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No Parking Required in Mixed-Use Plan For Cornfield Area

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The City Planning Commission today approved the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (pdf) that will set the planning guidelines through 2035 for the area of Chinatown north of Downtown surrounding the Los Angeles State Historic Park. Planners and City Hall denizens are definitely excited about this one; Deputy Planning Director Alan Bell described the CASP as "extraordinarily innovative" during the hearing, and Dan Caroselli, a representative from the Mayor's Office, said that the plan would create "an iconic mixed-use neighborhood." Most notable among the plan's ballyhooed innovations: a complete lack of parking requirements--neither minimums nor maximums. Just so we're perfectly clear: this is the first plan of any kind in the city of Los Angeles that does not include parking requirements.

City Planner Claire Bowin told Curbed today that the lack of parking requirements will allow developers to "minimize the amount of parking for specific projects," given the neighborhood's proximity to transit, the changing culture of Los Angeles, and the declining need for parking. Given that parking is usually one of the most expensive components of a development project, developers are expected to minimize the construction of parking, or build parking that they can then rent for public uses not attached to their site. The effect, says Bowin, will be to "let the market decide" how much parking is needed and where.

Another innovation of the plan is the use of Floor Area Ratios (the ratio of the square footage of any development to the square footage of the site) and density bonuses to balance jobs and housing. The plan sets a relatively low baseline FAR of 1.5 for residential projects, a threshold chosen to preserve the many industrial uses in the plan area: "We wanted to make sure that the area is still competitive for jobs," says Bowin. "Residential land tends to be of higher value. Higher FAR will drive the price of the land up and make it harder for jobs uses to compete." But because the city would also like to see new mixed-use and residential development in the plan area at higher than 1.5 FAR density, the plan includes a density bonus for the construction of affordable units, which planners expect will provide developers the incentive necessary to build at a higher density.

A few additional items of interest, as found in the staff report (pdf):

-- Goals of the plan (from the EIR): "Transform an under-served and neglected vehicular-oriented industrial and public facility area into a cluster of mixed-use pedestrian oriented and aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods."

-- The proposed plan establishes four new zoning districts: Urban Village, Urban Center, Urban Innovation, and Greenway

-- "The three mixed-use zoning districts Urban Village, Urban Center, and Urban Innovation that are included in the Proposed Plan are intended to facilitate the continued utilization and expansion of light industrial and public uses in the area while also encouraging and supporting an influx of new commercial, retail, and residential uses."

-- "The EIR allows for reasonable expected development to accommodate an estimated 31,855 persons. The adoption and implementation of the Proposed Plan would create an increase in the level of reasonable expected development to accommodate 26,343 more persons than the 5,512 persons assumed by the No Project Alternative by 2035."

-- Retail limits are set at 50,000 square feet (changed from 100,000 square feet).

Today's hearing was the third by the CPC, which eventually passed the CASP unanimously, sending the plan on to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee and full Council for final approval. The CASP is another of those plans, like the Hollywood Community Plan, that seems to have been kicking around City Hall since the dawn of time. Public hearings have been held since 2007 (even before the last we heard of the CASP in 2008).
· Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan Exhibit B1 [Planning Department]
· Cornfield Talk: Meeting Tonight for Specific Plan [Curbed LA]

Los Angeles State Historic Park

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