Why Projects Advocacy?

by Leonora Camner

LA is in the midst of a housing crisis, and desperately needs more housing construction to combat soaring rents and homelessness. Abundant Housing LA advocates for many individual housing projects, ranging from supportive housing to market-rate housing. Some of these projects are significant, such as the 700 unit Paseo Marina, while some are as small as only 50 units.

I have been a volunteer for AHLA since 2016, and serve on the steering committee as the Online Director. With my background in housing rights law, tackling the housing crisis and getting people off the streets and into homes is my passion.

Sometimes I’m asked why we bother supporting such small projects, considering that we spend volunteer resources researching, writing support letters, and speaking in support of small projects at hearings. How will a 50-unit project impact the housing crisis, some people ask, when Los Angeles has a housing deficit in the hundreds of thousands? Why don’t we focus only on larger projects and pro-housing policies?

And all this advocacy adds up: members of Abundant Housing LA have written in support of 32,000 units of housing, including 2,400 units of affordable housing. These numbers make a difference to a lot of Angelenos. Every single unit of housing matters. A new house is a person or a family with a roof over their head.

But beyond just the numbers of new housing created, AHLA’s projects advocacy has a greater purpose. Projects advocacy is a part of our strategy for changing Los Angeles’ housing culture.

Too many people see new housing as a negative thing. They see inconvenience from construction and traffic. But in the midst of this housing crisis, more and more people are seeing housing projects as beneficial. They see tall buildings going up and associate that with the neighbors that will have space to live. They see rooms for students to study in, and rooms for kids to play in. They see kitchens for cooking meals with family and friends. They also see a reduction in car traffic, and an increase in walkability and livability. They see the clean air and environmental benefits coming their way.

Focusing on the human benefits of housing transforms something that seems like an intrusion into a change that we welcome and encourage. This is the culture that we need to have in Los Angeles if we are ever to close the housing deficit, get people off of the streets, end sprawl, and leave the housing affordability crisis behind us.

Projects advocacy is essential in attaining that new vision. At hearings for housing projects of all kinds, Los Angeles decision-makers, such as planners, neighborhood councilmembers, and city councilmembers, are used to hearing local people resist new housing. They don’t hear from the people who have been displaced from the area, or people who can’t afford to move to the area. They don’t hear from busy people who are working multiple jobs to afford rent in the neighborhood, and who don’t have time to attend hearings.

Predictably, this means that negativity around new housing is deep and pervasive in Los Angeles, and to many, that negativity represents a consensus.

However, when pro-housing advocates show up to hearings to support housing, they radically alter the thinking of everyone connected, including the decision-makers and the local residents.

Last year, pro-housing members of the community attended Abundant Housing LA’s Happy Hour > Advocacy Hour, and spoke in support of the 431 N La Cienega Ave project. People shared their diverse perspectives on housing, including their own struggles with affordable housing, their knowledge on urban planning and the benefits of density, and the history of racist exclusion behind much of single family home zoning in LA. Anti-housing community members attending the hearing were visibly moved. The project was then supported by the Neighborhood Council. But more importantly, the community’s view on housing was permanently changed.

It’s common to encounter people who genuinely cannot comprehend that anyone would support new housing. They have never encountered a sincere pro-housing vision. Without exposure to the beneficial aspects of housing, they only see development as change to resist. Through projects advocacy, our volunteers expose people to a new vision of housing. This exposure changes the dialogue on all future housing projects and zoning plans, even if no one shows up from AHLA to speak.

On top of that, projects advocacy changes the community benefits neighborhoods expect from housing developers. Currently, it is customary for neighborhoods to ask for, and receive, a “haircut” from the project, which is a reduction in the total number of units. While a “haircut” in a small project might only result in a loss of 5 or 10 units, when almost every project loses a percentage of units, this is a major reduction in housing production in Los Angeles county.

By showing up to speak in support of housing, AHLA volunteers instead ask for more humanitarian and inclusionary concessions from developers, such as an addition of units, a reduction of parking, or an increase in affordability.

Projects Advocacy is a great way to get involved with AHLA. It’s an amazing way to make an impact as a single individual in LA’s housing process. Even just submitting letters through our Advocacy Forms (sent out in our newsletters on a regular basis) is a great way to make a difference.

Imagine a Los Angeles where our neighborhoods demand more housing in planned projects. Through AHLA’s projects advocacy, maybe we can get there.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 4Q 2018

Are you a member of Abundant Housing LA yet? Join our mailing list for housing- and affordability-related news and weekly action alerts that help increase the diversity of housing choices available to Angelenos.


Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data every 3 months to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, or “missing middle” housing? And how are we doing on Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in 8 years? Where is the market headed?

In these updates we look at building permits (link above), which are an indicator of imminent construction activity, as well recent openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. You can read about our methodology for analyzing the data at the bottom of the post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through December 31st, 2018, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity:

Here are the numbers behind the chart:

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units:

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is September 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really cares about: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect when development activity has been growing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

Next is the data underlying the above chart:

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits:

As always, we invite members and readers to share their own insights about what they read from the data. Let us know in the comments, and join us on Facebook and our mailing list to keep the conversation—and our advocacy—going strong.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since many of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing even though it’s great to see these homes being inspected and coming out of the informal housing market.


Abundant Housing resolutions for 2019: Full time staff + More volunteers + Supporting members = More people in homes

by Brent Gaisford, Director of Abundant Housing

First let’s take a quick look back at 2018. We went big on the Expo Transit Neighborhood Plan. As a result of our education and advocacy work the plan was significantly improved, and in the coming years thousands of affordable and market rate homes for Angelenos will be built along the transit corridor. We also supported dozens of individual projects, which collectively will create 10,815 housing units, of which 1,021 are reserved and affordable for low-income families. We also stepped up our support for permanent supportive housing for the homeless, including the Rose Ave project in Venice and at the West LA VA campus. Finally, and in the biggest game changer for our future, we won the LA 2050 grant challenge in partnership with the United Way and the Inner City Law Center. Alongside a grant from CA YIMBY, that means we’re now in a position to fulfill some of our resolutions for next year.

Everything we’ve accomplished so far has been done by volunteers. The dedicated people who put in nights and weekends (and sometimes weekdays too – don’t tell our bosses) to fight for an LA where everyone can afford a place to live. In honor of our noble work, we call ourselves… The Dingbats.

I can’t believe what we Dingbats have done together. Now it’s time to go even bigger. We incorporated as a 501c3. And we’re hiring a full time Managing Director to lead the organization. I personally couldn’t be more excited to see AHLA get even bigger and better, but I’ve gotta admit I’m also a little nervous. There has been a heck of a lot of Dingbat blood, sweat, and tears put in to make AHLA what it is today, so we want to make sure we honor that going forward and pick someone amazing! So if you know someone incredible who you think might be interested in the gig (or if you are yourself), please share the job application or apply.

Having a full time Managing Director on board will help us fulfill our second resolution to bring more people onboard to volunteer as Dingbats. First, we’ll be creating new volunteer positions to write blogs and stories about the housing crisis and how to solve it, as well as creating infographics, videos, and other forms of media to educate decision makers and the public. We’ll be increasing our social media presence (housing gram, anyone?). We’ll help more people get involved in their local community by volunteering for a Neighborhood Council or speaking out at public meetings. And we’ll be recruiting new Dingbats to take the lead in new cities within LA County.

Our final resolution is the broadest. People who don’t have the time to volunteer can make a huge difference as well by becoming a supporting member and donating. Even if it’s only a few dollars, it goes a long way for a couple of reasons. First, a large, committed membership base is the most reliable kind of funding for a nonprofit. Second, that’s a huge selling point in convincing philanthropic types that we’re a worthy organization for bigger donations too.

Everyone who volunteers or donates to Abundant Housing each year will be a supporting member. All members will receive access to our forum. We’ve been trialing the forum within the Dingbats for the last couple of months, and it’s become the place where we do all of communication and coordination. We can’t wait to open it up more broadly so that everyone who cares about Abundant Housing can see what’s happening and join the conversation. When we outgrew our google group in 2016 we lost the ability for everyone in Abundant Housing to communicate with each other, and we’re so excited for this new platform to bring that radical openness back as we grow even bigger. Members will also get some cool schwag. Dingbat pins and these beautiful shirts are coming for sure, let us know if you have other fun ideas too!

With a full time Managing Director at the helm, more volunteers in the fight, and a dedicated group of supporting members we can transform Los Angeles. No one should live in fear of displacement or homelessness. LA can and should be a beacon, an affordable home to everyone who chooses to make a better life in our great city. The dream is housing for all. Let’s make it happen.


Expo Line Living is Hard to Find

by Anthony Dedousis

For over a year, I’ve lived in Palms and taken the Expo Line to work in downtown Santa Monica. Despite the Expo Line’s flaws, I love being able to read and relax on the train and to leave the car at home. Over 64,000 daily Expo Line commuters seem to agree.

On the way to and from work, the train carries me past a construction site; the 595-home Linea project, a set of mixed-use residential and commercial buildings adjacent to the Expo/Sepulveda Metro station. I’ve watched the project blossom: a year ago, it was a dirt field, and today, it’s a set of buildings well on their way to completion. It’s an example of the kind of dense development Los Angeles needs in order to reduce car congestion and pollution; more people living and working near Metro means less traffic and sprawl.

The 595-home Linea project, adjacent to the Expo/Sepulveda Metro station.

The Westside extension of the Expo Line (from Culver City to Santa Monica) opened in May 2016, and recently, I became curious to know how much housing has been planned near the new stations since they opened. Also, as a newer Palms resident, I also wanted to learn more about AHLA’s role in organizing pro-housing activists in the neighborhood.

Using the city’s database of all new building permits (effectively, new housing construction), I tabulated the number of new homes permitted in the ZIP codes where the new Metro stations are located, for the two years prior to the extension opening (May 2014 through May 2016) and the two years afterward (May 2016 through May 2018). Then, I honed in on the housing development located within a half-mile radius of the four new Metro stations in the city of Los Angeles: Expo/Bundy, Expo/Sepulveda, Rancho Park, and Palms.

Figure 1: New Expo Line stations and half-mile radii

At first glance, it looks like Metro-adjacent new housing did accelerate post-opening: 818 homes were permitted in the two years after the Expo Line extension opened, compared to 236 homes in the two years prior (an increase of 250%). But almost all of this increase came from two projects: a 100-unit building near Expo/Bundy and, you guessed it, the 595-unit Linea project at Expo/Sepulveda that I see every weekday. If not for those two projects, new housing would actually have decreased by 50% after the opening of the Expo Line extension.

When we analyze housing growth by station, the impact of those two projects becomes clearer. Almost all the growth near Expo/Sepulveda came from the Linea project (595 out of 624 units). There are only small upticks near Expo/Bundy and Palms, and no growth in Rancho Park, an area with primarily one-family houses.

Figure 2: Homes permitted within a half-mile of new Expo Line stations

When we look at the size of the new proposed buildings, it becomes even clearer that almost all the new housing in the Expo/Bundy and Expo/Sepulveda areas are a result of the two projects highlighted earlier, and that very few midsize apartments (5-50 units) and multifamily houses (2-4 units) have been permitted. No apartments or multifamily homes have been permitted in Rancho Park.

Figure 3: Percentage of homes permitted post-Expo Line opening, by building sizeCould overall demand be low for new housing in these Westside neighborhoods? I compared new housing development within the half-mile radii surrounding Metro stations to the portions of these ZIP codes further away. In both areas, development was 130% higher in 2018 than in 2014, two years before the Expo Line extension opened. (The chart likely understates 2018 housing development, since the data are only current as of October.) It seems unlikely that Westside housing demand fell between 2016 and 2018.

Figure 4: Number of homes permitted annually in ZIP codes 90025, 90034, and 90064

This lack of new housing near Metro stations is largely due to the city’s zoning policy. As soon as you read the words “zoning policy”, your eyes probably glazed over, but these esoteric rules have a major impact on housing development and affordability. Much of the Westside, including blocks near Expo Line stations, is zoned for one- and two-family houses. Historically, city councilmembers have opposed efforts to add housing on the Westside, for fear of antagonizing vocal homeowners.

The two Metro-adjacent developments previously mentioned are exceptions. The Expo/Bundy project is being built on a former parking lot, and the Linea development is on land that had been zoned as industrial. As a result, they faced less community opposition (though not none; as originally planned, Linea would have had 50 more homes, a supermarket, and a Target). Still, zoning policy has stifled the development of “four-plexes” (four-family houses) and small apartment buildings, which could put a dent in the gap between housing supply and demand without years of construction.

Los Angeles has begun taking slow steps towards increasing the housing supply near mass transit. In 2016, voters approved Measure JJJ, which allows taller, multifamily buildings to be built within a half-mile of a Metro station, as long as the project sets aside a share of homes for low-income residents and pays union wages. The city finalized its Transit Oriented Communities guidelines in September 2017.

Los Angeles is also updating its zoning regulations around the new Expo Line stations. In July, the City Council approved the Expo Line Transit Neighborhood Plan (TNP), which would encouraging denser, more walkable development within a half-mile of Westside Expo Line stations.

However, the process of developing the plan has been long and cumbersome. Intended to be completed in two years, the TNP is on year six and remains unimplemented even after the City Council’s approval. A nuisance lawsuit from an organization with a history of aggressively opposing transit-oriented development has created an additional roadblock. This drawn-out, uncertain process has likely hurt Expo-adjacent housing production over the past few years, as builders and property owners wait for the TNP to be finalized and put in place.

Furthermore, the approved plan is only a mixed success for housing advocates. In 2018, AHLA aggressively campaigned for revisions to an overly cautious first iteration of the Expo Line plan. As a result, the final version was an improvement: it increased the amount of space dedicated to denser, mixed-use development, upzoned enough space for 4,400-6,000 new homes over the next 15 years (including a cluster of single-family houses near Expo/Bundy station), and contained an affordable housing requirement. But the plan was subjected to political interference, as a provision that would have upzoned Pico Boulevard near Expo/Sepulveda and Rancho Park stations was removed at the request of the city councilman for that district, Paul Koretz. Voters in Koretz’s district who are tired of traffic and rising rents should reflect on his statement to the Los Angeles Times during the TNP debate: “I don’t think people want to see significant rezoning around single-family neighborhoods whether they’re near transit or not.”

The slow, piecemeal progress in increasing the housing supply near the Expo Line shows that building mass transit alone isn’t enough, especially when zoning rules favor the status quo. It also highlights the impact that advocates like AHLA can have on planning policy: when the Expo Line TNP is (finally) implemented, we expect it to dramatically increase the amount of Metro-adjacent new housing. There are two major opportunities on the horizon for advocates to fight for faster, city-wide progress on housing:

1. Los Angeles is currently developing a Transit Neighborhood Plan for the stretch of Mid-City that will be served by the Purple Line, starting in 2023. Housing advocates must push for denser new housing along major streets and softer off-street parking requirements, and must pressure the city to complete the TNP in an efficient timeframe. Angelenos facing rising rents can’t afford another 6+ year process.

2. The California State Senate is currently debating Senate Bill 50, which would permit 4 to 5 story multifamily residential buildings to be constructed within a half-mile of many rail stations and job-rich areas. AHLA strongly endorses SB 50: it has the potential to achieve transformative change throughout Los Angeles in one fell swoop, rather than through a Sisyphean, years-long effort at the neighborhood level.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 3Q 2018

Are you a member of Abundant Housing LA yet? Join our mailing list for housing- and affordability-related news and weekly action alerts that help increase the diversity of housing choices available to Angelenos.


Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data every 3 months to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, or “missing middle” housing? And how are we doing on Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in 8 years? Where is the market headed?

In these updates we look at building permits (link above), which are an indicator of imminent construction activity, as well recent openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. You can read about our methodology for analyzing the data at the bottom of the post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through September 30th, 2018, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity:

Here are the numbers behind the chart:

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units:

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is September 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really cares about: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect when development activity has been growing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

Within this time frame 2015 had the most building permits, so we should expect to see many of those units coming online in 2017 and 2018. That didn’t materialize in 2017, but it looks like things have picked up in 2018.

Next is the data underlying the above chart:

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits:

As always, we invite members and readers to share their own insights about what they read from the data. Let us know in the comments, and join us on Facebook and our mailing list to keep the conversation—and our advocacy—going strong.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since most of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing even though it’s great to see these homes being inspected and coming out of the informal housing market.


Nov 2018 Election Results

 

Race Result AHLA Endorsement Read More
Governor Gavin Newsom 60% No Position Newsom wants to build 3.5 million homes by 2025
Prop 1: housing bond Yes 54% Support CA voted to issue $4B in housing assistance bonds
Prop 2: mental-illness housing funding Yes 61% Support Prop 2 will fund housing for mentally ill homeless residents
Prop 5: property tax discount for seniors No 58% Oppose No expansion of Prop 13 for seniors who move
Prop 6: gas tax repeal No 55% Oppose The gas tax will remain in effect
Prop 10: end rent control limits No 62% No Position Expansion of rent control loses by wide margin
City of LA Charter Amendment B: public bank No 58% Support Charter amendment to establish a public bank was defeated

 


Abundant Mapping LA

by Anthony Dedousis

Abundant Housing LA supports more housing (duh) and smart urban growth across Los Angeles. Our organization exists because Los Angeles has not built enough housing over the past decades to meet demand, and we want to be part of the solution. The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that it’s there, and we can use data to prove that the problem exists, and to visualize the scale of the problem.

Fortunately, the city of Los Angeles maintains a detailed database of all new building permits (effectively, new housing construction) and certificates of occupancy (new housing completions) issued since 2013. I pulled these datasets into R, a data analysis software package, to tabulate this information at the ZIP code level and plot it on a sweet Google Map. This allows us to easily visualize how many homes (technically “residential dwelling units”, or RDUs) have been added in different parts of Los Angeles over the past 5 years. Read on for answers to your most burning questions about housing in LA, like:

Which neighborhoods are adding the most new housing?
In which neighborhoods does NIMBY-ism have the strongest impact?
Where does dense development occur?
How have these trends evolved in 2018?
Where can we expect new housing to open in the next few years?

Let’s go to the videotape…

Figure 1a: New Building Openings by Number of Homes, 2013-18

Since the beginning of 2013, the city of Los Angeles has added 52,000 homes.  The white ZIP codes have added the least housing (0-100 homes), while the reddest ZIP codes have added the most housing (1,000-5,000 homes), with yellow (100-500 homes) and light orange (500-1,000 homes) falling in between.

A friendly reminder: most of the Valley and parts of the South Bay are part of the city of Los Angeles (which is why their ZIP codes are represented on the map), and Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Burbank, and many other cities are separate from Los Angeles (which is why their ZIP codes are not on the map).

A couple of findings that will surprise no one:

1.  Downtown LA is leading the way – it has added over 10,000 units since 2013, nearly a fifth of the citywide total.  Of the 11 ZIP codes across LA that added 1,000+ units over the past five years, four are Downtown.
2.  The Valley is not – outside of a few dense patches near Burbank, there has been very little new housing added in the Valley in recent years.
3.  Neither is the Westside or South LA – we also observe relatively little construction along the 110 in the South Bay and throughout the Westside.

Let’s zoom in for a more granular look at central Los Angeles:

Figure 1b: New Building Openings by Number of Homes, 2013-18, Central LA

This gives us a better look at some neighborhood-by-neighborhood differences:

1.  Not all Downtown LA neighborhoods are alike – within Downtown, thousands of units have been added in ZIP code 90012 (Chinatown/Bunker Hill), 90015 (South Park), 90017 (Downtown/Westlake), and 90014 (central Downtown). But the Historic Core/Arts District (90013), Fashion District (90021), Boyle Heights (90033), and Lincoln Heights (90031) have seen very little new housing come online, despite rapid population growth.
2.  On the Westside, there’s Playa Vista and there’s everyone else – despite its small geographic size, Playa Vista (ZIP code 90094) has added 2,500 units of housing since 2013 (which is third-most in LA). The Silicon Beach neighborhood has added thousands of tech jobs over the past few years, including a Google regional headquarters, and most of the 2,500 units recently added are part of a single luxury apartment complex, the Villas at Playa Vista.  The only other Westside ZIP codes that have added more than 500 housing units are Marina Del Rey (90292), and Westchester (90045).
3.  NIMBYism is fierce – many popular neighborhoods, like Venice, Palms, Westwood, Los Feliz, and Highland Park, have built fewer than 500 units in the past five years.  Not surprisingly, many of these neighborhoods are hotbeds of NIMBYism, and have experienced sharp increases in the cost of buying and renting homes.

Of the 52,000 homes added over the past five years, about 55% are in buildings with 50 or more units. These taller buildings are critically needed, in order to allow more people to live near job centers and reduce sprawl and traffic. So where in LA is dense development occurring?

Figure 2: New Building Openings by Number of Homes, 2013-18, 50+ Unit Buildings Only

As you can see, outside of Downtown and a few other neighborhoods, dense development is hardly abundant.

1.  Dense neighborhoods are fast-growing neighborhoods – the neighborhoods that are adding the most housing overall (e.g. Downtown, Hollywood, Playa Vista) are also the ones that are opening the most housing in buildings with 50+ units. It’s hard to add a significant amount of housing without building taller buildings.
2.  Zoning matters – Downtown, Hollywood, Koreatown, Marina del Rey, and Playa Vista already have tall buildings, and are able to add more, because they are zoned for denser development. If major arteries like Venice Boulevard on the Westside and Sunset Boulevard on the Eastside were upzoned, you’d likely see construction of taller buildings along those streets.
3.  Wilshire Boulevard west of Koreatown isn’t keeping up – despite the historical presence of tall buildings along Wilshire, neighborhoods like Westwood, Brentwood, and Miracle Mile are adding few large residential buildings. This highlights how important it is for AHLA to support a Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan that encourages dense new housing construction and transit-oriented development.

Now, let’s look at 2018 only. So far this year, Los Angeles has added roughly 10,000 new units of housing. Where has that growth occurred?

Figure 3: New Building Openings by Number of Homes, 2018

The patterns we’ve seen over the past five years have continued into 2018. Downtown (90017, 90012, 90014), Hollywood (90028), and Koreatown (90005, 90006) are responsible for 40% of the new units added this year.  No other neighborhood has added more than 250 new units.

Finally, let’s check out the number of new housing units permitted by neighborhood. The city has permitted over 13,000 new homes in 2018, and we can expect them to open in the next 1-3 years. But where?

Figure 4: New Building Permits by Number of Homes, 2018, Central LA

Interestingly, new permitted development is spread a little more evenly than recent completed development. A couple of trends to call out:

1.  Downtown is #1 no longer – the Jefferson/La Cienega neighborhood near the 10 (ZIP code 90016) permitted 1,300 units so far this year. Hollywood (90028) is in second place with almost 1,000 units permitted, and Woodland Hills (91367), Toluca Terrace (91601), and the Historic Core/Arts District (90013) round out the top five.  Only 90013 is a Downtown ZIP code; the other ZIP codes in Downtown barely permitted any new units.
2. Uneven growth within these neighborhoods – the new construction in these neighborhoods reflects the impact of a few large-scale luxury projects, rather than broad-based development. As the Dodgers could tell you, hitting a few big home runs isn’t enough to win. A couple of examples worth calling out:

Jefferson/La Cienegathe Cumulus development accounts for 1,200 of the 1,300 units permitted.
Hollywood – four buildings (the Rise, the Hollywood Cherokee, the Essex Hollywood, and 5750 Hollywood) account for 954/1,000 units permitted.
Historic Core / Arts Districtthe Perla condominiums account for all 450 units permitted.

Three things that you can take away from this joyride through Google Maps and R:

1.  Outside of Downtown and a few other ZIP codes, most neighborhoods aren’t opening or permitting a meaningful amount of new residential housing, even ones that are located close to major job centers or along Metro lines. Abundant Housing LA and other voices for smart growth won’t be going out of business anytime soon.
2.  Los Angeles needs dense development in order to add significant housing capacity. The neighborhoods that added the most housing units over the past five years did so by opening and permitting buildings with 50+ units.
3.  Restrictive zoning makes it difficult to build densely, which chokes off housing growth in most LA neighborhoods.  LA can’t grow without taller buildings, and LA can’t add taller buildings without changing outdated zoning laws. More upzoning along major road and rail corridors is needed, and Abundant Housing LA should carry that message forward as the city rolls out neighborhood transit plans for the Expo Line and Purple Line.

Remember, if you live in a neighborhood that’s not encouraging enough housing construction (i.e. almost everyone), make sure to tell your neighborhood council and your city councillor how you feel about it.  Show them these maps, and ask them why your neighborhood or city council district isn’t doing its part to make housing affordable and abundant.


AHLA Endorsements – Nov 2018 Election

 

PROP 1 – SUPPORT

PROP 2 – SUPPORT

PROP 5 – OPPOSE

PROP 6 – OPPOSE

PROP 10 – NO CONSENSUS*

CHARTER AMENDMENT B (Municipal Bank) – SUPPORT

 

*Note about Prop 10 – Prop 10 is a very broad proposition that could lead to problematic local rules. It could also help renters. We are therefore not taking a position on Prop 10. In August 2018, members attending our general meeting voted in a straw-poll on the measure, and a ‘no-position’ approach received the most support. We respect this input. Abundant Housing LA believes that Prop 10 is not a well-crafted way to address state limits on local rent control. We also know that many of our members and tens of millions of renters across the state are paying too much to rent their homes, and many view the potential for expanded rent control as a lifeline.


Welcome, Luke!

We’re excited to announce that Luke Klipp has joined the Abundant Housing LA Steering Committee as our Education Director! Luke has been a leader in LA for years, creating and championing great ideas in housing, transit, and other local issues, so we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Luke join the team.

Luke’s work is a key part of achieving our mission because we strongly believe that many housing issues in LA can be solved with education. In the 60s and 70s, progressive policy was to freeze a city in time in an attempt to maintain its diversity, creativity, and the things that made the city special. But the thing that makes a city great isn’t buildings. It’s people that matter, and people need homes.

Those attempts to freeze a city in time have happened here in LA, but the idea has far deeper roots in San Francisco. As a result, very little housing was built in the Bay Area for decades. But people don’t appear and disappear when buildings are built. New people came anyway, as babies were born and immigrants moved to the city in search of a better life. Without any housing for those new arrivals, every new San Franciscan displaced someone else who already lived in the city. People of color, the poor, much of the creative class – many of the very people who had made San Francisco a thriving cultural center were displaced from the city.

As Education Director, Luke develops and facilitates educational content to make sure that doesn’t happen here in Los Angeles County. He will help ensure that Abundant Housing members and allies are equipped with the information they need to keep LA a diverse, vibrant city for generations to come.

As the past President of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Luke also provides guidance on working with neighborhood councils and encouraging community stakeholders to get more involved locally.

By day (and some evenings), Luke is a Metro Board Deputy to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, where he ensures that the Mayor’s objectives for Metro-related items are met. He works closely with Metro staff around the Metro Blue Line, active transportation projects, and budget questions. Luke has worked over a decade in local, state, and federal politics on a range of topics, from transportation and land use, to health care, to student loans. He’s a former candidate for Democratic County Central Committee, and former Chair of the New Leaders Council San Francisco chapter. Luke is grateful to be a graduate of two awesome public schools: the University of Michigan, where he got his B.A. in Music, and the University of California-Berkeley, where he got his Masters in Public Policy.


Los Angeles Housing Development Update, 2Q 2018

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Welcome to the latest installment of Abundant Housing LA’s Development Update!

This is where we dig into public City of Los Angeles data every 3 months to figure out what’s really going on in our housing market. How much housing are we permitting and building? How many of our new homes are single-family, large apartment/condo buildings, or “missing middle” housing? And how are we doing on Mayor Garcetti’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in 8 years? Where is the market headed?

In these updates we look at building permits (link above), which are an indicator of imminent construction activity, as well recent openings as measured by Certificates of Occupancy. You can read about our methodology for analyzing the data at the bottom of the post.*


Building Permits

For this post we’re looking at numbers through June 30th, 2018, the latest full quarter for which data is available. First up is a snapshot of overall permitting activity:

Here are the numbers behind the chart:

Next we break down the units per building, looking specifically at what share of total permits are for projects with at least 50 units:

Last for the building permit data, we look at how we’re progressing toward the Mayor’s goal of 100,000 new homes by 2021. Note that the goal’s start date is July 1, 2013, and the end date is June 30, 2021.


Certificates of Occupancy

Building permit data is extremely useful, but it doesn’t exactly correspond to what Abundant Housing really wants: homes for people to live in. For that we need to look at Certificates of Occupancy (CoO), which track actual building openings.

First a disclaimer though: The City controls whether it grants building permits, and how difficult or easy it is to receive those permits, but they don’t actually build the housing. CoO’s are what the developer needs when they finish the building so that tenants can move in, so it’s a measure of what’s actually opening to new residents. And since it takes a few years to construct a building, we’d expect to see a lag of 2-3 years between Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the same project.

We raise these points because we want to make it clear that having fewer CoOs than building permits (which is what we see below) is not a failure on the part of the City. It’s what we’d expect when development activity has been growing, and it’s mostly out of the City’s hands whether building permits lead to real, on-the-ground construction. They almost always do, of course, but it’s not a guarantee.

With that said, here’s the data:

Within this time frame 2015 had the most building permits, so we should expect to see many of those units coming online in 2017 and 2018. That didn’t materialize in 2017, but it looks like things may be picking up in 2018.

Next is the data underlying the above chart:

And last, we’ve repurposed our “progress” chart for Certificates of Occupancy rather than building permits:

As always, we invite members and readers to share their own insights about what they read from the data. Let us know in the comments, and join us on Facebook and our mailing list to keep the conversation—and our advocacy—going strong.


*Methodology note: We are now excluding any building additions or alterations that add less than 5 units, which is a way for us to avoid counting permits that may not actually be adding new units. We also don’t count condo conversion permits, but do count adaptive reuse projects that add 5 units or more. Previous years’ numbers have been updated based on this new methodology so the data is comparable across time.

This change resulted in about 150 fewer single family homes in our calculations in previous years, and approximately 1,000 fewer single family homes in 2017. The jump in 2017 appears to be a result of recent changes to state and City law that permit the construction and conversion of accessory dwelling units. Since most of these ADUs appear to be legalizations of existing structures, we believe it’s fairer to not count these as “new” housing even though it’s great to see these homes being inspected and coming out of the informal housing market.