Planning Dept Releases JJJ-Driven Transit-Oriented Development Incentives

Detail of City Planning's proposed tiered zones for incentivizing transit-oriented development. Full DCP map below.
Detail of City Planning's proposed tiered zones for incentivizing transit-oriented development. Full DCP map below.

Now that Measure S has clearly been soundly defeated, the city of Los Angeles is implementing that other planning reform measure that actually passed. Measure JJJ, or the “Build Better L.A.” initiative, received 64.8 percent approval in the November 2016 election.

Under JJJ, for developments with ten or more residential units, if the city grants a variance (such as building taller than zoning rules allow by right), the developer is required to include affordable housing. The affordable housing could be on site, or within a few miles of the project, or could be in the form of an in-lieu payment to L.A.’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Variances also trigger requirements to hire locally and pay prevailing wages.

Along with the variance provision, which applies citywide, Measure JJJ creates a “Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Overlay” within a half-mile radius of major transit stops. This TOC zone includes incentives for affordable housing, increased density, and decreased parking requirements.

City Planning's proposed Transit-Oriented Communities overlay zone. Image via DCP
City Planning’s proposed Transit-Oriented Communities map. Image via the Department of City Planning

Earlier this week, the city of L.A. Department of City Planning released proposed guidelines for its Transit Oriented Communities Affordable Housing Incentive Program. The department also released its FAQ sheet and a draft study on how much developers would pay in in-lieu fees for off-site affordable housing.

The guidelines feature four tiers of incentives based on how close the site is to high-quality transit.

Proposed four tiers for transit-oriented development incentives. Image via DCP
Proposed four tiers for transit-oriented development incentives. Image via the Department of City Planning

Based on which tier the project qualifies for, the city allows for a greater number of units, increased floor area ratio, and reduced parking requirements (including un-bundling parking from housing). In addition, transit-oriented developments may be granted additional incentives regarding setbacks/yards, open space, lot coverage, lot width, and building height.

For additional details, see the 11-page proposed guidelines document, the FAQ, or coverage at Urbanize.

DCP is seeking public comments through April 13. The proposal is scheduled to go before the City Planning Commission on May 11, and the commission’s recommendation then goes back to the Director of Planning for a final decision.

  • com63

    They should allow for zero parking requirements for tier 4 locations.

  • Jonathan Raspa

    Important Question: What percentage of those included areas are under active development, are entitled for development, or have vested rights on that land? Hopefully a low number; but you can bet that any property sold in the last 5-10 years in these areas may already be entitled to develop without restrictions.

    However, the coordinated regulation with AB-744 is a good sign, as well as the limits on total spaces for Tier 3 and 4 zones. It would have been nice to see those parking caps for Tier 3 be maxed out at 0.5 spaces/unit. 1500 feet (the distance for qualification) from rail or Rapid service is just slightly more than a quarter-mile. If need to drive your entire commute because you’ll have to walk half a city block more to get to transit, you should be paying for your parking.

  • Jonathan Raspa

    Agreed!

  • Joe Linton

    I agree – the city planning department is accepting comments and they should hear this – you can email comments to Matt Glesne at Matthew.Glesne [at] lacity.org or 213-978-2666

  • Richard

    The TOC guidelines are optional as are the choice of which tier to apply under. So if a project is already entitled, it could move forward or decide the TOC incentives are great and re-entitle.

    As for parking caps, I would like to see those in the general zoning/plan, rather than as part of the TOC incentives. If the incentives come with too many restrictions(in addition to the required affordable units) then no one will use them.

  • SZwartz

    What is to prevent the developer LLC or LLP from going BK and then having the court erase the affordable housing rents “in the interests of justice” so that a newer out of bankruptcy will purchase the property. If the courts says no, the rents stay affordably low, then no one may purchase the property. Which will the court select — building remain empty forever or erase affordable component?

    Building with an LLC or an LLP and then skimming the funds, especially if they are city funds from JJJ, and then bankrupting the project is a good way to make a fortune as the developer also gets the tax losses of “losing’ all the money he and his investors had at risk. For example, it cost $625 M to construct Hollywood-Highland which was sold a few years later for only $201 M. How much of the city money was repaid?

    Also since it is much more expensive to build affordable housing near the city center, the money should be spent on projects on the periphery — that way a lot more affordable units could be constructed, but none of the mayor’s friends seem top own land away from the TODs.

  • Joe Linton

    Could you clarify what you mean by “funds from JJJ”? I don’t know of any funding from JJJ.