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California

L.A. panel comes out against Sacramento’s sweeping housing bill

LOS ANGELES CA. JANUARY 4, 2017: Construction of the Purple Line is underway at La Brea and Wilshire
Crews work on an extension of the Metro Purple Line at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. A California bill would allow four- to eight-story residential buildings at properties near rail stations and major bus stops.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council came out Friday against a California bill aimed at increasing the number of locations where multistory residential buildings can be constructed in the city.

The Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee voted 2 to 0 to oppose Senate Bill 827, which lifts or eliminates local restrictions on density, height and parking on properties that sit near rail stations and higher-frequency bus stops — even if those locations are in single-family or low-density neighborhoods.

Council President Herb Wesson praised the bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), for “wanting to do what he believes is right.” But he argued that decisions on real estate development should remain in local hands.

“We need to deal with our housing crisis. We have to stop putting it off,” said Wesson, whose district stretches from Koreatown to Leimert Park. “But it is our responsibility.”

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The resolution, introduced by Councilman David Ryu, now heads to the full council, which is expected to take it up Tuesday.

Wiener said after the vote that he respects the council members’ opinions and looks forward to more discussions with them on “making housing more affordable for all Californians.”

“We all have the same goal, just different ideas of how to get there,” he said in a statement.

SB 827 loosens or eliminates certain planning rules for properties that sit within half a mile of subway stations, light-rail platforms and stops where two high-frequency bus lines — those that run every 15 minutes during rush hour — intersect.

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In those areas, developers would be allowed to build apartments and condominium complexes of four to five stories.

The bill also would allow multistory residential buildings of five to eight stories for properties that are within a quarter-mile of rail stations and stops on high-frequency bus routes.

The committee voted after hearing from roughly two dozen speakers, the vast majority of them opponents of SB 827.

Homeowners criticized SB 827 as a “one-size-fits-all” planning bill.

Linda Dishman, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Conservancy, said it would “eviscerate” protections in the city’s historic zones. And renters’ rights advocates warned that the bill’s new financial incentives would cause apartment owners to sell to developers, increasing the number of evictions and demolitions.

In South Los Angeles, “it would be urban renewal 2.0,” said Damien Goodmon, director of Housing is a Human Right, a project of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation aimed at fighting gentrification.

Wiener says his bill defers to local rules on the demolition of historic homes and protects families living in rent-controlled housing.

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One provision would require local city councils to sign off on the destruction of rent-controlled properties that are redeveloped using the incentives in SB 827. Another would force developers to pay more than three years of relocation benefits to anyone moved out of a building razed as part of an SB 827 project.

Business groups in Los Angeles have lined up behind SB 827, saying it will make huge strides in addressing a statewide housing crisis. Christine Rangel, director of government affairs for the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, told the committee that the bill would also help address climate change by putting more homes near public transportation.

“We’re very disappointed that the city is essentially saying they don’t want housing,” she told the panel.

Three other supporters of SB 827 said they turned in public speaker cards but were not called to testify.

Shane Phillips, director of public policy for the Central City Assn., a downtown business organization, said he submitted a card but was not summoned to the podium. Mark Vallianatos, policy director for Abundant Housing Los Angeles, an advocacy group, said the same thing happened to him.

Because some in the audience weren’t called to speak, the testimony lacked balance, said Vallianatos, whose organization submitted a letter arguing in favor of SB 827.

“It’s upsetting to me because [council members] don’t get to hear from the city they represent,” he said. “If they don’t allow people on both sides of an issue to testify, then they can’t get a fair understanding of what the people in the city believe on issues like housing.”

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Wesson, who chairs the committee, said his panel did not have enough time during the hourlong meeting to hear from everyone, opting instead to take testimony from more than 60% of those who turned in cards. He said he was sorry some did not get the opportunity to weigh in.

“When it gets to council, I probably will open it up for another 10 minutes more discussion,” he said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidZahniser


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