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Editorial: Perenially out of touch, Paul Koretz rejects housing projects for nonsensical reasons

By Editorial Board

March 10, 2019 10:01 p.m.

A Los Angeles city council member is seeking to exempt California’s largest city from a state law permitting the construction of more housing.

His reason: backyards.

Paul Koretz certainly has quite the absurd grasp on policies – and common sense.

Koretz, who represents Westwood and the rest of City District 5, is spearheading an effort to exempt LA from Senate Bill 50. SB 50 is a monumental piece of legislation sponsored by Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener that would ease zoning restrictions on the construction of housing units in areas near transportation hubs or centers of economic activity. Advocates say it has the potential to solve California’s long-standing housing crisis by stimulating denser housing construction.

Koretz has couched his opposition in a professed desire to ensure communities of single-family homes are preserved within LA – something supposedly challenged by constructing taller apartments and condos near transit lines.

It’s almost as if the three-term council member thinks backyards and tree-lined streets are the biggest priority for a city with more than 50,000 homeless individuals and where a sizable number of residents spend more than 83 percent of their yearly income on monthly mortgage payments.

And if Koretz really does buy into that argument, he’s not just a lousy legislator – he’s also an unconscionable and inept one.

His effort reeks of “NIMBYism” – the problematic tendency of local power centers to oppose any kind of housing reform. To say “not in my backyard” in this instance is to demonstrate contempt for a legislative initiative that could address one of California’s pressing housing crises in one of its most populous metropolitan areas.

This isn’t the first time the council member has opposed an effort to ease the city’s unfair zoning restrictions. When Wiener released a similar zoning bill last year, Koretz decried the bill as a measure that would turn LA into Dubai. Wiener then approached him, and it turned out the council member hadn’t even read the bill.

SB 50, in an effort to address previous criticism, no longer encourages the displacement of local residents. In fact, it contains a prohibition against the demolition of occupied housing units. Moreover, the updated legislation contains language that would allow economically feeble communities to delay the implementation of its mandates.

But Koretz has decided to just move the goalposts of his bad-faith arguments. His city council resolution against the bill claims LA already exceeded its housing needs for market-rate homes. The resolution also complains about the integrity of the city’s single-family zoning.

It’s clear: Despite a decade on the job, Koretz has little to offer Angelenos – even when the right course of action is painfully obvious.

Certainly, the council member is entitled to take stances on legislation, however ludicrous – the fact that voters chose him as their representative gives him that prerogative. But being elected into office isn’t free reign to pursue nonsensical endeavors. At this point, it’s clear Koretz will present the most dubious of arguments just to oppose any change in the city’s outdated zoning laws out of some mistaken notion that he is protecting city residents.

But the truth is, Koretz isn’t protecting anyone. And his attempts are outlandish, sometimes extending as far as trying to silence free speech.

Scratching out LA from a statewide initiative meant to benefit the city only confirms the truth about Koretz: He either doesn’t have a clue what he is doing – or he doesn’t have the heart to care for Angelenos.

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