City TOC program that encourages affordable housing development faces challenge

CLA/LA, a local authority, may enforce rules that could effectively neuter the popular program in large swaths of LA

The Metro's Wilshire/Vermont station (Credit: Wikimedia)
The Metro's Wilshire/Vermont station (Credit: Wikimedia)

Since its inception more than a year ago, Los Angeles’ Transit Oriented Communities program has successfully encouraged developers to add more than 1,000 affordable housing units to their projects through density bonuses.

But the program is now facing a challenge.

CRA/LA, a local agency with some authority over development, contends that existing density limitations across a half-dozen areas supersede those bonuses the city awarded to developers through TOC, Urbanize reported. CRA/LA first brought up the issue in a June memo, which was only now revealed.

The TOC program provides those density bonuses, height increases and other incentives for residential projects that include a certain percentage of affordable units.

CRA/LA’s memo concerns developments in six areas of the city, including most of Downtown L.A., Hollywood, North Hollywood, Wilshire Center and Koreatown, and a section of downtown San Pedro.

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The agency estimates that in these areas, there are 25 TOC projects that will be affected by the decision. Those projects total 1,350 units, including 214 affordable units and 59 supportive housing units. The TOC program has been particularly popular with small-lot developers in Koreatown and Hollywood.

In its first 10 months — from September through July — developers filed for more than 1,000 affordable units using TOC incentives across 112 projects. The affordable units are set aside in otherwise market-rate apartment buildings.

This month, a Department of City Planning sent a memo advising developers working in those areas in dispute to consult with a city planner to ensure compliance with CRA/LA rules.

CRA/LA is the successor agency to the state-level Community Redevelopment Agency for L.A., and will eventually be absorbed by the city. The agency was tasked with boosting economic activity and in that capacity, often built affordable housing. It was abolished statewide during the financial crisis.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee approved a motion by Council member Mitch O’Farrell to come up with ways to resolve the conflict. [Urbanize]Dennis Lynch