In a 6 1/2-hour meeting on Thursday, February 18, the City Planning Commission gave its first public hearing to the latest version of the proposed update of the Hollywood Community Plan. (The HCP is one of 35 community plans that work in concert with the City’s General Plan to govern planning, zoning, and development throughout Los Angeles.)
The marathon session included an extensive presentation of plan details from Department of City Planning staff, and a lengthy public comment session in which about 75 individual residents, advocacy group representatives, property owner/developer representatives, and more provided feedback. There were also comments from Hollywood-area Neighborhood Councils and City Council representatives, and, finally, a lengthy discussion among the planning commissioners. In fact, the discussion was so extensive that, in the end, the commissioners did not finish their deliberations, so did not take a vote on the proposal and will continue their discussion at the next CPC meeting on March 18.
In the meantime, however, the meeting provided a fascinating look at the planning process in Los Angeles, the major planning and development themes that are currently in the spotlight across the city (especially housing), the current players and positions in that larger debate, and the tools the city is favoring to address housing and other issues.
The discussion also provided a convenient microcosm of current citywide drama, because Hollywood, in particular, contains large swaths of residential areas, historic resources, busy “Regional Center” areas buzzing with commerce and the tourist trade, large commercial thoroughfares, manufacturing and production districts, hillside areas, and one of the city’s largest concentrations of public open space, in Griffith Park. In other words, for anyone interested in local planning and development, this particular topic hits all the major buttons…and also provides a terrific preview for the coming revisions to the Wilshire Community Plan, just a bit closer to home, which is scheduled to begin in 2022.
Today we’ll introduce the basic details of the Hollywood Community Plan proposal, and tomorrow we’ll share the gist of the comments from the lengthy discussions after the plan’s presentation.
The details of the proposed HCP revisions were presented by several staffers from the Department of City Planning. Senior City Planner Priya Mehendale explained that the first version of the Hollywood Community Plan was adopted in 1973, with a major update in 1988…but there have been no further revisions since then. A new version of the plan was proposed in 2012 (and actually accepted by the City Council), Mehendale said, but then a lawsuit discarded the 2012 version and sent the city back to the drawing board, which means the 1988 version is still in effect.
According to Mehendale, the current revisions, which have gone through many drafts over several years of stakeholder input and public outreach, aim to balance a number of different interests and goals in the very diverse Hollywood area. These include affordable housing construction, protection of renters (78% of Hollywood area residents are renters), business development, historic preservation and more.
More specific goals of the HCP include encouraging new construction of affordable housing, maintaining lower scale neighborhoods, protecting existing older/affordable housing (29% of the district’s housing was built before 1939), and prioritizing new housing construction over hotels (which flips one specific theme in the 1988 plan). It also provides more specific visions for “high resource areas” along major transit corridors such as Hollywood Blvd., Sunset Blvd., and Melrose Ave.
Next, City Planner Linda Lou introduced the various goals of the revisions, which are based on population projections from the Southern California Association of Governments. According to Lou, the current draft of the new Hollywood Community Plan creates space for even greater population growth than the SCAG projections.
Overall goals for the plan, Lou said, are to “increase housing production…consistent with city’s housing goals,” build more affordable housing, build more housing near transit systems, create a vibrant regional center, commercial corridors, and media district, improve job opportunities and mobility options, and preserve historic resources, hillside areas, and open space. The result is a region broken down into a variety of levels of low density, multiple famiy, commercial, industrial and open space zones, each with their own special considerations.
The plan would also incorporate several kinds of very specific zoning tools to help reach these goals:
- An expanded Regional Center in the densest part of the area (shown in dark red on the map above), designed to “accommodate growth, bolster transit investments and improve sustainability.”
- A Community Plan Implementation Overlay (CPIO), which would provide new development guidelines and incentives to stimulate housing and mixed use development by encouraging developers to include more affordable units than currently required in the city’s current Transit Oriented Communities guidelines. The CPIO would also promote multi-family and mixed-used development along specific transit corridors, and – at the same time – support preservation of older lower-scale neighborhoods and historic resources.
- Five levels of Transit Corridors within the CPIO area, each with different density requirements and affordability bonus opportunities.
The expanded Regional Center area would focus on increasing commercial development, housing development and job opportunities in the densest part of Hollywood, especially in the busiest and most transit adjacent-areas. Changes proposed in this draft would set the basic proposed Floor Area Ratio (the ratio of a building’s footprint to volume, which helps determine a building’s overall allowable size) at 3:1 (down from 4.5:1 in a previous draft), would increase FAR along parts of Sunset and Hollywood Blvds. (the rust-colored areas below), and would remove a previously-proposed height limit along Selma Ave.
Community Plan Implementation Overlay (CPIO) Area
Another tool in the new plan would be a new Community Plan Implementation Overlay (CPIO) for the plan area, which is intended to help “establish a permanent affordable housing incentive system, protect historic resources, promote commpatible infill design, and bolster a pedestrian friendly environment.” The CPIO would create new affordable housing incentives for developers, and would also define areas where specific kinds of businesses would be encouraged or discouraged.
One of the CPIO’s major purposes would be to provide a new affordable housing incentive system for developers, which would replace the current Transit Oriented Communities guidelines in the CPIO area.
The CPIO guidelines would use a “base and bonus” system to determine allowable FARs, starting with a base FAR of 3:1 in many areas, and going much higher – perhaps even up to 6.5:1 – if developers include more affordable units in housing projects. (This kind of bonus system is used by the city’s current Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, but the CPIO bonus tiers would be more numerous, and specifically aimed at promoting encouraging the construction of many more affordable units than are currently required in TOC projects.) The largest bonuses, in the form of the largest FARs, would be reserved for projects in which 100% of the units are officially designated “affordable.”
The CPIO would also provide FAR increases to developers in certain areas, such as the Regional Center, for including certain kinds of “community benefits,” such as additional public open space.
To qualify for the community benefit density bonus, developers would have to reserve a certain percentage of the lot space for public outdoor space, abide by location, access and signage requirements, follow specified design, shade and landscaping standards, and provide amenities such as public recreational areas, restrooms and seating.
Meanwhile, the CPIO would also encourage preservation of existing affordable housing and historic areas by setting design compatability standards for older areas, recognizing an historic commercial and entertainment district along Hollywood Blvd., and creating a clearer review process for historic resources. It would also help define areas where certain kinds of uses are promoted or discouraged, such as places where vintage stores would be allowed by right, or where automotive uses would be restricted if they’re currently over-concentrated.
In addition, the CPIO would allow Transfer of Development Rights in the Regional Center area, through which unused FAR and density bonuses from older buildings could be transferred to a new development nearby, providing even more options for developers who include a certain percentage of affordable housing units in their projects.
And finally, the CPIO, as currently drafted, would help protect existing residential units by prohibiting new hotels in multi-family residential areas, and requiring a Conditional Use Permit (which involves a public review process that gives the community a voice) for hotels that would replace existing residential units in the Regional Center.
Transit Corridor Subareas
Finally, throughout the CPIO area, there would be five levels of transit corridors, providing various levels of density bonuses, with FARs from 1:1 up to 4.25, depending on the percentage of affordable units in new residential construction in those transit-adjacent areas. The purpose would be to “bolster transit accessibility, accommodate growth, and maintain compatibility,” while stimulating construction of more and denser housing along the most heavily traveled corridors, especially parts of Sunset Blvd., Santa Monica Blvd., and Melrose Ave.
Concluding the presentation, Planning Department staff asked the Planning Commission to approve the staff report recommending acceptance of the new plan, authorize preparation of a final Environmental Impact Report, and make recommendations regarding the plan to the City Council.
None of that could be done, however, without first hearing public comment, comment from local Neighborhood Councils and City Council offices, and, of course, discussion among the Planning Commissioners themselves. We’ll tell you tomorrow how that part of the meeting went.
This is really comprehensive. Can someone do an analysis of how these plans affect Larchmont Heights, Larchmont Village and Hancock Park? Especially as it relates to recently learned about projects that are looking to displace current apartment tenants on Rossmore and develop the North 500 block of Larchmont with residential towers.
Hi, Steve — The Hollywood Community Plan covers Melrose and points north of Melrose. The areas south of Melrose, including the Rossmore and Larchmont project sites you refer to, are governed by the Wilshire Community Plan, which won’t be updated until next year. You can read the current WCP, and more about it, here: https://planning.lacity.org/plans-policies/community-plan-area/wilshire