Plot twist: LA officials bring back affordable housing mandate

Jade Enterprises' planned project in Westlake now must adjust

Sapphire Project rendering (Credit: Los Angeles Department of City Planning)
Sapphire Project rendering (Credit: Los Angeles Department of City Planning)

For over two years, developer Jade Enterprises was planning a 369-unit apartment complex on the corner of Sixth and Bixel streets in Westlake. The mixed-use development would include two seven-story buildings, and units would be available to renters at market rate.

But that all changed when city officials decided to quietly resurrect an old affordable housing law, throwing Jade’s Sapphire apartment project into question, Curbed reported.

A state law enacted last month now allows cities to once again mandate that developers set aside 15 percent of units for low-income residents. Or, developers can pay an “in-lieu” fee to the city’s affordable housing fund.

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The “inclusionary zoning” law in Central City West was in place up until 2009, when developer Geoff Palmer challenged the law in court on the grounds that it violated the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. A state law passed in September, though, amended the language in Costa Hawkins in a way that allows cities to revive the old requirement.

The Central Los Angeles Area Planning Commission approved Jade’s project on Monday. That means Jade will have to comply with the new rule, or appeal the decision before it heads to a City Council vote.

Westlake, a Central L.A. neighborhood bordering Downtown L.A., has seen a flurry of new development since the affordable housing mandate was struck. But lower-income residents still dominate the demographics, and finding affordable rent has become increasingly difficult. In 2016, voters approved Measure JJJ, requiring developers to include affordable units in higher-density buildings that require a zone change. It also encourages affordable development near transit stations by allowing for taller buildings and fewer required vehicle spaces.

Jade’s development extends beyond the Westlake project. It is also planning a 379-unit residential complex at 1100 S. Main Street in the Fashion District. And in the works is “Emerald,” which will be 154 apartments and include 10,000 square feet of commercial space at 1340 South Olive Street.  [Curbed] — Natalie Hoberman