Open Letter to the California Senate: AB 2580 Is Seriously Flawed

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read
"We need to talk" superimposed over an image of the California State Capitol Building.

Dear Senators:

I am a fourth-generation Californian. My family's history in the state dates back almost 100 years.

I am both a preservationist and a supporter of affordable housing. And I just so happen to be a former apartment manager, so trust me when I say I know a thing or two about housing.

AB 2580 may end up causing more harm than good.

I urge you to heed the wisdom of Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs' work showed the clear need for older buildings in cities, primarily because older housing stock is affordable housing stock. While the book does date to 1961, its lessons hold up today - chief amongst them Jacobs' point that a mix of buildings of different ages provides a mix of price points that support a wide variety of renters. That means affordability and diversity - two values dear to the heart of many Californians.

More recently, the Preservation Positive Los Angeles study showed that preserving and reusing existing buildings has positively impacted Angelenos. Converting disused older commercial buildings to loft apartments, for example, created thousands of homes where none had existed in decades.

Here are the key takeaways of the study. Kindly take note of the following (note that HPOZ stands for Historic Preservation Overlay Zone):

Of the 35 HPOZs that currently exist, 21 have populations where there is a greater share of racial diversity than in the rest of the city.
As much as 69% of housing in HPOZs has more than one unit, with 39% providing five or more units or apartments. This makes historic neighborhoods more accessible to renters and provides a greater range of rents and significantly higher density uses.
Rehabilitating older and historic buildings for new uses is not only cost-effective and good for the environment; it helps generate much-needed housing. Between 1999 and 2019, L.A. created over 12,000 new housing units through adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

Preserving California's older buildings for the countless residents who need them is just good common sense. Yet, AB 2580 unjustly demonizes preservation.

I wish to add that preservation is better for the environment. Construction and demolition produce about one-quarter of America's waste, and more than 90 percent of that is from demolition. Generally speaking, the greenest building is the one that already exists.

On the subject of energy efficiency, older buildings (this can include older multifamily buildings) were built to last, and often had thick plaster walls, carefully sealed windows, and solid wood doors. While newer buildings might look good to the untrained eye, many are very shoddily built (take it from someone who went from a seemingly indestructible older apartment to a newer build that was dangerously hot in the summer and freezing in the winter due to improperly sealed windows and insufficient insulation).

AB 2580's supporters falsely claim that "tackling the abuse of historic preservation rules requires several steps", but have failed to provide ANY evidence of this "abuse". Further, the bill fails to provide ANY incentives to add housing.

Who REALLY benefits from this? Certainly not rank-and-file Californians (aka the majority of YOUR constituents).

What the bill's supporters most likely want is to chip away at what little protection we Californians do have for historic resources - and I can tell you that the historic resources we do still have do not have anywhere near the amount of protection they need and deserve (read this blog for more).

Let common sense prevail and vote NO on AB 2580. Californians are counting on you to do right by them.


EIC, Empty Los Angeles

C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere is a fourth-generation Angeleno. She is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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