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California executive order prioritizes $2 billion development in Los Angeles Skid Row

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(The Center Square) – California governor Gavin Newsom deployed his executive authority to reduce permitting times for a $2 billion housing and commercial development in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Skid Row, where nearly 5,000 homeless live, has long served as the city’s homelessness epicenter.

If built, the project would produce 1,500 homes, along with commercial space and hotel rooms by replacing a cold storage facility in one of the most densely populated parts of the city. The location, in between the high-demand Arts District and Little Tokyo neighborhoods and the historic boundaries of Skid Row, places the 10-building project in a walkable area with ample access to public transit options.

“For decades, we’ve let red tape stand in the way of these kinds of critical housing projects – and the consequences are in plain view all around us,” Newsom said in a statement. “Now we’re using California’s infrastructure law to build more housing, faster.”

Newsom’s executive order streamlines the project’s development by creating a maximum 270 day timer for California Environmental Quality Act certification of the project. Under current CEQA procedures, projects can be held up essentially indefinitely by any “stakeholder” who wishes to challenge a project’s environmental impact reports in court.

According to the Los Angeles Business Council, the typical multifamily housing project takes over a year and a half to get approvals. With Newsom’s executive order, the Fourth and Central development’s approval time could be cut in half.

The City of Los Angeles is required to regularly submit plans on how many housing units it plans to approve and of what type to meet its state-mandated regional housing needs allocation. Los Angeles says it will need to approve 457,000 units — or 57,000 units per year — between 2021 and 2029. For 2021 and 2022, the city approved just 17,000 units per year. With the adoption of Measure ULA in November 2022 — a 4% tax on all real estate sales over $5 million and 5.5% over $10 million sold to voters as a “mansion tax” — Los Angeles apartment sales have since declined 37.5% as outlook for real estate in the city turned sour.

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