David Pisarra

My column last week about the sorry state of the city’s architecture and its increasingly boring designs, along with the condensation of people struck a nerve. I received some great feedback from readers who are just as frustrated, angry and pessimistic about our city’s future as me.

The lack of local control is a concern, and it’s certainly a component of the density and bad design. When the Legislature expanded the rules on development statewide it was in response to a perceived demand for housing. On a statewide level that’s possibly true, but I am seeing a lot of ‘For Rent’ signs in the city. I’ve heard that even San Francisco with its history of 99% occupancy is having an increase in vacancies.

All of this is against a backdrop of a large exodus out of California and into states like Texas, Idaho, N. Carolina and the Midwest. Our high taxes, high regulation, and traffic are making many of us reconsider if living here is worth it. That outflow of residents may be a sign that rental prices are stabilizing and/or dropping.

I know of a landlord who two years ago was getting $4,300 a month for their 1 bedroom/ 1 bath with an outdoor patio and secured parking lowering the rent to $3,600 and having a hard time finding a tenant at that. It’s the ‘Invisible Hand’ of the market at work bringing things back in balance.

Unfortunately I don’t think that will help us with the overbuilding at the moment. The Hand of the market is pushing full bore to develop more, faster, with the intent that the developers can maximize their profits upon sale. I don’t like it, but I do understand it.

As a small business owner myself I maximize my efforts at turning a profit. I have clients that pay me hourly and I regularly increase my fees based on what the market will bear, my own expertise and availability. We all do it, even if you’re a salaried employee you should be asking for a raise every year, and if you switch jobs and have to do the salary negotiation thing, that’s really nothing more than you selling your time and skills on the open market.

The difference is, I think, that a building once built is probably going to stay in place, absent a catastrophe, for a very long time. Once built a five-story apartment behemoth on Pico in place of the bowling alley, is probably never going to be torn down and turned into a one-story building with seven units and a parking lot.

Development is pretty much a one way street and it’s always towards a higher better use. That’s why finding ways to slow the growth are important. To have time for reflection on the impact, to do an environmental impact report. I expect that at some point we’ll have to do a building moratorium to address the issues of infrastructure. Cities like Glenwood Springs Co are looking at moratorium to address their problems with development and a little issue like where’s the water coming from to support this new development?

I’m rather shocked that there isn’t more discussion around the need for water in our state. We’re mostly a desert and we have for years been filling our need from the Pacific Northwest and the Colorado River. Our capacity to draw water from those resources is dwindling unless we do something to confront the problem.

Slowing any one development is understandable. The problem however is bigger and much further upstream. We have to deal with the fact that population continues to grow. That we continue to have a global emigration issue. That we have infrastructure demands that are not being addressed.

I appreciate the letters I received last week about my opinions on development and primary colors, and I am asking you, if you are also concerned about these issues and the state of city and its future, to please write in at letters@smdp.com so that the paper can share your thoughts. If enough people stand up, change can happen. It’s the only way it’s ever happened.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra