This year has seen progress on community plan updates impacting Downtown, Hollywood, and Boyle Heights. Next, Los Angeles planning officials turn their attention to two of the largely industrial communities surrounding the Port of Los Angeles.

In September, the Planning Department released a draft environmental impact report for the Harbor LA Community Plan update - the simultaneous amendments of the Wilmington and Harbor-Gateway community plans. The combined land area of the two plans, spanning more than 8,300 acres, includes the narrow strip of land (bisected in part by the 110 Freeway) which cuts between South Los Angeles and the port complex, and is bordered by independent cities such as Carson, Torrance, Gardena, Long Beach, and Lomita, as well as unincorporated areas.

Aerial view of the Port of Los Angeles and WilmingtonShutterstock

According the environmental report, the Harbor plans would leave roughly 75 percent of its land area unchanged, preserving existing industrial uses and maintaining residential neighborhoods at current densities, albeit with new buffer zones intended to provide a transition between those uses. That plan tracks with SCAG's modest growth projections for the Harbor plan area, which estimates that Wilmington and Harbor Gateway will be home to just over 125,000 residents by 2040 - up slightly from the approximately 123,400 residents that called the area home in 2019. However, employment is projected to grow more steadily during that time period, rising from a baseline estimate of 14,000 in 2019 to nearly 24,000 in 2040.

However, the plans would accommodate new development beyond those growth projections, owing in part to the city's obligation to rezone for more than 250,000 new residential units as part of its housing element. The plans would have room for upwards of 47,200 new homes, up from 36,275 in 2019. The vast majority of those new homes are intended as components of multifamily developments, rather than new single-family dwellings.

Proposed Wilmington land use designationsCity of Los Angeles

Growth in the Harbor plans would be concentrated into "Opportunity Areas" - consisting of approximately 6 percent of the total plan land area - which would receive new zoning that increase allowable height, floor area, and density relative to current conditions, as well as along commercial corridors such as Carson Boulevard, Gardena Boulevard, 190th Street, Pacific Coast Highway, and Avalon Boulevard. More modest changes are intended to address inconsistencies in current development patterns, allowing for more uniform zoning along commercial corridors, in industrial transition areas, and within some lower-density residential neighborhoods.

As with other recent community plan updates, the Harbor plans are used as an opportunity to introduce the city's new zoning code, which includes form, frontage, and use districts which shape the height and massing of construction on new corridors. In opportunity areas, these rules would be used to permit mixed-use buildings ranging up to three stories on smaller corridors, and as tall as seven stories near regional transportation hubs such as the Harbor Gateway Transit Center, and near new transportation infrastructure such as the planned Vermont Avenue bus rapid transit line.

Proposed Harbor Gateway land use designationsCity of Los Angeles

Likewise, the Harbor plans will also incorporate their own tailored community benefits program, which will offer additional density, height, floor area, and other bonuses to projects which incorporate a required amount of affordable housing. Income restrictions would be set based on the median income levels for the Harbor community plan areas, rather than the City of Los Angeles as a whole.

Per a timeline on the Harbor plans landing page on the Planning Department website, the release of the draft environmental study was originally expected to occur between 2021 and 2022, which was to be followed by adoption in 2022. The delay in the environmental review and implementation processes is a recurring theme as Los Angeles makes its way through updates to its 35 community plans. Recent updates to the Downtown and Hollywood plans were delayed by multiple years.

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