Zev on planning and the Times

CityBeat's L.A. Sniper columnist Alan Mittelstaedt captures Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's persuasive argument that the Times' cutback of local coverage through the years contributes to the city's bad traffic by letting politicians and their poor planning choices go unexamined. Sample:

Zev hates traffic jams as much as the next solo commuter in the car ahead of you: “If we do nothing between now and 2015, somebody’s going to shoot somebody on the streets between the 405 and Ocean Avenue. You can’t just be oblivious to the fact that people are traveling at an average speed of 2 mph going eastbound from Santa Monica during the afternoon peak. The public wants relief.”

The wholesale revamping of zoning rules now being ramrodded through neighborhoods around the city, tripling densities and turning one-story buildings into three-story mega-complexes or worse, will only make it more unbearable. And the rule changes have been slipped in without enough public scrutiny.

“What drives me up a wall is from the day I walked into City Hall on June 10, 1975, there wasn’t an issue like this that wasn’t debated. We always had debates....."

It used to be that you could read about all of the policy clashes in the daily newspaper, which created a rigor of accountability. “No politician or city councilman from the Westside worth his salt would ignore the public, or would do so at his peril, because they’d read about it in the Thursday edition or Sunday edition of the L.A. Times. Well, they haven’t had a zoned section in years.”

The twice-weekly community section was killed in 1995, and now Zev laments that worthwhile stories remain unwritten or dismissed in three-paragraph briefs buried in the California section. “The Orange County Board of Supervisors gets more coverage from the L.A. Times,” Zev complained. “I don’t mean to pounce on the L.A. Times, but it’s a critical problem. It has consequences.”

Yaroslavsky spoke at the Current Affairs Forum.

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