Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology

A Matter of Necessity-Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning-UCI Urban Planning and Public Policy-25Oct2018
“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning at UCI School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, 25 October 2018

I’m honored to serve as UCI MURP Planning Visions Guest Speaker delivering my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning & Public Policy, Thursday, Oct 25th, 11:30a-1:00p. The event is made possible through the initiative of 2nd year MURP candidate Irene Aceituno. She will introduce me as speaker, discuss UCI’s Diversity in Planning Fellows program, & emphasize the value of mentorships in planning. The talk is Free & Open To All. RSVP at Eventbrite.

SUMMARY: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Jonathan Pacheco Bell, a zoning enforcement planner in Los Angeles County, will tell the story of the Medina Family from the South Central L.A. community of Florence-Firestone, who built an informal backyard dwelling for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered an inspection & eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. It was Jonathan himself who ordered its removal. Audience members will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, & Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. Key takeaways for planning policy, practice & pedagogy will be offered. This talk demonstrates that the rules we enforce can have unintended consequences, especially in working class communities of color.

BIO: Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) is a public sector Urban Planner in Los Angeles County with over 12 years of experience in zoning enforcement. He is a fierce advocate for the unincorporated areas of South Central Los Angeles. On any given day you will find him in the unincorporated community of Florence-Firestone partnering with stakeholders to improve quality of life.

A field-based planner, Bell researches, writes, & speaks about informal housing, unorthodox community outreach, and South Central L.A. history from his unique, on the ground perspective. He calls his praxis Embedded Planning.

A product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school, Bell holds an MAUP from UCLA Luskin & an MLIS from SJSU iSchool.

“We Cannot Plan From Our Desks”, my op-ed on Embedded Planning praxis published in APA’s Planning Magazine, October 2018

Consider this page 1 of my #manifesto nailed to the Planning Department’s door.

Read my op-ed, “We Cannot Plan From Our Desks”, in APA’s Planning Magazine #PlanMag October 2018 issue. Just in time for #PlanningMonth.

In this editorial I outline the tenets and benefits of #EmbeddedPlanning. This is my opening salvo to the planning field arguing for Embedded Planning praxis, what I describe as planning in the streets, over orthodox, desk-bound practice.

I ground Embedded Planning in the real life example of the Medina Family ADU Saga in the South Central Los Angeles community of Florence-Firestone. In my current speaking tour, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, I’m sharing the family’s difficult first lesson in Planning and Zoning, and my inner conflict with the outcome. I can tell the Medinas’ story because I earned their trust, at their doorstep.

We Cannot Plan From Our Desks.
“We Cannot Plan From Our Desks.” My op-ed on Embedded Planning praxis published in APA’s Planning Magazine, October 2018.

Eureka moment for Embedded Planning

Medina Family ADU talk at UCLA Luskin, May 2018
Delivering the Medina Family ADU talk in the “Informal Cities” seminar at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, May 2018. Photo courtesy of Joshua Baum, MURP ’18

I’m writing an invited op-ed on Embedded Planning. It’s a challenging but rewarding exercise. This has been an amorphous idea swirling in my head for years. I knew what it was intuitively, but I hadn’t defined it. This op-ed is pushing me to define, outline, & explain the benefits of my #EmbeddedPlanning praxis. 

The piece draws on my ideas developed over 12 years doing urban planning on-the-ground, from my #MLIS experience in which I regularly wrote about librarians breaking free from the reference desk to do LIS work out in the neighborhood, & from my speaking tour on the Medina Family #ADU saga.

My most fruitful thinking on this op-ed has been away from a desk. On Thursday morning, stuck in #LosAngeles traffic, I had a eureka! moment about the title of my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Storytelling. The reason I can tell the Medina Family story is because I earned their trust, at their doorstep, through my Embedded Planning praxis.

Thus far I’ve delivered the Medina Family ADU talk at CSUN, Woodbury University, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA Luskin, & the American Planning Association #NPC18 Conference in New Orleans under the “Storytelling” title. It’s high time for an update. It’s time to revise my title to underscore that the lessons learned result from Embedded Planning.

Henceforth the title of my talk on the Medina Family ADU story is:

“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning

Only through Embedded Planning do we arrive at my thesis: “Behind every informal unit there’s a story to tell, a human dimension that needs light.”

Designing Housing Solutions workshop @ #APACA2017

California’s housing crisis is at a breaking point. We need new ideas and strategies — now! Planners, urbanists, policymakers, designers, students: you’re invited to this innovative workshop where we’ll tap into your memories and experiences to design new housing solutions.

Designing Housing Solutions

2017 APA CA Conference Sacramento

Tuesday, Sept 26, 2017

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/311978272598475

OVERVIEW: The workshop will tap into the diverse experience and expertise of attending planners to collaborate and design comprehensive housing solutions. The facilitated exercise will bring together a diversity of perspectives to explore new housing typologies that expand choice, encourage affordability, and specifically address the risk of informal dwelling units.

ABSTRACT: The lack of affordable housing in California has reached crisis levels. Among the many consequences is the rash of hazardous incidents happening in unpermitted dwellings. As the tragic warehouse fire in Oakland recently illustrated, unpermitted housing happens across the State at various scales. With no sign of housing demand softening, there is an urgent need to investigate housing supply. While Los Angeles’ recent Proposition JJJ creates a de facto inclusionary zoning policy, no blanket approach exists to address the regulatory, cultural, design, and financing issues associated with housing policy.

The Designing Housing Solutions workshop will facilitate two interactive engagement activities where professionals design and prototype new and diverse housing typologies (co-housing, farm worker housing, artist housing, garage conversions, senior housing, ADUs, etc). The workshop creates a safe space for attending planners to nurture ideas, communicate through storytelling and collaborate. Participants will engage through memory, art and play to better understand themselves and the State’s housing assets, needs and challenges.
This input will launch a conversation that will inform future research, as well as generate ideas that address spatial values impacting housing’s urban design, zoning and planning. The workshop will consider how shared ideas can help create more inclusive spaces.

FACILITATORS:
◦ Gunnar Hand, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, LLP

◦ Jonathan P. Bell, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ James Rojas, Place It! & Latino Urban Forum

◦ Fay Darmawi, Affordable Housing Finance and Consulting

◦ Connie Chung, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ Cathy E. Creswell, Creswell Consulting

#APACA2017

The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began 25 years ago today

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising.

I urge everyone to experience the immersive exhibits “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992” at the California African American Museum.

The exhibits took me back to 1992, seeing the smoke plumes and ash from mom’s house in Montebello, thinking NWA had warned us this was coming again.

Today, some things are better in South Central L.A. Our SCLA unincorporated communities are rising through strong partnerships and civic engagement. But far too many structural inequalities throughout South Central remain.

Will history repeat a third time in L.A.?

The invisibility of code enforcement in planning praxis: The case of informal housing in Southern California

FOCUS article.JPG

Pretty cool to be published old school style: in print!

Read the latest from me and Jake Wegmann on #InformalHousing in Los Angeles: “The Invisibility of Code Enforcement in Planning Praxis: The Case of Informal Housing in Southern California,” (2016) FOCUS Journal, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dept of City & Regional Planning

Abstract: More and better engagement with working class neighborhoods and communities of color are urgent imperatives for the planning profession as the United States transitions to a “majority minority” population. Code enforcement personnel are already doing much of this work, normally in a much more collaborative and less heavy-handed manner than the name of their profession would suggest. However, at present the planning profession largely holds code enforcement at arms’ length. Using the example of the informal housing market in Southern California—managed on a daily basis by code enforcement officers, yet largely unaddressed by planners—we draw on survey and interview data and our own professional experiences to make four propositions about code enforcement work. These are that code enforcement work is unusually cumbersome; it is chronically understaffed; its personnel cope by working reactively rather than proactively; and the profession suffers low prestige as a result. We argue that ending the estrangement between code enforcement and planning would offer numerous benefits to the latter, including inculcating cultural competence in planners through “learning by doing” and working at street level, and injecting sorely needed “community data” into efforts to address vexing issues such as housing unaffordability.

The Dingbat is Dead. Long Live the Dingbat!

dingbat-2-0-cover

You know the Dingbat apartment building even if you don’t know its history. Architecture historian Reyner Banham coined the Dingbat phrase in the 1970s. It’s that clunky stucco box with a quirky facade perched precariously above parking spaces. Maligned by some, revered by many, studied ad infinitum: the Dingbat is distinctively “L.A.” 

The newest scholarship on this typology is the delightful Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis. This book is a meticulous and exhaustive analysis of one of the most misunderstood building types in Los Angeles. I recommend it highly.

The book’s many essays illuminate the Dingbat’s origins, meaning(s), and (possible) future(s). Pictures are plentiful. Diagrams and photo simulations abound. A newly developed Dingbat taxonomy provides a handy guidebook for spotting them in the environment. And whereas prior studies focus almost exclusively on the Dingbat’s unmistakable facade, Dingbat 2.0 ventures to step inside. Residents share what it’s like to live in this particular form of multifamily housing. This new dimension brings us closer to a “complete comprehension” of the Dingbat.

Dingbat 2.0 is a must-read for urbanists, architects, historians, housing advocates, and everyday Angelenos.

Shout out to Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and DoppelHouse Press for bringing this to life. The book is helping me finish my own ‘little polemic’ on a Dingbat near me.

An Open Letter to the Pasadena Planning Commission Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance

screenshot-2016-12-12-21-49-12

On December 14, 2016, the Pasadena Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider an amendment to the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance. The update is required to comply with the relaxed standards in AB 2299 and SB 1069.

As proposed, the revised Ordinance achieves only minimum compliance with the new housing laws while leaving in place several “poison pill” criteria that discourage new accessory units. This is unacceptable.

Read my Open Letter to the Pasadena Planning Commission urging an overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance [published at UrbDeZine.com]

http://losangeles.urbdezine.com/2016/12/12/an-open-letter-to-the-pasadena-planning-commission-and-city-planning-staff-demanding-a-comprehensive-update-to-the-second-dwelling-unit-ordinance/

 

South Central Los Angeles: History and meaning in the historically proper place name

By: Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r

Decades ago the @latimes uncritically accepted L.A. City’s “South LA” rebranding. Recall that L.A. City’s elected officials wanted to sanitize images of “unrest” that they claimed were associated with “South Central.” So they dropped “Central”… brilliant 🙄. The L.A. Times went along with it wholesale.

We hadn’t seen “South Central L.A.” in an L.A. Times headline for many years until Angel Jennings’s Nov. 22nd story on #TheReef. While it’s in reference to the Historic South-Central district within L.A. City, seeing the historically proper place name was still exciting for many South Central Los Angeles advocates. It was one long overdue step away from revisionist history.

#SouthCentral #LosAngeles #OccasionalCritique #InstaEssay#MicroEssay

downtown-development-boom-in-south-central-la-la-times-11-22-16

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNh-XSihMg7/?taken-by=c1typlann3r

South Central Los Angeles: Embrace, don’t erase, local history

south-central-los-angeles-slauson-at-hooper
Graffiti writers at Slauson and Hooper Aves remind us that this geography is still called South Central Los Angeles. Photo by Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r
By: Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r

Remember that this geography is still, and will always be, South Central Los Angeles. The “South LA” rebranding was City of LA’s attempt at revisionist history after the 1992 Uprising (much like the City’s embarrassing 2014 “SOLA” proposal that’s thankfully fizzled).

Invest in place erasure and hope the world forgets: that went nowhere. Stakeholders young and older still call it South Central LA. History matters.

And, for the record, none of the City’s revisionism ever applied in the unincorporated communities: Florence-Firestone, Willowbrook, East Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominguez, West Athens, and Lennox.

💛✊🏽 [Location: Slauson Av @ Hooper Av]

#SouthCentral #LosAngeles #OccasionalCritique #InstaEssay #MicroEssay

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNZ1EhbhQi-/

Latino Informal Housing panel at APA-CA 2016 in Pasadena, Sat 10/22/16


Interested in informal housing? Los Angeles? Latino Urbanism? Attend our talk, “Crafting mi casa: Lessons of Latino Informal Housing Practice in Los Angeles” at the 2016 APA California Conference: Crafting our Future – The Art of Planning in Pasadena, Saturday, October 22, 2016.

Mark Vallianatos, James Rojas, Vinit Mukhija, and I will examine the visual, spatial, policy and regulatory implications this practice has in planning multicultural Los Angeles.

https://planning.org/events/activity/9107473/

OVERVIEW: Latino homeowners renovate their homes based on imagination, needs, and know-how — sometimes without proper permits. This cultural practice has been happening for decades, producing some of the most innovative housing typologies and construction practices, and redefining the basic dwelling unit in Los Angeles. Despite its ingenuity, Latino informal housing development runs into considerable urban planning obstacles. Rigid municipal codes imbued with middle class values render informal units illegal. Rising numbers of tragedies resulting from fires in substandard garage conversions underscore legitimate safety concerns. NIMBYism stifles efforts to build accessory units in Single-Family Residential zones. And in the midst of an acute housing crisis, restrictive zoning and land use laws both discourage and obstruct opportunities to build legally in communities. Planners can learn a lot from the lessons of Latino informal housing practice. This panel will examine the visual, spatial, policy, and regulatory implications Latino informal housing practice has in planning multicultural Los Angeles County.

AICP CM 1.5 units, Course No. 9107473

#APACA2016 #LosAngeles #InformalHousing

Informal Housing and Safety Risks to Occupants: The Case of the Aviles Sisters


Capt. Patrick Wills and I thank everyone who attended our talk today, “Informal Housing and Safety Risks to Occupants: The Case of the Aviles Sisters.”

Please read up on the City of Long Beach’s Aviles Law and ACR 32 addressing unpermitted housing in California.

#InformalHousing #CityofLongBeach #SouthCentral #LosAngeles #ADU #AvilesLaw #CodeEnforcement

Latino Informal Housing panel at 2016 APA CA in Pasadena

I’m moderating a session on Latino informal housing at the APA CA Conference in Pasadena, October 22-25, 2016

Join me, Mark Vallianatos, James Rojas, and Vinit Mukhija as we examine the visual, spatial, policy and regulatory implications this practice has in planning multicultural Los Angeles.

Session:

“Crafting Mi Casa: Lessons of Latino Informal Housing Practices in Los Angeles”

Location:

Pasadena Convention Center

Day/time:

Saturday, October 22, 2016, 2:45p to 4:15p

#APACA2016

#LosAngeles 

#InformalHousing

DRP will stay in DTLA

The misguided plan to move the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning (DRP) to the suburbs bites the dust.

DRP headquarters will stay in #DTLA in the purpose-built, Neutra designed Hall of Records!

Thanks to LA County Supervisors Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sheila Kuehl, and Don Knabe for their leadership, and everyone who sent letters demanding we #KeepDRPinDTLA