L.A. PLUM Committee Defers To Koretz, Approves Worthwhile But Slightly Watered-Down Expo Zoning Plan
4:54 PM PDT on June 28, 2018
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At its meeting this week, the L.A. City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee approved the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan. Overall the Expo TNP is intended to plan for more development - especially affordable housing - in areas within walking distance of five Metro Expo Line stations. The new plan applies to a half-mile radius around the Bundy, Sepulveda, Westwood, Palms, and Culver City stations.
Curbed has a very good explainer on what is in the plan, including:
- allowing taller, mixed-use buildings on major streets
- allowing housing and offices to be built in industrial areas within a half-mile of train stations
- allowing apartments in the "Bundy Triangle" south of the Bundy station, which is currently about 200 single-family homes
- expanding incentives for affordable housing
- allowing new buildings to un-bundle parking from housing (not automatically including parking cost with housing cost - which lowers costs for housing units for individuals or families who need fewer than the 2.5 car-parking spaces L.A. typically requires)
The L.A. City Planning Department, under a grant from Metro, developed the Expo TNP over the past five years. The plan is supported by advocacy groups across the housing spectrum; these include the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA), the National Resources Defense Council, and Abundant Housing L.A.
When the plan went before the City Planning Commission in 2017, that body expanded up-zoning in an area along Pico Boulevard near the Sepulveda and Westwood stations. Despite a city housing crisis and a global climate change crisis, this was too much transit-oriented development for City Councilmember Paul Koretz and the Westside NIMBY constituency he generally answers to. Koretz submitted a letter to PLUM members requesting the Pico zoning be scaled back from four-story mixed-use (RAS4) to "Neighborhood Mixed Use"; this trims the allowable building height from 72 feet to 45-50 feet. Abundant Housing L.A.'s Nick Burns guesstimated that this scaled back the Expo TNP's overall upzoning by roughly eight to nine percent.
Housing and environmental advocates pushed for the committee to approve the Expo TNP as amended by the City Planning Commission. Homeowner groups pushed for the committee to roll the plan back to what it had been prior to the commission's upgrade.
There is a strong unwritten rule that councilmembers defer to the local councilmember for development matters in their own district. PLUM Committee members present - Councilmembers José Huizar, Mitch Englander, Bob Blumenfield, and Curren Price - did not even debate the merits of Koretz's requested changes, but essentially read them into the record.
The PLUM committee approved them unanimously. The Expo TNP needs to be approved by the full city council very soon to become law. With local councilmembers on board with the amended version, the plan should easily sail through full council approval.
Overall the Expo TNP is a step in the right direction. The plan will expand affordable housing in transit-rich areas where it is most appropriate. The plan will mean more housing, more affordability, more jobs, more livability and walkability,
Unfortunately, the Expo TNP too closely reflects the local politics of each station. Around the Bundy Station, an area represented by livability and environment champion Councilmember Mike Bonin, the city will facilitate the existing single-family neighborhood transitioning to a denser, taller mixed-use neighborhood, with lots more places for families to live. Around the other four stations, areas represented by Councilmember Koretz, the steps toward livability will be more modest.
For additional coverage on the Expo TNP and PLUM approval see Curbed. For full details on Expo TNP, see the City Planning website and the Council File.
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