in mind!
It's a new year and we are ready to go: We're gearing up our Vision 2020 Strawman to clean SoCal air and abate climate change by modernizing key regional transportation infrastructure. We've got a new plan to win truly universal student transit passes that dramatically boost transit ridership. We've been meeting with the Aging and Disability Network we helped organize. And we're looking for other ways to fund affordable housing, such as creating a TOD/TIF along underutilized commercial boulevards that would spend half the tax increment on affordable housing, and half on urban greening and first-last-mile improvements—all of this along what could become "Grand Boulevards" with high-frequency transit.
(Yes that photo is of the Third Street Promenade, the creation of which was led by Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane when he was on the Santa Monica City Council. It's not a Grand Boulevard but it incorporates many of the same ideas.)
We're eager for feedback on the Grand Boulevards and TOD/TIF idea so please consider coming to our "Community Development Chat-Fest" on Wednesday, Jan. 10, at the Helms Design Center in Culver City, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
This event doubles as MOVE LA'S 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!!! Yes! You read that right: It's been 10 years since we first brought together a broad-based coalition that agreed to do something about LA's infamous traffic congestion and provide alternatives to driving—which we are doing, with the help of Measure R (2008) and Measure M (2016). Then we broadened our mission to eradicate homelessness in LA County by helping LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Measure H (2017).
Now we are working with this ever-expanding coalition to focus on another goal we've had since the beginning: ensuring that housing affordable to core transit riders gets built near transit corridors and stations to help mediate gentrification and displacement as well as traffic, and to build healthier communities with a mix of incomes and a mix of uses that also promote the success of the transit system.
You can read more about this idea here, and please do consider attending our Chat-Fest to talk about it. Yes a $100 donation is recommended but it's not mandatory—you could pledge to become a monthly supporter for a smaller donation instead. And please tell us if you'd be interested in helping us host and/or sponsor and/or underwrite future events like this by contacting Marisa Garcia at 310-310-2390, ext. 5!
We're also developing exclusive website content on new developments in SoCal transit and housing policy for Move LA donors. Coming very soon.
WHAT WE MOST WANT TO SAY ON THE BRINK OF 2018 THANK YOU ALL! We are honored to have worked with so many dedicated elected officials (especially LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas) and with so many civic-minded voters, all the Metro board members and Metro staff, and especially with our ever-expanding coalition of civic leaders, organizations and advocates.
We are also grateful for the warm partnership we have with Community Partners President and CEO Paul Vandeventer and his staff—this is the organization that as our fiscal sponsor literally keeps us in business along with more than 150 other nonprofit projects in California and beyond.
And we want to extend an extra special thanks to all our sponsors, funders and partners — your support is essential to our work!
We are thankful not only for the richness of all these partnerships and collaborations but also for the victories we’ve been able to achieve together—Measure R (2008) and Measure M (2016) for transit, and Measure H (2017) to end homelessness in LA County.
So what's next LA County? What’s next SoCal? What should our next great transportation mission be? Should we finally get serious about cleaning our air and halting climate change? Should we get serious about building affordable neighborhoods near transit where you don't have to own a car, and boosting transit ridership by providing discounted passes to those who need them most?
We are drawn to big ideas—read about them here—and that’s especially why we appreciate your support (consider becoming a monthly sponsor!) and your work with us.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM MOVE LA! MAY ALL YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT!
Denny joined the distinguished ranks of the Durfee Foundation Stanton Fellowship award winners on Monday! The ceremony was full of brief but highly inspirational and emotional speeches by 6 previous Durfee Sabbatical winners and the 6 new Stanton Fellows that were so moving there wasn't a dry eye in the place. The Durfee Stanton Fellowship provides a 3-month paid leave over 2 years to "support these magnificent people who want to change the world and then just go out and do it," Durfee Executive Director Claire Peeps told the audience.
Other Stanton Fellowship award-winners included Manal Aboelata, Managing Director of the Prevention Institute; Shane Goldsmith, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation; Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center; Mary Lee, Deputy Director of PolicyLink; and Molly Rysman, Housing and Homelessness Deputy for LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Denny intends to use the sabbatical to investigate strategies for a "Grand Boulevards" program that would promote the creation of mixed-use and mixed-income multi-family housing along currently underutilized commercial streets that are now or will be designated as corridors for high-quality "bus rapid transit" (BRT) service. The goal is to provide one more solution to the intractable affordable housing crisis and to create more neighborhoods where people won't need to own a car.
Denny plans to investigate a number of ideas that have been suggested by constituency leaders to reduce the cost of construction and provide for investment in improvements like urban greening that would make these neighborhoods desirable places in which to live. These include:
- the creation of tax increment financing zones, with half the increment to be used for affordable housing and half for urban greening, bike lanes, better bus stops, crosswalks and improved sidewalks, etc., to enhance street life
- detached public-private parking structures—with groundfloor retail and live-work spaces—with the goal of reducing the cost of construction because developers wouldn't have to build parking
- and the controversial idea of providing a categorical CEQA exemption for multi-family housing located close to transit and with no more than 50-60 units, 20% of which is deed-restricted affordable housing—with the goal of encouraging moderate-density development that is likely to win the approval of neighbors.
"Land prices along many of these underutilized corridors are likely to be lower, and if construction costs are lower and the approval process is made easier, that will also keep costs down for developers. And if these corridors are truly livable then the creation of mixed- or middle-income neighborhoods becomes possible," says Denny.
Denny has experience with this kind of development, having played a major role in the development of the mixed-use Third Street Promenade while on the Santa Monica City Council, and also planning for more than 2,000 units of moderate-density housing (with more than 30% affordable) in downtown Santa Monica in buildings that averaged 5 or 6 stories. Denny began his career doing rent-control campaigns in Santa Monica and founding Santa Monica's for Renters Rights, which has maintained Santa Monica's progressive agenda over 4 decades.
Move LA’s Transportation Conversation #9 was – like our 8 previous conversations - a big success! We have heard plaudits across the spectrum for the quality of leadership represented by our featured speakers and the highly substantive and future-oriented discussions from our panelists.Read more
What's Next, LA? The Unfinished Business on Transit, Affordable Housing, Clean Air & Climate Change Headline Move LA's 9th Annual Transportation Conversation
After the victories of Measures R + M + H, we approach Move LA's 9th Annual Transportation Conversation and our 10th year as an organization asking, “What’s Next, LA?” The Conference agenda is structured around our action program. We will discuss new challenges from affordable housing near transit to transit ridership, goods movement, clean air and climate change, and addresses them with the same thoughtful, future-oriented, pro-active, results-oriented, and comprehensive solutions that we have always looked to achieve.
8:30 AM WELCOME: Let's Celebrate the Bold New LA! Victories of Measures R+M+H
8:45 AM OUR NEXT CHALLENGES FEATURING:
- State Senator Ricardo Lara, 33rd District
- State Senator Fran Pavley (ret.), 27th District
9:30 AM WE HAVE TRANSIT CHALLENGES AND WHAT CAN WE DO?
- Plenary panel with transit leaders representing seniors, students, environmentalists, people with disabilities, active transit, and Metro
10:40 AM CAN LA COUNTY CREATE A TRULY EQUITABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MODEL WITH OUR TRANSIT SYSTEM?
- Plenary panel with non-profit and for-profit developers, funders, business, community development, governmental, renters rights, and equitable community advocates
12:15 PM MOVE LA HONORS THE FIVE TRANSITEERS ON MEASURE M
- Presentation to Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mike Antonovich (ret.), Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Pro Tem John Fasana, and Metro CEO Phil Washington
12:55 PM WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH MEASURE M IMPLEMENTATION?
- Stephanie Wiggins, Deputy CEO of LA Metro
1:15 PM WHEN LA LEADS, THE WORLD WATCHES!
- Tom Steyer, Founder and President, NextGen America
1:35 PM CAN WE FINISH OUR TRANSPORTATION AND CLEAN AIR CHALLENGES?
- Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, LA County Board of Supervisors; SCAQMD Governing Board
1:55 PM CAN WE FIND A GRAND BARGAIN ON GOODS MOVEMENT THAT WILL CONQUER AIR POLLUTION & CLIMATE CHANGE?
- Plenary panel with business, labor, environmentalist, transit, clean technology, goods movement, trucking, transit, and public interest advocates
4:30 PM CLOSING REMARKS
- Denny Zane, Move LA Executive Director
At the 11th hour, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 17, the student transit pass program introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) and co-sponsored by Move LA, Transform, Public Advocates, and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
While we are deeply disappointed by this news, we actually found hope in the Governor’s veto message:
“Many transit agencies, including the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority, already have a variety of reduced-fare transit programs for students. Before we create this new statewide program, I think we should have a fuller discussion on how local transit discount programs work and how any new ones should be paid for.”
Rather than a step back in our campaign to make it easier for students to access educational opportunities via public transit, we are buoyed by the fact that the Governor did not close the door on this program and is open to discussing it during the last year of his term. AB 17 was originally introduced with $100 million in funding which was whittled down to $20 million. This amount was then stripped at the last moment from the bill and, while our coalition of organizations tried to find monies elsewhere, we were unsuccessful and the bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, but without a funding source.
Not only does the governor’s veto message suggest an opportunity for dialogue, but we are in conversations with LA Metro staff about revising the current program, which has grown significantly but not enough to make a dent in ridership. We hope they will pilot a new program model that has seen major success at colleges across the country. This LA Metro pilot could provide passes to all students so that students there can ride any line, any time. We think this idea has the potential to jumpstart student ridership in a significant way (25-40%!) and look forward to launching that program.
Alameda County just finished its 1st year of a similar affordable student transit pass program pilot and saw a very significant increase in ridership and decline in student absenteeism.
So, in a way, the Governor has a point. We need to have a fuller discussion on local transit discount programs for students (which we are having) and finding the money to support it (which we are seeking). Even if the Governor had signed AB 17, it would have been a program without a dedicated funding source, and so the effort would have continued to next legislative session anyways.
We are grateful to the hundreds of activists and 80+ organizations that supported AB 17 in a true coalition effort. We hope you will stick with us as we fight for better access to education through our public transit system for the millions of students in California.