Expo Line Plan moving forward: the good, the bad and the hopeful

It is possible to legalize more homes on Los Angeles’ Westside.

Sorry, you may not have been paying attention:

It is possible to legalize more homes on Los Angeles’ Westside!

Technically the Expo Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan (TNP) still needs to be passed by Los Angeles city council, but since amendments from the two city councilmembers that represent these neighborhoods have already passed, city council approval is expected. And it’s notable that, despite the reputation of local elected officials as reflexively deferential to the anti-growth movement, local councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, who represent two of the most affluent districts in the country, have both tacitly approved the TNP. Progress is possible.

More on Councilmember Koretz’s amendments to reduce housing capacity below, but it’s important to note how progressive the amendments offered by Councilmember Bonin were. His amendments increased capacity for homes in new mixed-use zones, increased affordability incentives within his council district to Transit-Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentives Tier 4, and allowed hundreds of single-family parcels to be re-zoned to allow for multi-family housing development (and we’re getting word that, no, the sky is not falling).

There aren’t many policy decisions that give everyone a win, but this sure feels like one:

  • For pro-housing advocates, Los Angeles has new zoned capacity for thousands of more homes.
  • For environmental advocates, the TNP re-orients development away from sprawl and towards infill
  • Affordable-housing advocates can point to capacity for hundreds of more affordable homes thanks to the legalization of more Measure JJJ-eligible base density, and
  • Pro-transit advocates can rest easy knowing that thousands more Angelenos will benefit from LA’s public transit investment

Unfortunately, one other group that got a win is a handful of homeowners in West LA. Despite the City Planning Commission’s decision to increase zoned capacity for housing along the corridor between the Sepulveda and Ranch Park Expo Line stations (as we recommended), Councilmember Koretz vetoed those upzones at the request of local homeowners. What was the source of this opposition? While the Westside Neighborhood Council’s (WNC) letter cites concerns about traffic congestion and the health of local businesses, the only tangible concerns the WNC articulated about these upzones were a desire to preserve the “garden home” style of several houses in the plan area, and concern about the impact of shadows on single-family houses adjacent to the planned upzone of Exposition Boulevard

It’s hard to take these concerns seriously. The proposed upzone from R2 to R3 on Exposition would not have changed the legal height maximum of 45 feet, so it wouldn’t have changed the… shadow profile?… of the neighborhood anyways.

As housing advocates, we must continue to shine a light on the need for more homes, especially in the birthplace of LA’s anti-growth movement: the westside.To that end, let’s quantify what was lost to appease a relatively small number of homeowners. The following is based on a pro bono analysis performed by pactriglo, a real estate analysis firm in Los Angeles:

Pico Boulevard between Bentley Ave. and Overland Ave:

  • Capacity in plan passed by Planning Commission: 1310 units, including 130 units for extremely low income Angelenos
  • Capacity in plan amended by PLUM Committee: 771 units
  • Units Lost: 539, including 130 affordable units

Exposition Boulevard between Sepulveda Blvd. and Midvale Ave:

  • Capacity in plan passed by Planning Commission:: 557 units, including 58 for extremely low income Angelenos
  • Capacity in plan amended by PLUM Committee: 109 units (i.e., status quo)
  • Units Lost: 448, including 59 affordable units

Total Units Lost: 987, including 189 units for extremely low income Angelenos

What did Angelenos get in exchange for sacrificing new apartments in this neighborhood? Nothing.
This is the cost of appeasing the anti-growth movement. We cannot afford to defer to the aesthetic concerns of the privileged few over the need for homes for all Angelenos. It’s what created the housing crisis in the first place.

Fortunately, the conversation feels it’s starting to change. In the past, most local stakeholders might have opposed new homes. But support from the Palms Neighborhood Council shows evolving attitudes towards development and housing, even in West LA. Rather than opposing rezoning for more apartments in their neighborhood, Palms embraced it, citing their neighborhood’s tradition of diversity and inclusion:

“The Palms NC supports the Expo Line TNP as it helps meet our neighborhood’s goals of new and affordable housing, street level neighborhood facing retail, and appropriate development near new mass transit investments. Additionally, more housing and walkable neighborhoods near transit stations is an environmental necessity. Without plans like the Expo Line TNP, we will aggravate traffic congestion, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerate displacement in LA.”

If LA’s leaders commit to the values articulated by the Palms Neighborhood Council, then perhaps one day Los Angeles can finally become the truly inclusive city it was always meant to be. That’s a vision worth fighting for.

#housingforall

(this post written by Nick Burns, Abundant Housing LA’s West LA local leader)

 

One comment on “Expo Line Plan moving forward: the good, the bad and the hopeful

  1. Richard Reply

    Does the increase to Tier 4 affordability requirements also reduce parking to tier 4 levels?

    Previously planning had said that IF a project voluntarily wanted to increase the amount of affordable housing in the project, they could get the bonus reduction in parking. I’m hoping that is the case.

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