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

Housing Plans Released, Single Family Neighborhoods and HPOZs Still Protected

Higher density zoning permitted this 24-unit building at 5122 Maplewood Avenue proposed in 2018 that replaced one single-family residence and a duplex.

This week, the Los Angeles City Planning Department announced the latest draft of the Citywide Housing Incentive Program (CHIP), a significant component of the department’s efforts to effectively rezone the city to allow greater density nearly everywhere.

State law requires the city to update housing plans every eight years to create the zoning capacity to construct over 248,000 housing units in Los Angeles across various income categories called for by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). In recent years, state lawmakers have passed legislation designed to increase the housing supply to address the growing problem of housing availability and affordability and the resulting homelessness crisis. Many of these laws override local zoning ordinances making it easier to build more quickly and penalize cities that fail to embrace housing mandates. They also establish height and density incentives that leave local officials no choice but to approve projects.

While there is much support for housing locally, there is much less support for housing that disrupts single-family and historic neighborhoods. Mayor Karen Bass and CD5 Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky have both pledged to protect neighborhoods and locate the density along underutilized commercial corridors.

United Neighbors, a statewide coalition of neighborhood groups, has been working for the past several years with Planning Department officials to locate density on commercial corridors in each community that meets the state-mandated housing targets.

This week organizers were thrown for a loop when the Planning Department seemed to have created a giant loophole that would allow Faith-based organizations (FBOs) and educational institutions to develop housing anywhere in the city. This would be an expansion of state law SB4 that permits FBOs to develop housing without restrictions on land they owned before 2024.

Removal of the “time of ownership” restrictions on the Faith Based Incentive Program in the City’s Housing Element would have effectively turned Faith Based Organizations into land speculators who along with investors can purchase land today with few restrictions on where they are located or how many affordable units are required, explained United Neighbors organizer Maria Pavlou Kalban in an email to members of the coalition shared with the Buzz.

Two months ago Councilmember Yaroslavsky introduced a motion asking the Planning Department to study the feasibility of removing time restrictions from FBO. Cindy Chvatal-Keane, another United Neighbors organizer, called the councilmember for clarification of her motion.

Yaroslavsky clarified that her motion was merely a request for a feasibility study.

“She now clearly states to us her intent is not to allow Faith Based Organizations the right to build on R-1 zoned land not currently owned by them. She also intends to support protections for R1, HPOZ’s in their entirety, high fire areas and substandard streets by precluding them from being eligible for any densification program by Planning that includes the Housing Element Incentive Programs of which FBO is one, Community Plans, and ED 1,” Chvatal-Keane reported.

“Councilmember Yaroslavsky has asked for our community support for building housing along the commercial corridors,” added Chvatal-Keane.

United Neighbors has been busy trying to keep up with the various programs proposed by the city to increase density in neighborhoods, specifically developing guidelines for the draft ordinance for ED1, the Mayor’s executive Directive that expedites 100% affordable housing projects, monitoring the Housing Element that includes the CHIP program, and studying updates to Community Plans.

“None of these programs are coordinated,” explained Kalban. “We have pushed for guidelines to ED 1, we have fought to protect our neighborhoods in the Housing Element, and we are now looking at Community Plans. We must stand united in supporting density on our commercial corridors while being unrelenting in our opposition to densifying needlessly our existing, single-family, and sensitive multi-family zones.”

United Neighbors created the chart below to help neighborhoods understand the impact these various density programs would have on their neighborhoods. As new Housing Element maps and community plans are released, Kalban and Chvatal-Keane have been talking to neighborhoods all over the city.

“We want our community partners to understand that density is not our enemy, poor planning is!” explained Kalban. “We are trying to take a balanced stand that doesn’t allow needless destruction of any community while acknowledging the city’s need to build affordable housing. What gets built should matter to all of us because good projects should be supported and problematic projects should not be given a green light with no scrutiny through our city planning approval process.”

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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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