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On July 6, 2023, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass signed into law a provision to exempt certain affordable housing projects from the city’s Site Plan Review Process. The exemption was made as an amendment to Site Plan Review Ordinance, codifying part of Mayor Bass’ Executive Directive 1, which intends to address the city’s homelessness crisis by accelerating the pace and lowering the cost of building affordable housing.

Under current local regulations, projects that meet any criteria defined in the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 16.05 require Site Plan Review, a process that can cause substantial delays in addition to driving up the cost of development. One such criterion applies to development projects with 50 or more housing units. Due to the review requirement, many developers are deterred from developing more than 49 units, even when their property could accommodate larger housing developments. The new amendment will exempt deed restricted affordable units from the calculation of the 50-unit project threshold for Site Plan Review.

Site Plan Review determinations require the decision-maker to make various findings, trigger environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and can result in an appeal and public hearing. By exempting affordable projects from this process, the City hopes to streamline the approval and speed up development of affordable housing. The exemption will also encourage mixed-use development, as it waives 150,000 square feet of commercial development when at least 50% of the floor area ratio is dedicated to affordable housing. The Los Angeles Business Council expects that this mixed-use incentive will create even more affordable housing than developments that consist only of affordable housing.

The amendment, which will become effective August 16, 2023, makes one portion of Executive Directive 1 permanent. The remainder of the directive will be codified under a pending effort that was approved by City Council on June 27. 2023, for which the City is expected to release a draft ordinance in the next 90 days.