Looser residential density rules are proposed for L.A.

Times Staff Writer

Hoping to avert a showdown with county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti on Tuesday reworked a proposal to loosen the city’s height and density rules for developers who incorporate even one unit of affordable housing into their residential projects.

Garcetti said his changes would create a buffer between single-family neighborhoods and many of the multistory projects envisioned in the low-income housing proposal, which was approved by the council’s planning committee Tuesday.

Yaroslavsky had repeatedly warned that the city’s plan would lead to widespread demolitions and a net loss of rent-controlled housing.


On Tuesday, Yaroslavsky aide Vivian Rescalvo praised Garcetti’s changes and said her boss would keep working to rewrite the plan.

“It comes much, much closer to where we were at,” she said.

The battle reflects the continuing anxiety felt by neighborhoods over a construction boom that has allowed pricey multistory condominium projects to replace smaller rent-controlled apartment buildings.

The city’s proposal has sparked a debate not just over density but also over the best way to create and protect low- income homes.

For months, the city’s Planning Department has pushed a proposed ordinance to implement SB 1818, a state law that requires every city in California to loosen zoning rules on any new residential project that has as few as 5% of the homes designated “affordable.”

Although cities must comply with that law, they have some leeway on how much they may offer to builders. Business groups have pushed for a broad array of incentives for developers, while homeowners groups want a much more restrictive list.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents coastal neighborhoods from Westchester to Pacific Palisades, said he still feared that the city’s plans would result in the elimination of more rent-controlled apartments in his wealthy district.


“This ordinance might be OK in other council districts, but it will destroy the last vestige of affordable housing in [my] district,” Rosendahl said.

Garcetti’s amendments would reduce the number of locations where a residential project would be granted additional height or density.

Under his proposal:

* No multistory project that stands within 50 feet of a neighborhood zoned for single-family homes would receive permission for additional height.

* No project would be allowed to replace a building that is part of a historic zone.

* Only one additional story would be granted to buildings on a street with height limits of 30, 45 or 50 feet.

Although he acknowledged the fears over demolitions, Garcetti said the new law would allow at least some low-income housing to replace older homes.

“We’re going to be able to move protections for our neighborhoods and build more affordable housing,” he said.

Times staff writer Steve Hymon contributed to this report.