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:
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.