Project Spotlight – 15340 W Lassen St, North Hills

The process for getting new housing approved can be complex, and there are many different types of housing that we can build, from large apartment buildings all the way down to single accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Occasionally, we’ll use this space to spotlight projects that we have supported, look at the process and approvals the project needs, and explain why we think it’s important for people to voice their support.

What is it? A proposed small lot subdivision of 15 houses. The small lot subdivision ordinance is a City of LA zoning ordinance that was created to make it easier to develop underused land in multi-family zoned areas, with the goals of encouraging infill development of fee-simple, attached ownership housing units. The ordinance does not increase the number of units permitted above what is allowed by the base zoning, but it relaxes requirements for setbacks, street frontage, and minimum lot sizes, and provides flexibility for configuration of parking.

Here’s the location of this project:

15340LassenSt

What discretionary approvals did this project need? A discretionary approval is one where a special permit or a change from zoning regulations is required for the project to be built. In many cases, the current zoning requirements are stricter than the existing buildings surrounding the site.

This project required a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), a government action that finds the project, as proposed, will not have a significant impact on the environment under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Most reasonable people would not consider a small urban infill development project to have an impact on the environment, but CEQA provides an opportunity for opponents of new housing to slow down or stop construction by appealing the city’s decision.

This project also requested a zone change from RD2-1 to RD1.5-1. This reduced the lot area per house from 2,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet, allowing for an increase in the number of houses to be constructed. Some of the properties abutting the project were already zoned for this density or more, and the zone change will allow for a beneficial increase in housing. A lack of land zoned for more housing is one of the biggest challenges to the construction of abundant housing in SoCal.

Why should we support this project? The small lot subdivision ordinance has helped create over 2,000 units of housing. In a few cases, projects have replaced an equal number of apartments with small lot houses, and we do not support that type of development. However, in this case, the project will be replacing a single house, not apartments.

Predictably, anti-housing forces have started to attack the small lot subdivision ordinance as allowing too much density, despite the fact that the ordinance does nothing to increase the number of units permitted on a lot. The small lot ordinance should be improved to further encourage the production of housing and discourage the destruction of existing apartments. This project represents the small lot subdivision at its best, and the city should try to encourage more like it.


Project Spotlight – 2205 S Ocean Ave, Venice

The process for getting new housing approved can be complex, and there are many different types of housing that we can build, from large apartment buildings all the way down to single accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Occasionally, we’ll use this space to spotlight projects that we have supported, look at the process and approvals the project needs, and explain why we think it’s important for people to voice their support.

What is it? A proposed accessory dwelling unit (ADU), commonly known as a granny flat, in-law apartment, or garage apartment. These units are typically small apartments, located on the same lot as a larger single-family house, though sometimes they are on the same lot as a separate small apartment building.

What discretionary approvals did this project need? A discretionary approval is one where a special permit or a change from zoning regulations is required for the project to be built. In many cases, the current zoning requirements are stricter than the existing buildings surrounding the site. Because of its location in the “Coastal Zone”, this project required a Coastal Development Permit. Because of the arrangement of the site, this project required a zoning adjustment to allow the building setbacks to be less than required by the zoning – 0’ in instead of 5’ at the back, and 2’-4” instead of 3’ on the side.

While adjustments like these are minor by any reasonable standard, they give opponents of new housing a way to slow down or stop construction, because they can appeal the city’s discretionary actions. It is common for Coastal Development Permits and minor adjustments to be appealed.

Why should we support this project? ADUs are some of the most affordable housing units that can be produced. This small unit – 368 SF – increases the diversity of the housing stock, and will likely be affordable to someone who could not afford a larger apartment, such as a student, low-income worker, or elderly person. There are over 1.7 million single-family homes in LA County; even if ADUs were constructed at only 10%, this would be a huge contribution to affordable housing supply. The wider the range of housing types that we build, the more quickly we can address our housing shortage, and the more diverse people we can welcome into the city.