Saturday, April 4

SB 50 garners support from NWWNC amid concerns over city planning, affordability

Both Senate Bill 50 and the Transit Oriented Community program proposed by Los Angeles City Council seek to densify housing around major transit hubs, like LA Metro bus and train lines. (Daily Bruin file photo)

A California senate bill may lift height restrictions on residential buildings near transit lines if passed.

Buildings in the Village are generally limited to 40 feet, according to the Westwood Village Specific Plan, the master document for Westwood Village. If Senate Bill 50 is passed, local ordinances preventing the construction of denser and taller housing near single-family homes may be removed in areas near major transit locations, including some bus and train stops.

The North Westwood Neighborhood Council voted in support of the bill at a council meeting Wednesday.

Ryan Snyder, a member of the NWWNC who teaches an urban planning course at UCLA, said he thinks the bill offers a solution to the prevalent issue of affordable housing in Westwood by encouraging the construction of affordable housing near transit areas.

“It’s important that the city see that there are people in Westwood who think that the affordable housing issue is big and that converting some single-family residential neighborhoods is a big part of that solution,” Snyder said.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents Westwood and surrounding areas, proposed a resolution opposing SB 50.

Koretz said in a press release he thinks the bill focuses mainly on real estate commercialization and takes away planning powers of local governments like the LA City Council.

Alison Simard, a spokesperson for Koretz’s office, said she thinks the bill would overtake and slow down the progress their office has made in regard to transit-oriented planning.

According to the resolution, the bill would override Measure JJJ, which set affordable housing requirements and hiring restrictions to favor local workers on residential projects. The measure also created the Transit Oriented Community Affordable Housing Incentive Program, which aims to encourage more construction of affordable housing near transit lines.

Unlike the senate bill, the TOC program was crafted specifically for Los Angeles neighborhoods and does not extend into single-family neighborhoods. The program also aims to keep the expanded development within commercial districts, according to the resolution.

The TOC program is also tailored to each specific community while the implementation of the senate bill is not as clearly defined, according to the resolution.

The LA Department of City Planning also created the Transit Neighborhood Plans program in 2012 in partnership with LA Metro. TNP aims to build residential areas and jobs around Metro’s transit network, according to Metro’s website.

Simard said she thinks the senate bill would forfeit LA City Council’s control over city planning.

“SB 50 would stamp out the TNP and TOC work and replace it. We have been working on it a couple years down the line,” Simard said. “We can’t deny upzoning – you’ll have a whole block of one- to two-story homes and in the middle of it a seven-story building.”

Simard also said she thinks upzoning would lead to negative environmental impacts because the buildings would create heat islands that would contribute to climate change.

She added she thinks there are too few required affordable housing units in the new buildings.

“It is not affordable housing,” Simard said. “Developers want a return on their investment.”

Laura Lake, a member of the Westwood Homeowners Association and a board member of a nonprofit public safety advocacy group called Fix the City, said she is against the bill because she thinks it will cause density-related issues, such as slower emergency response times and increased traffic.

“It’s deceptive and a threat to public safety and quality of life of people in the community,” Lake said.

Lake said she is against the bill for safety reasons, specifically related to Emergency Medical Services response times.

“The response time is really only five minutes 40% of the time and density will only make that worse when disaster strikes,” Lake said.

Snyder said because of the increased amount of people living in proximity to transit lines, there would be less density because they will be using transit lines. He said despite a potential increase in the number of people who live near transit lines, the bill would not make these areas denser because the transit lines would allow residents to get around the city more efficiently.

“More people would live near transit, school and their jobs, ” Snyder said. “You have people using transit who wouldn’t normally.”

Lake said she does not think this will necessarily be the case because not everyone will use the transit lines.

“It will increase traffic congestion because not everyone will take the rail line,” Lake said. “They may need to work elsewhere.”

Snyder said the bill would lower rent rates for students in the area surrounding the new residential buildings, even if the newly constructed buildings are expensive.

“The market is horrible for affordable housing right now. There is a high demand for housing and an undersupply which leads to high prices,” Snyder said. “But when there is more supply, that should lower the prices.”

Lake said only 7% of the new residential buildings would contain low-income housing units.

“It’s a Trojan horse in the guise of providing low-income housing units, but only provides 7%,” Lake said.

Lake also said the rest of the units will be luxury housing which she thinks would drive up the price of other housing.

However, Snyder said he thinks the bill is necessary for addressing the lack of affordable housing.

“(SB 50) is a blunt planning tool, but it’s a drastic measure to help with affordable housing and climate change,” he said.

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  • Lisa Chapman

    well, now that Douglas Emmett, (where the NWNC board member, Kevin Crummy is the CIO) has bought the Palazzo apartments in WW, they will be offering all kinds of affordable student housing in Westwood, ….right?????????

  • Ari Isaac

    This article is great balance reporting. thanks! However, I think those NIMBY Homeowners Associations and city planners are just reaching at straws with made up excuses to be against SB 50 and SB 4.

    We should not let the limousine liberal progressive’s fake “perfect” be the enemy of the SB 50 “good”, b/c the NIMBY supervisors (lead by Mar) status quo is the evil.

    Moderate and low income peoples lives are getting crushed in this housing crisis and the NIMBY reason to block an housing emergency response measure is “Emergency Medical Services response times” would get longer??? People are being made homeless and dying !!!

    Also, those NIMBYs claiming to fear too much luxury rentals being built is bogus. Do you really think Beverly Hills and Orange County are 100% against SB 50 b/c they fear too many luxury rentals being built in their neighborhoods??? Get real. They do not want affordable apartment units in their ‘hoods, and the commoner types of middle/low income people living next to them.

    That is, what those NIMBYs hide from you is that LA has no demolition protection and no inclusionary housing affordability requirements, and bans apartments in over 70% of the city, which filthy rich single family home owners live. So, SB 50 will actually give renters MORE rights and affordable rental units than LA ever did in all the years prior. Just look at SF, requiring inclusionary housing ordinance so all developments in SF must include at 17% affordable BMR units or pay an equal value in-lieu fee to the City for affordable unit construction. So, who cares if the market rate units sell for $10 million, they (i.e., rich people) would just pay for more affordable housing. It is a no-brainer… build baby build and w/ SB 50, each developer that uses it must build significant affordable housing. And if they don’t use SB 50 then the NIMBYs will be VERY happy about that; hence, why they are really more afraid of is that lots of affordable housing actually gets built , which is why their fake concerns are always saying they fear of too much luxury rentals being built.

    As such, SB 50, in stark contrast to the NIMBY ‘boogie man’ complaints, requires a high % (15-25%) of the units in a project be inclusionary (i.e., affordable housing). So, w/ SB 50 we are guaranteed to increase our affordable housing stock, which cities cannot afford to do, so as a fair incentive private investors to take the risk with their money, they have to get enough market rate housing in the project to make it possible to provide the below market rate housing. SB 50 strikes that needed delicate balance b/c cities are broke and cannot afford to buy land and enough build large scale affordable housing to move the needle. You need developers and speculators to do that. Somebody has to pay the subsidized housing, so if not the government (socialism/communism), private capital has to still make a profit (aka capitalism). So, the 80% market rate (and/or luxury) units subsidize the creation of 20% lower income affordable units. This is the smart way to get subsidized housing, from the rich private sector paying for the poor, instead of more government debt to do it, which they cannot afford to do any-how.

    The NIMBYs have created a humanitarian crisis according to the UN, but all they care about is stacking their local government with NIMBY officials while the rest of us are damned to misery and getting flushed down the toilet (and out of CA), making CA one of the highest poverty rate states in the country, and faulting our economic health as companies/jobs also leave in droves, which is what Berverly Hills, Mill Valley, Cupertino, and all NIMBYs, etc. are happy and highly effective at causing. They are simply limousine liberals pretending to be fighting for the poor when they are really hired (i.e., elected) to protect the rich, b/c renters do NOT vote, but homeowners DO. Shame on NIMBYs!!! They must be stopped.

    UN report calls Bay Area homeless crisis human rights violation 6 Special rapporteur cites SF and Oakland along with worst slums in the world

    United Nations report: SF homeless problem is ‘violation of human rights’

    Mar is all about keeping the NIMBY status quo in the Sunset, which he codifies by saying this:

    “All of this would be done in a community-driven manner. It’s important that the community members get to decide how much housing to develop and where,”

  • Wouter Dito

    Expensive highrise condos near transit or jobs or most anywhere to house still more corporate employee from outside of California.