The City of Los Angeles is currently updating many of its land use plans. So are other area cities, such as Long Beach. (More on Long Beach soon….) We have a rare opportunity to influence community plans, transit plans, general plans, and zoning codes. We need residents to support more housing in every community to ensure that Los Angeles has room for current residents to stay in LA and for newcomers to move here.
We have the chance this week to attend meeting on the Orange Line Plan Wednesday night and Purple Line Plan thursday night.
If you are able to attend one of these meetings, or if you have a chance later to send comments on the plan, what should you ask for that would help address LA’s housing crisis? We have a few suggestions/ talking points:
1. Tell planners to set the new housing capacity significantly above anticipated population, and to study this level of upzone in the Environmental Impact report.
This point sounds a little technical, so we’ll try to explain it. Planners are required to conduct an environmental review a proposed land use plan. As part of this process, they will estimate how many new homes and jobs would be allowed in the plan area due to changes to zoning, and study the potential environmental impacts of these new homes and businesses.
LA plans tend to change zoning just enough to accommodate expected growth in population. For example, say that a plan area currently has 40,000 households and 41,000 homes (sadly, this reflects the reality in most neighborhoods where vacancy rates are low and there is not enough room to grow). Estimates show that another 4000 households are expected to arrive in the next few decades, so the plan calls for changing zoning to allow 4250 new homes. This means that there will be 44,000 households and 45,250 homes. Notice any problems? First, we are planning for low vacancy rates, which practically guarantees high rents! Second, what happens if there is higher than anticipated population growth? Third, the number of new homes ignores the fact that LA has hundreds of thousands of low-income households living in overcrowded housing and hundreds of thousands of younger residents forced to stay with their parents.
The solution is to zone for significantly more new homes than the future anticipated population. This will create “breathing room” to relieve the current shortage and tightness in the housing market. If we need more homes, there will be the possibility to build them. If the extra zoned capacity isn’t used, there is no harm, it’s just potential space for future expansion.
Abundant Housing LA recommends that all plan updates or new plans zone for housing capacity at least 50% above the anticipated future number of households.
It is also crucial that the Environmental Impact Reviews for plans study this higher level of zoning. If the EIR doesn’t study this potential higher zoning, it won’t make it into the plan.
2. Suggest specific areas where new homes could go
If you know the plan area well because you live or work there or visit it, you should suggest some places (sub-areas, streets, etc) where you’d like to see upzones, bigger buildings and more homes. These sites might be low-rise areas close to transit, places with lots of surface parking and underutilized lots, etc. Your local knowledge will help make the case for zoning changes and a better city.
3. Allow small apartments in ‘single family’ areas near transit
In editorializing last week about the need for more housing in the Expo Line Transit Plan, the LA Times made an important point about the irony of single unit zoning close to train stations: “Yes, single-family neighborhoods are part of the character and fabric of L.A., but it’s hard to see how the city can house its current occupants, let alone the growing population to come, without at least pondering looser restrictions that allow more triplexes, fourplexes and townhomes.”
We agree! We support diverse low rise housing. Our policy agenda calls for allowing a minimum of 4 units on a standard 5000 sf lot if the property is within a 1/2 mile of quality transit.
4. Eliminate parking requirements near transit.
It’s dumb to mandate on site parking for homes close to transit. Requiring more parking than developers and residents want makes housing more expensive; leads to bad design because parking spaces often shape the architecture more than human needs and amenities; and pollutes the air and warms the climate by encouraging driving. We believe that there should be no vehicle parking requirements within 1/2 mile of transit.
If you have other ideas for these plans, let us know!