Progressive Democrats threaten new Los Angeles housing amid housing crunch

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(The Center Square) – In Los Angeles, progressive Democrats are seeking to effectively block new development across a vast swathe of the city encompassing approximately 100,000 residents. This comes as California governor Gavin Newsom cracks down on nearby La Cañada Flintridge, a Los Angeles town long known as a conservative enclave, for failing to build enough housing. The move raises questions whether the state is being consistent in enforcing the state’s requirements for cities to produce and plan for enough housing to overcome the state’s 4.5 million unit housing shortage.

The city of Los Angeles, following the Department of City Planning’s recommendation supporting such changes, is set to increase requirements that low income housing be required to increase from 22% to 50% in Boyle Heights Community Plan Area, a move that some experts say will make new development financially unfeasible, thus blocking new homes in the area.

Nolan Gray, city planner and research director for California YIMBY, says this requirement is “rather obviously designed to completely block new development” and that the California Department of Housing and Community Development “can and should review this pursuant to AB 1505.”

Under AB 1505, HCD can review economic feasibility studies that must be submitted by municipalities enacting certain inclusionary zoning measures, including those that require more than 15% of the total number of units be affordable for households earning 80% or less of the area median income — a criteria the existing, and new requirements meet. HCD notes third parties can request HCD evaluation if one of the criteria is met. If HCD initiates an evaluation, the municipality must provide evidence that the ordinance does not “unduly constrain the production of housing” via an economic feasibility study. If HCD should decide the study does not meet statutory requirements or does unduly constrain housing production, the jurisdiction cannot require more than 15% of the total number of units in a development be affordable to households at 80% or below of area median income.

However, some experts say this update is an improved compromise upon earlier drafts, with Los Angeles housing regulations expert Joseph Cohen May noting the latest version of the plan allows formerly industrial areas to build housing, as “ previous iterations of the plan draft did not allow residential at all.”

Boyle Heights is under the purview of city councilmember Kevin de Leon, a progressive Democrat who earned 46% of the vote in a general election for United States Senate against long-serving senator Dianne Feinstein in 2018. de Leon also led a successful effort earlier in 2023 to mandate inclusionary zoning across downtown Los Angeles.

Nearby La Cañada Flintridge was recently targeted by California governor Gavin Newsom and attorney General Rob Bonta for its own housing woes.

““Since California strengthened its housing laws, cities have attempted, unsuccessfully, to skirt these rules,” said Newsom in a public statement. “La Cañada Flintridge will learn, as other communities have, that the status quo is no longer acceptable, and ultimately, they will be held accountable.”

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