At a pair of meetings held during July and August, the Vernon City Council moved forward with new zoning rules which would pave the way for the addition of hundreds of new residents to the almost exclusively industrial city south of Downtown Los Angeles.

The Westside zone changes, adopted in lieu of a specific plan previously proposed for the area, focused on what are described as underutilized sites lining Santa Fe Avenue between 25th Street to the north and Slauson Avenue to the south. According to a staff report, lot size already makes many of these properties unsuitable for modern industrial development standards. Changes to the city's zoning code will instead over those property owners the ability to redevelop their land with other uses.

Conceptual rendering of new commercial developments along Santa Fe Avenue in VernonCity of Vernon

A draft environmental impact released earlier this year estimated that the new land use regulations could clear the way for the construction of new developments creating a total of:

  • 874 residential units;
  • 360,429 square feet of office/research and development; and
  • 253,021 square feet of production retail.

The new regulations include the creation of four zones:

  • City Center District- spanning from 43rd Street to 48th Street, which would permit residential, office, retail, and some light industrial uses, without height limits;
  • Santa Fe North and Santa Fe South Districts - which would permit the same array of uses, as well as some "medium" industrial uses, with buildings up to five stories or 65 feet in height; and
  • Pacific Hampton District - which would front Pacific Boulevard, but focus on new industrial uses with building heights up to three stories or 50 feet

City of Vernon zoning map showing new mixed-use district along Santa Fe AvenueCity of Vernon

Likewise, the new land use regulations include provisions for the preservation and adaptive reuse of older structures as housing, or non-industrial uses.

The zone changes were spurred by shifting state and regional policies relating to housing production, with the 2021-2029 Housing Element cycle requiring cities across Los Angeles County to rezone to accommodate new development. Vernon, with just 222 residents as of the 2020 decennial census, is the second least populous jurisdiction in the State of California.

While the new land use regulations could facilitate new development, they do not go as far as originally envisioned by city officials. Previously, the city had considered a specific plan which would have also included provisions for new streetscape and public realm improvements.

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