Since it was issued in late 2022, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass' Executive Directive 1 has been used on applications for more than 100 different projects which, if completed, would generate over 8,000 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing. Now, the mayor's latest order attempts to cut red tape for other projects catering to renters and prospective homeowners at all income levels.
Executive Order 7, announced last week in a ceremony at the Planning Department's Development Services Center in Downtown, sets a goal of increasing access to homeownership in Los Angeles, while also drastically speeding approval and permitting times for new housing construction.
“The cost of housing throughout Los Angeles has made living in the city unaffordable for too many Angelenos. We need to take action so that Angelenos can afford to live here and to buy their first homes here and to live near their jobs – and that means we need to build more housing. We’ve had success expediting affordable projects and we must build on that momentum,” said Bass in a press release. “I am taking action to make living in Los Angeles more affordable by signing this executive directive to incentivize more housing to be built for people of all income levels, with an emphasis on affordable housing and mixed income housing, to begin to address the barriers to home ownership and to help convert existing buildings into housing.”
The order, which cites restrictive land use regulations dating back to the 1980s as a cause for the city's chronic housing shortage, calls for the Planning Department to develop a draft ordinance which would raise the threshold for projects subject to site plan review. That entitlement, which also originated in the 1980s, requires projects with at least 50 residential units or 50,000 square feet of floor area to undergo Planning Department review - even if the project complies with zoning regulations. This follows on the heels of community plan updates for the Downtown and Hollywood areas which have already raised the minimum requirement for site plan review as a mechanism for streamlining housing production.
Additionally, the executive order calls on the Planning Department to :
- update its thresholds of significance for temporary construction noise impacts requiring evaluation under the California Environmental Quality Act;
- evaluate CEQA streamlining tools to meet the City's Regional Housing Needs Assessment obligations; and
- prepare a report within 90 days on barriers to the development of for-sale housing, and ways in which the city can encourage its development through land use and zoning regulations.
While the City of Los Angeles may be able to lift some barriers which discourage the development of for-sale housing, many of the obstacles which impede such projects are based in the tax code and state-level law, as noted in this 2018 op-ed. Several architects have previously noted to Urbanize that their firms avoid taking on condominium developments to avoid exposure to lawsuits.
Bass' executive order also directs the Department of Building and Safety and the Fire Department to report within 60 days on building code requirements which impede the conversion of vacant structures into housing - something which carries additional weight, as the City of Los Angeles leans on a citywide adaptive reuse ordinance to meet its housing element targets
Finally, the order calls for the formation of an interdepartmental working group led by the Mayor's Office of Business and Economic Development, with the aim of better coordinating pre-developmental review, permit clearances, and other items in the approval process, with the aim of reducing processing times by between 25 and 30 percent.
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