What is the Post-Measure S Agenda for Inclusion Among LA Urbanists?

I have been writing along here trying to get one major point across: the NIMBY anti-growth folks supporting Measure S are different from the anti-displacement folks supporting it. One group is predominately wealthy; the other is not; they hail from different parts of the LA region, they have vastly different access to power, and the consequences from growth they face are entirely different.   The NIMBY group is worried about maintaining their status and exclusion; the anti-disciplacement folks are trying to survive economically in a place where rents are skyrocketing and wages are not.  In yelling about city hall, the former is expressing frustrated entitlement with a city government that has granted them one unfair advantage after another, from extensive mitigation to their specifications on transit to better services across the board. The latter group? They are speaking from 60+ years of experience with bad treatment from federal, state, and local governments around devastating  moves like freeway building, renewal projects, housing discrimination, and violent policing. 

Just because some NIMBY and anti-displacement people have found a perceived common interest in a planning measure does not mean they merit the same treatment or consideration, either rhetorically or in practice. 

Since I have to deal with deal with internet shrieking every time I suggest Measure S is anything other than a NIMBY movement, let me be clear: I am not saying that Measure S is a good idea. I AM saying that planners and development people need to recognize the legimate concerns the anti-displacement folks raise. South and East LA are diverse places with a lot of different people there, and plenty have come out in opposition of Measure S,  noting, right along with the usual market liberal line against the measure,  that Measure S won’t help those concerned about gentrification. 

And that may be true, but it’s not as though the pro-development folks are offering significantly better ideas to those worried about being displaced by development in the short run. When urbanists say things like “gentrification is a myth” or “it’s the market working”, those statements fly into the face of the lived experiences of people grappling with worry about displacement. Does it *really* matter if the statistics show that new units outnumber evictions if you, yourself, or members of your family have been evicted?  Of course the aggregate numbers about what happens matters, but it’s a different thing than if you, personally, are looking down the barrel of the gun. 

 LA has routinely not protected the interests of impoverished people of color (understatement…)  Many in these communities  have no reason to believe that THIS TIME, well, unlike the last 30 times, planners promoting growth really really know what is best and what the consequences are going to be for development in South and East LA. Humility among pro-development folks is warranted but in short supply, so long as we are speaking of supply. 

The problem with the “supply units first” strategy is, simply, that systems of oppression always urge suffering and vulnerable people to wait,  be patient. The benefits are a-coming.  Reform is on its way.  Progress is coming. Yessirreeee, it’s coming. But we all know what James Baldwin said about waiting for progress.

Progress might be coming with development, but the language from most urbanists stresses projects first and people second. I suspect that planners tend think that projects and changing places are how we take care of people–and that may not be as true in the world as it seems in our heads. In the case of development, it’s way possible that developers and the city and the urban reformers get what they want as soon as a project gets approved, while the benefits for communities either dribble in or vanish entirely ….long after those outside a given place have moved on to the next project, having secured their stadia, hotels, and blue-ribbon booster projects without ever delivering to the locals  the benefits that were supposed to accrue from projects that “benefit everyone.” 

So while Measure S is not a great answer, and Michael Weinstein may not be elected  prom king any time soon,  it would be really helpful if all the pro-development  folks would stick around to support the anti-displacement folks in their work for inclusive development after the election.  How does LA urbanism move neighborhood displacement worries from the margin to the center of the city’s development vision and practices?