Yesterday, City Council Member David Ryu introduced a motion instructing the City’s Planning Department to revise the guidelines for its Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) development program, to require a higher percentage of affordable units in TOC projects in “high and mid-market areas.”
The TOC program was created in 2017 after the passage of Measure JJJ, and allows developers to build denser, taller housing near transit, with less public review, if 8-25% of the new units (depending on location and other factors) are reserved for low income tenants. The program has proven immensely popular with developers, with more than 17,600 TOC units proposed in the last three years.
But while many housing advocates have lauded the TOC program for sparking more construction overall, others have argued that it doesn’t do nearly enough to increase the amount of affordable housing, especially given the value of the bonuses developers receive. Indeed, only about 3,600 of the 17,600+ proposed TOC units would be officially “affordable,” about 20% overall. Also, many new TOC projects are being built in comparatively affluent areas, such as our Greater Wilshsire neighborhoods, where developers can charge premium rents for the market rate units. But most transit riders can’t afford market rate rents in those areas…and many people evicted from comparatively affordable older units torn down to make way for new housing don’t officially qualify for the new “low income” units that replace their old homes.
“The TOC program has been successful in bringing more density near transit and addressing an immediate need for more housing,” Ryu said in a statement released after making his motion yesterday, “but there are areas where it has failed…When 28 units of rent-stabilized housing are destroyed to make way for a project with only 20 units of affordable housing, that is not a success – that is displacement. High-market areas like Greater Wilshire and Hollywood have been a boon for TOC developers, but not enough of that wealth is shared with the community in the form of rents we can afford and housing we need. The TOC program must create more units for working Angelenos – not fewer.”
In fact, Ryu’s motion yesterday came just a day after the City Council PLUM Committee, at Ryu’s request, indefinitely postponed a vote on whether or not to require a full environmental review of a big TOC project at 639 S. La Brea. As currently proposed, the development would include 121 residential units, 125 hotel guestrooms, and 13,037 square feet of commercial/restuarant/retail space…but just 14 Extremely Low Income units and one Moderate Income unit. A statement issued by Ryu’s office after that postponement said he believes the project should include more affordable housing.
According to Ryu’s statement yesterday, the new motion “seeks to raise the affordable unit requirement in higher market areas, where real estate is more lucrative for developers, and market-rate rent is more out of reach for working Angelenos.” The motion also says that Los Angeles “must do more to break down income disparities up to and including a citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance,” and that reforming the TOC program would be a strong first step.
The motion was seconded by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. It will now go to the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.