Proposal Would Curb Growth in Northeast Area : L.A. Planners to Vote on Down-Zoning Plan

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission is expected to vote today on a plan that ultimately would limit development and population growth on 1,500 properties in the Northeast area.

The sweeping changes--called down-zoning--are part of a citywide effort mandated by the state more than 10 years ago to make zoning consistent with the city’s general plan.

Los Angeles city planners said the changes, if adopted, will reduce the potential population of the 26-mile Northeast area from 466,000 to about 266,000. That is still 66,000 more than the 1980 United States Census revealed live there now.

Most of the areas affected are single undeveloped lots, but several large developments also would be curtailed by the plan.


Significant Restriction

A controversial proposal to develop Elyria Canyon in Mount Washington would be significantly limited, said Frank Parrello, planning department hearing officer. The 30 acres of vacant land between San Rafael Avenue and Division Street are now zoned to permit building of up to 220 residential units. The down-zone planning would allow only 30 units on the site, Parrello said.

Zoning on a five-acre area between Rangeview Avenue and Avenue 51, southeast of Occidental College, would be changed to allow the building of 25 units on the site, where 200 are now allowed, Parrello said.

In hearings on the changes in August, some developers called the rezoning plan too restrictive, while residents’ groups said it was not restrictive enough. City planners said most residents support the revised plan. Of 2,100 properties considered in the plan, objections have been received on only 200.


1st Step in Plan

The proposed changes are the first step in revision of the city’s general plan, Parrello said. Homeowners groups call the plan “grossly out-of-date.”

City planners agree the character of the Northeast area has changed since the plan was adopted in 1979. Once a blighted area of run-down homes and low-income tenants, Northeast Los Angeles is becoming a haven for middle-class homeowners attracted to the district’s moderate prices and historic architecture, said Steve Ciccarelli, a city planner.

These new homeowners have formed a number of active and vocal neighborhood associations, which by and large oppose additional development in single-family residential areas, Ciccarelli said.


According to Parrello, planners will bring a new general plan to the city council and the mayor for approval by 1993.

Northeast residents’ groups, concerned that property in their areas will be developed before a new general plan is adopted, say 1993 is not soon enough. The groups contend the measures to be presented today--which make zoning consistent with the general plan but do not affect the plan itself--only do half the job.

“While the planners are working on this process, which really has little to do with addressing the real problems, people are sitting there in these historic neighborhoods in the living rooms of their homes watching the house across the street being torn down,” Richard Wright of the Mount Washington Assn. said. “The district plan itself is just too dense.”

Slide in Property Value?


More than 168 developers and homeowners opposed the down-zoning, however, saying the value of their property would decrease.

The Boulevard Business Assn. in Atwater said in a letter that the zoning changes would limit development and reduce the marketability of Glendale Boulevard property.

“A lot of people who bought property with the idea that they could build on it later and retire to Palm Springs are not in favor of the down-zoning,” Parrello said. “For those people, all we can say is things have changed. The reality is the city of Los Angeles realized we can not support that kind of build-out in the future.”

City planners increased general plan densities to meet current zoning on 163 parcels, where the development already exceeds the level called for in the plan.


The Northeast planning area, made up of Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and Atwater, is the largest of the 28 districts yet to come under planning department review. A 1978 law requires Los Angeles to bring its zoning into conformity with its general plan. The general plan differs drastically from current zoning, which calls for a city that is much less densely populated, but does not carry the weight of law.

A 1984 lawsuit filed against the city by the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., a coalition of about 40 homeowner groups, charged the city was not complying with the law. A settlement gave the city until March 1988 to complete changes in its 35 communities.

L.A.'s Response

The down-zoning plan is the city’s response to that settlement.


“This will become the new general plan and the zoning ordinance together,” Parrello said of the proposed changes. “They will be the same thing for the first time in more than 40 years. I think there will be a much stronger framework in which to make decisions about the city--it will be law.”

The planning department recommendations are subject to the approval of the Planning Commission, the City Council and the mayor. The City Council is expected to consider the plan by the end of January, Parrello said.