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Zoning Reform to Increase Supply of Affordable Housing

Posted on 07/06/2023

Los Angeles took a giant step toward expanding the City’s supply of affordable housing when Mayor Karen Bass signed an ordinance authored by Council President Paul Krekorian and Council President Pro Tem Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

For years, L.A.’s zoning code required all housing developments of more than 49 units to undergo Site Plan Review (SPR), a process that adds costly delays to the approval process and often prevents the building of needed housing.  Many developers avoid the process by limiting their projects to 49 units, even when the location would support far more.

An ordinance authored by Council President Krekorian and President Pro Tempore Harris-Dawson (who chairs the Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee) reforms the City’s zoning code to exempt all affordable units from the 49-unit calculation.  Builders will now be able to add any number of affordable (deed-restricted) units to a project of fewer than 50 market-rate units without incurring SPR.  

“The shortage of affordable housing hurts everyone,” said Council President Krekorian. “Not just the homeless, but everyone from the elderly on fixed incomes to young people who want to live and raise their children in the city where they grew up, and the firemen, teachers and nurses we all depend on who can’t afford to live where they work. Eliminating this unnecessary review will increase our supply of housing for all income levels.”

Councilmembers Krekorian and Harris-Dawson introduced their motion to exempt affordable units from SPR in March 2022. When Mayor Bass took office nine months later, her Executive Directive 1 temporarily exempted 100-percent affordable units from SPR, but the 49-unit limit on mixed-income developments remained in place.  A recent study by the Los Angeles Business Council quantifies the thousands of units of potential housing lost over the last ten years to SPR delays.  It also notes that expanding mixed-income projects leads to a greater increase in affordable housing than building 100-percent affordable developments does, while addressing the ”missing middle” in the housing supply, reducing costs for the entire community.