Measure Could Ease Zoning Restrictions for Homeless Housing on Public Land
By Dolores Quintana
The City Council has voted in favor of a motion that would instruct the city’s Planning Department to draft an ordinance aimed at eliminating zoning and size limitations. These zoning restrictions presently constrain the construction of permanent supportive housing on city-owned properties, as reported by the Los Angeles Daily News.
The ordinance would end the current zoning and density constraints applicable to “public facilities zones” and city-owned land. It is meant to make it easier in instances where a significant portion of the site would be designated for “civic purposes and publicly owned permanent affordable housing” in accordance with the approved proposal.
Once formulated, the ordinance will undergo a final vote by the council. The exact extent of city-owned land available for constructing affordable housing for homeless residents remains is not publicly known.
Under existing regulations, the current ordinances say that structures on public land cannot exceed the zoning rules that neighboring buildings have to adhere to. Ending these zoning restrictions could arguably increase the amount of affordable housing that could be built and make it easier for such housing to be constructed since affordable housing usually relies on being able to build with more density.
Councilman Hugo Soto-Martínez, who jointly introduced the motion with Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, emphasized that the objective is to make use of underutilized or vacant city properties in areas where increased housing density is appropriate. The focus would be on developing such housing in commercial and mixed-use areas of the city, avoiding areas with single-family homes.
Soto-Martínez stated, “There are vacant and underutilized public lots all over the city where we can be, and should be, building affordable housing. We’re not talking about transforming entire neighborhoods—we’re simply looking to cut the red tape that has led us into this housing and homelessness crisis.”
Jeff Kalban, chair of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee, expressed his support for making it more straightforward to construct additional affordable housing in areas where higher density aligns with urban planning goals. He emphasized the need for a thoughtful and strategic approach.
Kalban also pointed out that there are numerous city-owned vacant properties throughout Los Angeles, suggesting that some of these, especially those near schools, could potentially be repurposed to provide affordable housing for teachers.
“Conceptually, it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” Kalban affirmed regarding the approved motion. “You want to build on city property and try to get affordable housing in there.”