LA could expand office-to-home conversions across city

Ordinance would expand Downtown program for all buildings at least 15 years old

Mayor Karen Bass 400 South Main Street

Mayor Karen Bass 400 South Main Street (Getty, Los Angeles, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The City of Los Angeles may expand a policy that helped create 12,000 homes out of old office buildings in Downtown.

The city aims to expand a 1999 adaptive reuse ordinance credited with an explosive growth of homes Downtown by allowing the conversion of vacant office buildings into housing everywhere, Urbanize Los Angeles reported.

As the city faces a state mandate to accommodate 255,000 more homes by 2030, the policy could be extended from Sylmar to San Pedro.

“Los Angeles needs more housing that Angelenos can afford,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. “Adaptive reuse development can help bring much-needed housing online throughout the city.”

Los Angeles leaders see the expansion of the adaptive reuse ordinance as a key strategy in a citywide housing incentive program allowing the city to meet its Housing Element, the state-mandated plan for building more homes.

Only buildings completed before July 1, 1974 in a handful of Central Los Angeles neighborhoods are eligible for conversion through the program. 

The draft ordinance now under consideration by Planning Department officials would expand eligibility to include all buildings citywide which are at least 15 years old; buildings between five and 15 years old with the approval of a conditional use permit by the Zoning Administrator; and any parking garage that is at least five years old.

While the adaptive reuse ordinance has enabled the construction of more than 12,000 homes in Downtown, past efforts to expand its reach to other parts of the city have come with the caveat of only allowing income-restricted housing.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

But with the market for offices tanking in the era of remote work, calls for converting empty buildings into apartments and condominiums have picked up steam.

Regulations proposed under the new ordinance would continue to offer more flexibility for the conversion of historic buildings, including exemptions from parking requirements and limits on residential density.

Conversion projects would remain subject to the city’s linkage fee ordinance, which charges developers to generate funds for new affordable housing developments. 

The Planning Department is now conducting a feasibility study to determine if affordability requirements are economically viable for adaptive reuse projects. Current regulations allow developers to pay an in-lieu fee rather than building affordable units on-site.

Planning staff will host three webinars from June 6 through June 8, offering information on the draft ordinance and opportunities for feedback.

Los Angeles County could add up to 113,000 residential units by converting underused hotels, offices and other commercial buildings, according to a RAND study released last year.

— Dana Bartholomew

Read more

Los Angeles
LA landlords eye office-to-housing conversions
Los Angeles
Hotel, office conversions could be housing pipeline: Study
Jamison Properties' Jaime Lee with the Pierce National Life Building (LinkedIn, Google maps)
Los Angeles
Koreatown office building poised for residential conversion