Proposed Metro Joint Development Policy Updates A Step In Right Direction

Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]
Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]

Today, the Metro Board of Directors’ Executive Management Committee approved changes to the way the agency partners for development on Metro-owned land.

In the past, Metro joint development was often called “TOD” for Transit Oriented Development. Under new CEO Phil Washington, praised for his commitment to joint development when he led Denver RTD, TOD has given way to “TOC” Transit Oriented Communities. Today’s new policy was likely molded by Washington, but the changes have been underway since the middle of last year pursuant to a 2014 motion introduced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and others.

While Metro has partnered to successfully develop housing and retail above many of its stations, from Koreatown to Hollywood to Pasadena, development has perhaps not been among the agency’s genuine priorities. Some proposed projects, including a private multi-story parking structure proposed for Mariachi Plaza, have been controversial. With new state funding, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, and a new TOC-minded CEO, future joint development at Metro sites is looking more promising.

The changes to Metro’s Joint Development Policy include:

  • Setting an overall goal for 35 percent of joint development housing to be affordable housing. Past Metro projects completed have 31 percent affordable housing overall.
  • Allow discounts on the price of Metro-owned land to incentivize affordability. The discount would be equal to the percentage of affordable housing developed, up to a maximum 30 percent land discount. This is a new policy, and part of the above-mentioned Garcetti motion. (Maybe Metro could up this to 35 percent to match their stated goal above? -JL)
  • In order to accommodate full environmental reviews, Metro is extending the duration of its Exclusive Negotiating Agreements (ENAs.) ENAs used to be approved for six months, and were often extended. Now they will now start at 18 months, still with possible extensions.
  • Revisions to the policy language describing the agency’s outreach processes, fostering “meaningful site-specific outreach” and “increased transparency.”
  • Earlier emphasis on joint development projects providing first last miles facilities, such as walkways, bike parking, etc.

For additional details, see the staff presentation [PDF] and the full 14-page revised Metro Joint Development Program Policies and Process document [PDF].

At today’s meeting, affordable housing advocates from L.A. Thrives and California Community Foundation spoke in support of the updated policy. Director Mike Antonovich expressed the lone dissent, asserting that Metro should not be using its limited resources as a landlord instead of as a transit provider.

The policy still needs to be approved by the full board next week, before going into effect.

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