In a 5-1 vote, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission gave its approval on November 16 to a draft ordinance which would provide permanent streamlining for eligible affordable housing developments.

The Affordable Housing Streamlining Ordinance is intended to codify many of the elements of the Mayor's Executive Directive 1, which has been used in applications totaling more than 8,000 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing since it was announced in late 2022. That order set a mandate that city departments must complete the pre-construction review process for all 100 percent affordable housing developments within a 60-day period, and also offered streamlining provisions for under-construction projects.

The permanent ordinance, which next goes to the City Council Planning Committee for consideration, pares back some of the elements of Executive Directive 1 - albeit to a lesser degree than initially proposed.

When the draft ordinance was initially rolled out in September, housing advocates and industry voices pointed to a "poison pill," in the legislation which would have blocked nearly half of ED1 projects from the get-go. One of the provisions in the draft ordinance viewed as being particularly unworkable was a limit of two off-menu density bonus incentives or waivers - as of October 2, 2023, Planning Department data indicated that more than 30 percent of ED1 applications had requested three or more off-menu incentives.

Aerial view looking southeastLinc Housing / National CORE

In response, that limit has been increased to a maximum of five on- or off-menu incentives, and up to one waiver. However, the revised ordinance also introduces new limits on the type of waivers and incentives which may be requested. Requests for decreases in required open space and bicycle parking beyond 50 percent have been eliminated. Likewise, the limitation on floor area ratio increases in residential zones was increased to a minimum of 3.5:1.

The permanent ordinance also excludes single-family zones from employing the ED1 entitlement pathway - something which the initial order had not expressly forbidden. That resulted in the issuance of a revised order earlier this year, albeit not before several applications for ED1 projects in single-family zones with land use designations permitting greater density made their way into the entitlement pipeline.

Nonetheless, some voices spoke in favor of including single-family zones, including advocacy organization Abundant Housing. Likewise, the Daily News reports that organizers from Strategic Actions for a Just Economy also urged the inclusion of single-family zones, arguing that limiting ED1 to multi-family zones would result in the replacement of existing rent-controlled apartment buildings.

While most of the Commission indicated their support for the ordinance, its approval was not a sure thing. Commissioner Helen Leung voted against adoption, citing concerns that the ordinance did not include strong enough anti-displacement protections for tenants of existing buildings.

View looking eastJZA Architecture

The permanent affordable housing streamlining ordinance moves on to Council-level consideration within a week after Mayor Karen Bass announced Executive Order 7, which aims to accelerate approvals for all housing projects - including those with market-rate units. The order calls for the creation of an ordinance to increase the threshold for site plan review entitlements, as well as a report on barriers to the development of for-sale housing in Los Angeles.

Other actions taken by the Commission on November 16 include the approval of a citywide ordinance which would establish a Conditional Use Permit requirement for all hotel projects, as well as a replacement housing requirement for any residential units lost to a hotel development, and a voluntary housing program which could allow unhoused persons to be placed in hotels which agree to participate. The ordinance was created as part of an agreement with the hospitality labor union Unite Here Local 11 to withdraw a measure from the March ballot which would have required hotels to place homeless persons in vacant hotel rooms.

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