Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance Hearing

On June 23, the Mt. Washington Assoc. joined with the Glassell Park Improvement Assoc., the Arroyo Seco, Glassell Park, and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Councils and TERA to hold a forum on the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.  Over 200 people came to the L A River Center, to listen to and discuss with our councilmembers Reyes and Garcetti and representatives from Liveable Spaces, Central City Assoc., Southland Regional Association of Realtors,  Century Housing and MWH Development Corporation.

Both our Councilmembers spoke passionately in favor of this ordinance that they are sponsoring, and both promised that they, also, are very concerned about the character of current communities.  But both spoke to the urgent need for the City to proactively create affordable housing, to meet the needs of our current residents.

Councilman Ed Reyes stated at the very beginning that he would REMOVE the part of the Ordinance which would “Allow townhome construction of affordable housing units in single family detached home development.”  This was an item that caused great concern in all our residential communities.

However, Councilman Garcetti stated that he would rather allow townhome development in single family neighborhoods, but only where that provision already exists.  

Carol Schatz, panelist and President and CEO of the Central City Association asked that the provision of the ordinance should be reviewed.  Essentially, developers would be mandated to pay for affordable housing in the following percentages, as part of any new market rate development:

  • 10% of all new market rate rental development should be set aside for households at 30% of Area Median Income (AMI), [$16,500 annual income for a family of 4]; or
  • 12% should be set aside for households at 50% of AMI [$27,500 annual income for a family of 4]; or
  • For new for-sale housing, 20% of units should be set aside for households at 80% of AMI [$44,000 annual income for a family of 4]; or
  • 40% of ownership units should be set aside for households at 120% of AMI [$66,000 annual income for a family of 4].

Questions for  the panel:

1.                If not Inclusionary Zoning, then what vehicle or solution should be proposed?

People generally saw this ordinance as but one tool in the toolbox.

2.                How will this ordinance affect current Specific Plan areas, Hillside Ordinances and Community Design Overlays?

According to supporters, the ordinance will supercede these other ordinances, but will be unlikely to change the zoning, as many of these areas are protected.  Those against the ordinance stated that there is no guarantee that single family areas would be protected, especially if Section 5.2 is not removed.

3.                The matrix for the ordinance (a spreadsheet provided to the audience, which can also be accessed at  www.lacity.org/lahd/incllinks.htm) is not yet finalized.  What should change?

These ideas would be part of the ongoing debate we hope to have throughout the City.

4.                How would you assure that low income families could live anywhere in Los Angeles, rather than in  only certain areas of the City?

Mechanisms are being discussed to require that in-lieu fees or affordable unit development must happen within certain zones in the areas near the new development.   There is a fear that certain areas of the City will bear all of the affordable housing development.

5.                How many units will be created under the new ordinance?   How many have been created already?

44% of the units created already are affordable, due to developer incentives already in place.  Opponents of the ordinance state that the ordinance’s mandates will deter affordable housing construction, not encourage it.  Supporters of the ordinance could not predict the number of units created under this ordinance, but were adamant that regulatory incentives and rezoning as they stand are not currently meeting the huge need in our city.

The meeting concluded with final statements and questions from the audience.  

Beth Steckler of Livable Places stated that we did not build enough affordable housing, but we need to use every tool in the toolbox in order to create more housing in LA.  The proposal was put together with the General Plan in mind, to protect single family neighborhoods and focus affordable housing in our transit corridors.

Carol Schatz challenged that “one size does not fit all.”  Housing leads our economies.  Incentives make a difference.  Citywide mandates will drive away new development.  Your property values will diminish if our economy is injured.   For-profit developers are housing Los Angeles.  They should not be the ones to bear the burden of housing us all.

Tim O’Connell of Century Housing stated that regulation is the only way to control costs of providing affordable housing.

Brian Paul of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors stated that incentives work.  Let’s streamline planning!  Rehabilitate the 50,000 units that the Gas Company says are not currently habited due to rent control and other issues.  We also need to make sure that those who get the affordable ownership units are able to realize equity in their homes, rather than requiring it to be affordable in perpetuity.

Beatrice Hsu of Councilmember Garcetti’s office rebutted that 107 cities have inclusionary zoning ordinances.  The conversation should not be about whether or not to have this ordinance, but how to make this the best ordinance possible.  We have a 90 day comment period that ends in the fall.

Mark Handel, President and CEO of MWH Development Corporation reminded the audience that pressures NOT to develop at all are the enemy of residential development.  Why not create specific zones that embrace residential development, with all of the correlating benefits to those communities who embrace density.

In all, it was a very informative discussion.   Inclusionary Zoning, and the correlated discussion of where we build housing for people who cannot currently afford to live decently in Los Angeles, is the most important discussion we can engage in about the  future of Los Angeles and our economy.  I encourage you to follow this debate and participate in the meetings coming up on this issue.  The next discussion of this issue will be at the East Area Planning Commission July 7th.

--  Hilary Norton Orozco, TERA President

At the May 12, 2004, joint session of the PLUM and HCED Committees, the committees agreed to allow for an additional 90 days to obtain input on the proposed inclusionary zoning policy from the public, including Neighborhood Councils, the development community, housing advocates and other city stakeholders. During this period (ending date to be determined), the committees request that constructive comments on the proposal be submitted to:

Office of the City Clerk
Attention: Barbara Greaves, Legislative Assistant
City Hall
200 N. Spring Street, Room 395
Los Angeles, CA 90012

East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Ramona Hall Community Center
4580 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles 90065

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