Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

City Councilmembers Call for Changes to Mayor’s Fast-Track Housing Approval Directive ED-1

This 7-story, 70 unit 100% affordable housing project proposed at 800 South Lorraine Blvd in the Windsor Village HPOZ was recently approved without any design review.

Last week, CD5 Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky introduced a motion requesting an ICO citywide that would protect historic neighborhoods within a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) from housing projects fast-tracked through Mayor Karen Bass’s ED-1 program.

“To preserve the character of HPOZ neighborhoods, the Planning Department must ensure that any streamlined one hundred percent affordable housing project is not out of scale, and foremost that it is in compliance with HPOZ Preservation Plans,” wrote Yaroslavsky.

The motion is headed to the city’s planning and land use committee in the next several weeks. But it comes too late for Windsor Village residents who hoped to stop the 7-story, 70-unit project at 800 South Lorraine Blvd that was approved without any review for design compatibility. Residents are considering filing a lawsuit.

On April 19, CD1 Councilmember Eunisses Herandez won approval from her colleagues for an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that would prevent properties covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) from being fast-tracked for approval.

“The possibility of eliminating RSO units due to permit and clearance streamlining efforts significantly impacts the housing stability of vulnerable communities. It exacerbates their risk of homelessness, especially as the relocation fees do not adequately cover skyrocketing market rate rent, nor do they equitably accommodate larger
households,” wrote Hernandez in the motion. “As projects continue through the expedited pipeline, there are many more cases of displacement expected to occur in the upcoming months, particularly in CD 1.”

The ICO will run for 45 days and could be extended for up to 2 years with approval by the City Council.

Six months after Mayor Karen Bass announced the ED-1 Directive last December, she had to modify it to restrict projects from single-family R-1 neighborhoods after several multistory projects were proposed in the San Fernando Valley in the middle of single-family residential blocks. Perhaps the most high-profile project is a 200-unit building proposed at 5501-5011 N. Ethel Avenue in Sherman Oaks.

The idea behind ED-1 is to provide developers who want to build 100% affordable housing projects with a fast-track approval process but it hasn’t worked out that way, explained Maria Pavlou Kalban of United Neighbors, a California coalition of neighborhood groups that advocates for adding density to commercial corridors and preserving single-family and multi-family neighborhoods and is working with the mayor’s office on modifications to ED 1.

“Everyone is suing,” said Kalban. “it was a poorly drafted order and it’s being abused and the Planning Department doesn’t know how to stop it.”

Kalban said United Neighbors would like to see additional revisions too.

“We don’t think projects in high fire areas, or on substandard streets should be fast-tracked. We’d like to see all these projects in sensitive multi-family R-2 zones reviewed,” said Hancock Park resident Cindy Chvatal-Keane who is part of the leadership of United Neighbors. “Ideally, developers should be limited to the same number of waivers and incentives called for in state law, which is six, some of these projects are coming in with requests for as many as 12 waivers.”

One of the waivers often requested is reduced rear and side yard setbacks. United Neighbors would prefer to maintain 15-foot rear setbacks to allow for trees to be planted because nothing of any size can be planted if a five-foot set back is granted.

“The city has all these climate change objectives, including planting trees, we should make developers do better,” said Kalban.

Kalban and Chvatal-Keane don’t entirely blame developers, “we believe they can work within guidelines, we just need to give them guidelines,” they said.

The idea behind the ED-1 Directive was to add certainty and expediency to increase housing production, explained Kalban. But now, we don’t have that if everyone is holding back to see what happens with these disputed projects like Ethel Avenue and 800 South Lorraine Blvd. And, on the other side, housing proponents are also suing, saying the City can’t claw back approvals, she explained.

“Everyone has a fight with someone and nothing is getting built,” said Kalban.

“In the meantime, there are very real consequences for people living in these neighborhoods, this is not an abstract planning conversation to them,” Kalban told the Buzz. Adding, “no one is saying don’t build, but look at how it’s going to be built, where it’s going and what the impacts it will have on the surrounding neighborhoods.”

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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