New Los Angeles Law Aims to Demolish Certain Zoning Restrictions

Los "Angeles Arts District under construction.

Local politicians pull no punches in describing their intentions: to reverse slow-growth policies and the “brain damage” of building affordably.

As Reported by the LA Times:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supported the legislation, said in an interview that SB 35

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti

complements the city’s other efforts, such as relaxing development restrictions near transit lines, to ease production.

“A lot of people don’t want the brain damage or the headache of building affordable homes,” Garcetti said. “This makes it a much less painful process.”

The city’s current policy forces most projects 50 units or larger — regardless of whether they comply with zoning codes — to complete a full analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s primary environmental law governing development. These analyses cost Los Angeles developers between $200,000 to $300,000 each and add 18 months to the building process, and that’s before any potential challenge in court, said Jim Ries, a senior vice president at Craig Lawson & Co., a land-use consultant that advises on hundreds of city projects annually.

Wiener’s legislation aims to wipe that process away, but only for projects that meet a substantial number of conditions: (Source)

The article goes on to say that while development will be greatly streamlined, it comes with many strings attached for projects:

  • They can’t be single-family homes and have to meet underlying zoning rules — so no 100-unit condominiums on land now planned for 50.

  • They can’t be along the coast.

  • They can’t replace rent-controlled housing or buildings that have been occupied by tenants in the previous 10 years.

  • Developers have to pay construction workers union-level wages and abide by union-level hiring rules.

For Los Angeles, the guidelines are even stricter. Generally, Wiener’s legislation allows developers of market-rate homes to take advantage of the streamlined local review process. But because Los Angeles is exceeding its state housing growth targets for those earning higher-than-middle incomes, only projects that reserve at least half of their units for low-income residents will qualify. In Los Angeles, the current standard for low-income is a family of four earning no more than $72,100 a year.

Read the full article in The LA Times HERE.