Judge orders LA to reconsider Charles Co.’s District Square project

Planning board can’t reject housing just because it hates gentrification, jurist rules

Rendering of 577-unit District Square project in South L.A. (Los Angeles Department of City Planning, iStock)
Rendering of 577-unit District Square project in South L.A. (Los Angeles Department of City Planning, iStock)

A judge has ordered the city of Los Angeles to reconsider Arman and Mark Gabay’s 577-unit District Square project after determining the city’s rejection of it violated state law.

The brothers sued the city in February after the South L.A. Area Planning Commission declined to approve the Arlington Heights project. California Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said that violated the state’s Housing Affordability Act, according to the L.A. Times.

Chalfant was highly critical of that decision, saying the planning commission “clearly acted in bad faith.” The Housing Affordability Act bars local governments from rejecting residential developments if they comply with zoning and planning rules unless there is a threat to public health or safety, according to the Times.

Chalfant said the board applied “subjective” criteria to the project, which is what the law was meant to prevent.

“That is exactly what the [commission] did by imposing its own views that gentrification is bad … and the need for affordable housing trumps all,” the judge wrote in his opinion. “That is not the law and there can be no legitimate dispute that [the commission] acted knowingly and deliberately to violate the law.”

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The South L.A. Area Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the project again on Tuesday.

The Gabay brothers’ Charles Company has been planning District Square for nearly a decade. It has had numerous ups and downs, near-starts and delays. The project was approved by the city in late 2018 but the local planning commission rejected it following an appeal of that approval last year.

At one point last year, the developers were shopping the ground lease on the property.
[LAT] — Dennis Lynch