A City Planning Department ‘out of touch’ with neighbors

| May 30, 2024 | 0 Comments

IF PASSED, an Interim Control Ordinance would halt ED 1 projects in historic zones like this one on 800 Lorraine Blvd.

A big push from City Hall to build affordable housing fast has left many communities perplexed and angry. Including ours.

Called ED 1, the mayor’s executive directive to speed construction of 100-percent affordable housing and address the city’s homelessness crisis has railroaded projects that have hurt some of the communities the program strives to help, local leaders say.

One such project is on a narrow, vacant lot in the Windsor Village Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

Awaiting a building permit, the recently approved seven-story, 70-unit Brown Stone Capital development is at 800 Lorraine Blvd.

“It’s another example of a City Planning Department out of touch with Los Angeles neighbors, and the mayor’s directive gone rogue,” local resident Sam Uretsky wrote in an email earlier this year.

“It’s out of scale and out of keeping with the HPOZ,” John Kaliski said of the Lorraine project.

Kaliski, an architect and former board member of the Windsor Village HPOZ, said the December 2022 directive has disrupted safeguards that have been in place over many years.

“All of the guardrails that have been implemented have been upended,” said Kaliski.

The ED 1 application for the Lorraine property was deemed complete on April 18, and the City Planning Dept. has 60 days to issue a Letter of Compliance to developer / owner Nima Montazeri.

The Kevin Tsai Architecture-designed project includes studio and one-bedroom units and zero on-site parking. It was approved as a 100-percent affordable housing project.

On the heels of the approval of the Lorraine project, Councilmember Katy Yaroskavky introduced a motion requesting a citywide Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that would put the brakes on these projects in single-family neighborhoods and the city’s 35 Historic Preservation Overlay Zones.

Some good news
“That’s a huge deal,” said Cindy Chvatal-Keane, president of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association.

The ICO motion is expected to go before the City Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee before a final vote by City Council. No date has been set.

“We shared with Planning we did not think [Lorraine] should move forward. We were disappointed,” said Leo Daube, Council District 5 communications director.

The approval of Lorraine … “prompted the ICO in the first place,” he added.

Reports say the mayor plans to revise her executive directive, as the City Planning Dept. is not moving quickly enough to close loopholes and stem streamlining any project that is out of character with neighborhoods.

“That’s what we’re hoping,” said Chvatal-Keane.

But until the mayor steps in or the Planning Dept. takes action, “hundreds of these [ED 1] applications are coming in.” To date, 16,000 units have been applied for under the 100-percent affordable housing executive directive. Only a handful have been built.

“Nobody’s saying ‘Don’t build,’ but we want to have smart planning that fits into the neighborhood,” Chvatal-Keane said. Smart planning includes landscaping with trees and setbacks so that large-scale projects don’t butt into residential areas. The president of the HPHOA is joined by other members of United Neighbors, who have been meeting with the mayor and council members. United Neighbors is a statewide coalition of residential groups.

Threat to existing affordable housing
Another concern is the 600,000-plus units that are in jeopardy as the executive directive has threatened homes protected under the city Rental Stabilization Ordinance, also known as rent control.

To help keep people from being displaced, Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez sought and won an ICO that protects rent-controlled properties from the fast-track policy in some of her areas in Council District 1.

In a bit of good news, an ED 1 project at 507 N. Larchmont Blvd. that many area residents opposed has been pulled by the developer, Shaw Ebrahimian.

Vocal outcry could have prompted the developer’s action, some say.

That project application included a large loophole: “12 recreation rooms” facing Larchmont Boulevard with beautiful balconies. These could later have been converted into large, market rate units.

“ED 1 needs to have clear parameters for developers. Now it’s too fuzzy,” explained Chvatal-Keane.

Developer Ebrahimian told residents he plans to resubmit plans for a five-story, 40-unit, ED 1 100-percent affordable housing project.

Resident Sam Uretsky thanked the community for its advocacy in fighting the project but warned the owner / developer is still involved.

“Do keep in mind the property remains with the same owner. We need to remain vigilant about what the owner proposes next,” said Uretzky.

Faith-based — the newest fight
The Faith Based Incentive Program is the community’s newest fight.

As it stands, churches, temples and other Faith-Based Organization (FBOs) can build affordable housing on their property as long as it was owned prior to Jan. 1 2024. This is pursuant to state law (Senate Bill 4, effective in late 2023).

“It eliminates turning FBOs into land speculators,” said Chvatal-Keane.

But a critical change is being suggested by Planning Department staff. In the second draft of its Housing Element implementation ordinances, the January 2024 date of the ownership requirement has been removed.

Eliminating the time cutoff “allows a giant loophole,” said Chvatal-Keane.

The staff’s move is not endorsed by Councilwoman Yaroslavsky.

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Category: Real Estate

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