State lawmakers aim to give L.A. a reprieve on housing deadline

Construction workers walk past a building
Construction workers walk past a building that is being refurbished as housing for veterans on the Veteran Affairs West L.A. campus.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

State lawmakers are aiming to give the city of Los Angeles and other cities in Southern California a reprieve on a deadline to rezone their communities to accommodate more homebuilding.

In legislation expected to be approved this week as part of the annual state budget, L.A. would likely have until fall 2024 to set aside land for a quarter-million new homes as required by its long-term plan for growth. The current deadline is this October.

If the city did not meet that target, it could lose access to billions of dollars in state affordable housing grants, significantly slowing the production of new homes for low-income and homeless residents at a time of increasing need.


State regulators reject L.A.’s new housing plan, threatening the city’s access to affordable housing funds and speeding up a rezoning deadline.

Feb. 24, 2022

The new legislation comes amid broad recognition among state and local leaders that L.A. didn’t have enough time to complete its task.

These deadlines spring from a complicated state law that requires communities across California to plan for new growth every eight years to meet projected population increases and account for other factors, such as overcrowding, that indicate a need for more development. The process, known formally as the housing element, doesn’t require local governments to build or approve new housing, but mandates that they must zone sufficient land to meet the state’s housing goals.

Cities in Los Angeles County and five neighboring counties had faced a February 2022 deadline to get approval from the state for their housing blueprints. L.A. put forward a proposal that aims to reverse historic patterns of development and rezone wealthier, lower-density communities, such as those on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley, to allow for more low-income housing. Housing experts widely praised the city’s effort for identifying realistic sites suitable for construction.

But state regulators initially rejected the city’s plan, saying it didn’t provide sufficient strategies to invest in new parks or economic development in poorer neighborhoods, among other concerns.

That triggered the October 2022 deadline required by law to rezone the entire city to accommodate more than 250,000 new homes, a task that even state housing officials conceded was impossible to meet. The rezoning effort involves lengthy community outreach and environmental reviews, after which the L.A. City Council would have to approve the rezoning plan. This would have all had to happen amid a mayoral election — as well as City Council races.

The new legislation, which would take effect upon approval in both houses of the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, gives cities that receive the state‘s blessing for their housing plans by this October until fall 2024 to complete their required rezoning.


Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who authored prior legislation with the strict rezoning schedules, said in a statement that the new bill “is a reasonable approach to addressing that timing issue while still ensuring that only jurisdictions that adopt a legally compliant housing element get relief in the form of additional time to rezone.”

L.A. should not have a problem meeting the new deadline for state approval. Regulators have preliminarily given the OK to the city’s revised effort, and the City Council voted on the changes earlier this month.

Vince Bertoni, the city’s director of planning, cheered the deadline extension, saying it allows city leaders to execute what he called “the most bold housing strategy in the city’s history.”

“This legislation gives the city of Los Angeles and other jurisdictions the needed time to undergo a thoughtful planning process,” Bertoni said in a statement.

Other communities across Southern California, including Long Beach and L.A. County, could also benefit from the legislation and have their rezoning timelines extended if they get their housing plans approved by October. Nearly 180 cities — more than 90% of the jurisdictions in the six-county Southern California area — have not done so yet, according to state housing department data.

Should those communities garner approval by October, they’d also have until October 2024 to complete any required rezoning. If not, they’d need to finish their rezoning and get a state-approved plan before regaining access to the state affordable housing funds.

Cities in the San Diego and Sacramento areas also could see their rezoning timelines extended. But the bill would not affect those in the Bay Area, which are currently finalizing their housing plans to submit to the state.

Times staff writer Hannah Wiley contributed to this report.