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Sheppard Mullin is pleased to share the first issue of our quarterly LA Land Use Digest, featuring: updates on the latest legislation from the region (The Council File); exemplary, forthcoming projects (In the Pipeline); and commentary on the latest issues of importance for the land use community (Planning Matters).

Our goal is to keep you informed about changes affecting project development in Los Angeles and to advance a conversation around important planning and land use topics. In our inaugural issue, we summarize upcoming legislative and land use developments at the state and local level, feature the innovative Fairplex Specific Plan project, and contemplate what Los Angeles can learn from Barcelona.

The Council File

Process and Procedures Ordinance

The City of Los Angeles’ proposed Processes and Procedures Ordinance aims to create, consolidate and standardize a clear set of administrative procedures to process requests for Zoning Code entitlements and project review. For example, the Ordinance revises hearing notification requirements and changes the decision maker for certain entitlements. Learn more here.

On August 15, City Planning released a report on its post-adoption public outreach and implementation along with a comparison chart illustrating the changes proposed by the legislation currently undergoing form and legality review in the City Attorney’s Office.

We will share more information as this Ordinance makes its way through the adoption process.

Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act of 2022 (AB 2011)

The Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act of 2022 creates a ministerial approval process for: (1) 100% affordable housing on commercially-zoned and (2) mixed-income housing development lands on commercial corridors. These projects will no longer be subject to a conditional use permit within commercially-zoned land. A development must meet specified objective planning standards to be applicable, including specified affordability, labor, and environmental criteria.

The Bill passed Assembly and was enrolled and presented to the Governor on September 6th, 2022. Learn more here.

Middle Class Housing Act (SB 6)

The Middle Class Housing Act launches a process for housing projects to be built on land zoned for retail, office, and parking. This senate bill is similar to AB 2011 but with different labor standards. Unlike AB 2011, SB 6 does not include any affordability requirements or the same streamlining benefits.

The Bill was signed by the Governor on September 28th, 2022. This Bill will take effect on January 1, 2023. Learn more here.

Wildlife Ordinance

The City of Los Angeles’ proposed Wildlife Ordinance aims to amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) in order to create a Wildlife Ordinance District that establishes regulations restricting location, size, fencing, landscaping and design requirements of new development within the Wildlife Ordinance District to preserve wildlife, promote habitat connectivity, and achieve more sustainable outcomes in hillside developments. Learn more here.

After the Public Hearing held on July 22, 2022, the Planning Department is preparing a written recommendation report for consideration by the City Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will consider a Code Amendment establishing the Wildlife District Supplemental Use District (SUD), and a Zone Change Ordinance to apply the Wildlife District SUD to those parcels in the proposed district, including a CEQA Categorical Exemption. The proposed ordinance requires final approval by the City Council.

DTLA 2040

The City of Los Angeles’ Downtown Community Plan aims to revitalize the historic character while accommodating future industries and population growth for Downtown Los Angeles.

DTLA 2040 includes updating the Central City Community Plan and the Central City North Community Plan, the adoption of ordinances to implement the Community Plans, amendments to other General Plan Elements to ensure consistency with the all of the above, and the implementation of new zoning code regulations in new Chapter 1A of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) for the Downtown Plan Area (see Processes and Procedures Ordinance above).

DTLA 2040 is in the adoption phase. The City is preparing the final Letter of Determination (LOD) and the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to be transmitted to the City Council later this fall of 2022. Learn more here. Click here or on the image below for details.

Hollywood CPU

The City of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU) aims to increase production of future development in urbanized areas (i.e., mixed-income and 100% affordable housing near transit systems and entertainment and creative uses) of the Community Plan Area while preserving neighborhood characteristics and density in its respective residential and hillside areas.

The HCPU includes updates to allow specific uses, development standards, and design standards by establishing ordinances such as the Hollywood Community Plan Implementation Overlay (CPIO) District, an expanded Hillside Construction Regulation (HCR) District, zone and height district changes, and amendments to the Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Station Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP) and the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan.

The Hollywood Community Plan Update is in the adoption phase, awaiting consideration of the Draft Community Plan and Zoning by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee of the Los Angeles City Council. Learn more here. Click here or on the image below for details.

In the Pipeline

The Specific Plan process for the Fairplex in the City of Pomona is in full swing! The Los Angeles County Fair Association (LACFA) is in the midst of an extensive community outreach process to garner feedback on the proposed Specific Plan framework.

The 500+ acre site is planned for redevelopment into residential, commercial, open space and agricultural uses while maintaining the LA County Fair at the heart of the project. LACFA is soliciting feedback from the community on how the Fairplex can transform into a space for all in the next few decades. Learn more about the project here.

Planning Matters

In a recent motion, City of Los Angeles Council member Kevin de León proposed a “Park Block” program in an effort to curb automobile use and make Los Angeles a more free and open space for pedestrians. The initiative by Council member León was likened to the superblocks in Barcelona by a recent Urbanize LA article, and this has us wonder, will the pilot program work?

To visualize, the City for Barcelona was planned to include a single square shaped block, consisting of multiple structures with a central opening utilized as a common open space. All buildings in the block are virtually the same height and match in color scheme. The idea of these blocks is to introduce a space where residents can live and obtain important goods, such as groceries, within one or two blocks, with a communal open space area to be enjoyed. In theory, this would work in conjunction with a public transportation network to simplify mobility. But how will this be executed in Los Angeles?

The topography of Los Angeles is not flat. Emulating the Barcelona design in hillside areas will be a challenge. However, for flat areas such as the mid-Wilshire area, this model may be effective.

The utilization of Park Blocks in conjunction with Transit Oriented Community areas can produce effective results. While the program can be applied to a single block, the program may need to reach a certain scale to be truly effective.

Los Angeles is known for having a variety of architecture, a mix of modern and classical structures. The uniformity of the Park Block model may be another challenge, as it could detract from the eclectic design aesthetic that predominates in Southern California. The model is certainly something to ponder, and we are monitoring to see how the pilot program implementation turns out in the Boyle Heights community. The motion can be found here.