The toughest place to build in America? Hint: It’s on LA’s Westside

Venice hasn’t gained a single housing unit in 15 years

Venice canals, construction worker (Getty Images)
Venice canals, construction worker (Getty Images)

It’s always sunny in Venice – well, almost.

The low-slung beachside neighborhood has become the capital of L.A.’s tech scene thanks to the fast growth of Snap Inc., but all the hype doesn’t seem to be helping housing developers, who say they are stunted by the area’s zoning restrictions and active NIMBY culture. In fact, the ZIP code that encompasses most of the neighborhood is the hardest place in the country to build new housing, according to BuildZoom data.

It hasn’t gained a single housing unit in 15 years, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Neighborhood old timers band together to protest projects and “object all the way through and then they’ll take every appeal that they can,” Venice developer Frank Murphy told the Journal. “Even though they may lose on appeal, by that time your developers just get dragged out so long they give up.”

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Some of Venice’s housing woes can be tied to the fact that the neighborhood was effectively downzoned. The total number of housing units allowed under its current zoning rules is half the number permitted in the late 1950s. Accordingly, in recent years, its stock of housing has been declining.

Venice saw about 700 fewer housing units in 2015 than in 2000, thanks in part to embattled developments and wealthy buyers who razed adjacent properties to expand. Home prices in the neighborhood also more than tripled in those 15 years, rising 246 percent compared to the national average of 52 percent, according to the Journal.

While the local economy has boomed, the number of residents have shrunk. It had 27,000 residents in 2015, about 3,800 fewer people than in 2000, according to U.S. Census data. At the same time, its added 4,000 new jobs, based on employment website Indeed.

The area will need to relax its zoning restrictions and allow taller buildings if it has any hope of overcoming its housing shortage, Issi Romem, chief economist of BuildZoom, told the Journal.

“If you don’t open the floodgates, things won’t improve,” Romem said. [WSJ]Subrina Hudson