L.A. Eases Zoning Law for Limiting Apartments
Bowing to the pleas of developers, the Los Angeles City Council has voted to limit the effect of an emergency zoning law aimed at curbing the rapid construction of apartment buildings in Hollywood and Los Feliz.
Under a compromise plan approved Friday, the council inserted into the ordinance a controversial cutoff date that will nullify its effect on all projects filed with the city before May 8. The action in effect clears the path for development of 21 major projects awaiting building permits.
Those projects represent more than 1,000 units in the area affected by the ordinance--generally bounded by Laurel Canyon Boulevard on the west, Hyperion Avenue on the east, Santa Monica Boulevard on the south and the Hollywood Hills on the north. The target area includes nearly all of Hollywood except the 1,100-acre Hollywood Redevelopment District and the 155-acre Highland-Cahuenga Corridor plan area.
Projects Can Be Rejected
Projects filed on or after the cutoff date will remain subject to the ordinance, which empowers the city Planning Commission to reject or scale down apartment projects even if they comply with existing zoning laws. Hollywood-area Councilman Mike Woo, who introduced the measure, said the ordinance is intended to help city officials control growth while a new community zoning plan is devised.
Adoption of the compromise came during the council’s third review of the ordinance, which won tentative approval on June 4 without the cutoff. In a political defeat for Woo, the earlier version of the measure was voted down during its second reading June 11. It was amended before being reintroduced Friday.
Developers successfully argued that the tougher version of the ordinance unfairly penalized property owners who had planned projects based on existing zoning laws.
In some cases, those property owners had invested more than $100,000 in designs and fees necessary to build their projects, said attorney Arthur K. Snyder, a former councilman who lobbied council members on behalf of several developers.
“Halting them in midstream would have been disastrous,” Snyder said after the compromise was adopted. Snyder said he had no objections to other provisions of the ordinance and praised Woo for yielding on the compromise.
Woo, who was elected to the council on a platform of controlled growth, joined a 14-0 vote for the compromise after losing support for the stricter ordinance. He also failed to win support for a May 2 cutoff that would have exempted 13 projects while requiring eight others to be reviewed by the Planning Commission.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get a stronger ordinance through, but I couldn’t get the votes,” Woo said.
Woo said he was pleased, however, that council members had supported the overall need for the ordinance in an area where revitalization efforts are creating intense pressures for property development. The interim zoning ordinance will probably remain in effect two or three years, until the new community zoning plan is completed, he said.
That plan is expected to create stricter zoning laws in much of Hollywood and Los Feliz, Woo said.