Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Proposal for 260 Condominiums in Century City

Link To This Post

Along comes a proposal from Westfield Group to build much-needed housing into a shopping mall project in Century City (on the posh Westside of Los Angeles, a stone's throw from Beverly Hills), and right behind it are the local residents complaining about it. This from today's LA Times:
Many nearby homeowners fear that the bigger malls would cause traffic congestion and diminish their quality of life.
In case you're new to this argument, "quality of life" is loosely translated as "I got mine, screw you."

The housing portion of the project is in a 42-story tower that would include three floors of office space and 260 condominiums.

Here's one expert's opinion from the story in the Times:
"You're re-creating, in effect, a town center," said John McIlwain, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a land-use think tank in Washington. "I think it's a smart thing to do for the community. L.A. needs as much housing as it can find in appropriate places."
Of course, this is Century City we're talking about, home to the lawyers of the stars, and so, this isn't going to be affordable housing. The project wouldn't be completed for five years in a best-case scenario, but local market prices currently indicate the condos would likely go for more than $2 million each if they were available for sale today.

Yes, this is high-end housing. But it's all connected. More homes for the rich, mean no reduction in homes for the poor. It works like this: If you don't give the high-end consumer something nice to buy, they will still continue this trend toward urban living and infiltrate existing neighborhoods. That means gentrification. They buy homes that aren't up to their standards, tear them down, and make McMansions. In the end, it not only changes the character of the neibhborhood, it also robs the low-end housing stock of inventory. It pushes low-income residents further out of the city, which increases traffic and on and on and on. So that's why I'm all for developments of all kinds because they all relieve pressure in one way or another. (Plus there's that bonus hope that the housing market will crash and people like me will be able to get one of these babies for a song.)

As the Times highlights in its story, housing projects of any kind in Southern California "are more scarce than a bargain home."

Still, we'll watch for the cast of "community activists" to assemble and describe the developer of this project as "The Big Bad Wolf" There will no doubt be complaints about the "quality of life," which will blossom into issues about "obstruction of viewscapes," or worries that "crime will increase," or "property values will go down," or "traffic will intensify."

You get the sense we've heard this record before?

Here's an excerpt to the story in the LA Times:
Shopping center owner Westfield Group announced plans Tuesday to add 260 luxury condominiums at its Century City mall by razing two office buildings to create more space for the condos and new stores.

The $500-million project reflects a trend in which malls are being transformed into self-contained villages. From California to Massachusetts, the largest mall operators are looking for ways to stack housing within their shopping centers.

In Southern California, where housing sites are more scarce than a bargain home, the trend is taking off. Projects have been built in or are planned for Pasadena, Glendale and Playa Vista.

Public officials and planners often support such dense development because it creates urban communities with shopping, housing and entertainment that are alternatives to conventional suburban neighborhoods. Many nearby homeowners fear that the bigger malls would cause traffic congestion and diminish their quality of life.

But Peter Lowy, head of U.S. operations for Westfield, argued Tuesday that by eliminating office space, the Sydney, Australia-based company would reduce the number of car trips people take in and out of workplaces in Century City. Trips created by the housing and shopping would be less likely to take place at peak commuting hours, he said.

— The Boy in the Big Housing Bubble