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Creek Freak on the City’s Plan for Arroyo Seco Cornfields

3_28_09_linton_1.jpgWildflowers in Bloom at the cornfields. Note the proximity of industrial development.

The Los Angeles City Planning department held scoping meetings on March 16th 2009 to hear comments on their proposed Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, known as the CASP. The good news is that CASP has a lot of great features that will transform the area. Among these are: river greenway area set-asides, parking reform, and dozens of miles of bikeways. The somewhat-bad news is that it will take a while. Environmental review will take a year, so the plan will be adopted in 2010. Once the plan goes into effect, over the next couple dozen years, it will gradually guide private and public development.

The CASP covers approximately 660 acres located in the communities of Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Chinatown - including the areas around the Chinatown and Lincoln/Cypress Metro Gold Line stations.

The CASP area is today largely industrial. Much of it is older, somewhat-obsolete multi-story industrial. With the state's purchase of the 35-acre Cornfields Rail Yard (now Los Angeles State Historic Park in progress [1]) in 2001, the arrival of the Metro Gold Line in 2003, and the planned greenways along the Los Angeles River [2] and the Arroyo Seco [3], the area is changing. Industrial sites are giving way to housing and mixed-use. The CASP attempts to steer this change.

The CASP is environmentally ambitious. The plan is one pilot for the US Green Building Council's new "LEED-ND [4]" (stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development [4]) - a new green building program for certifying multiple buildings in a neighborhood context.

Some highlights of progressive environmentally-friendly policies in the CASP:


3_28_09_linton_2.jpg [5]OPEN SPACE AND RIVER GREENWAYS: [5]
With an overall 15% open space requirement, the CASP plans a significant amount of public green space distributed throughout. Additionally, parcels along the L.A. River and the Arroyo Seco are limited to 50% lot coverage, so that, as development occurs, greenways emerges along these waterways.

The CASP unbundles parking from housing! Currently anyone who buys a condo in Los Angeles pays for two (or more) parking spaces. This is automatic, whether that owner ever parks car/s in them or not. As parking space can cost $20,000 to $40,000+ this requirement typically adds upwards of $50,000 to the purchase price of the condo. Unbundling means that the home and the parking are sold separately. The buyer can chose to buy only as much parking as she or he needs. Bicyclists could purchase none. Single people or small families could purchase just one. This makes housing more affordable, and incentivizes reducing excessive car ownership.
Additional excellent parking reforms include: parking maximums (instead of minimums), bicycle parking requirements, shared parking, parking design requirements, parking meter zones and more. It may not be parking sage Don Shoup [7]'s paradise, but it goes a long way in that direction.

The CASP plans an impressive network of bike facilities. There will be bike paths along the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco. There will be bike lanes on North Figueroa Street, Avenue 26, Pasadena Avenue, San Fernando Road/Avenue 20, Avenue 19, Barranca Street, Avenue 18, North Broadway, North Spring Street, and North Main Street!

Those are just some of the highlights, there are many more environmental and smart urban design features. For more information, there's quite a bit of detailed documentation on-line about the CASP:
Overall CASP Website [9]
Notice Preparation of Environmental Impact Report
(400KB 4-page pdf)
Initial Study and CEQA Checklist [10] (3MB 33-page pdf - good 17-page summary)
Draft CASP Ordinance [11] (14 multi-page pdfs)
CASP Frequently Asked Questions [12]

(This entry has been cross-posted at L.A. Creek Freak [13] and L.A. Streetsblog [14] )