Downtown is in a short, squat little building boom: there are much-needed apartments (and a few condos) going up from Chinatown to South Park, but most of them are seven stories or less. Buildings under seven stories are generally wood-framed; taller buildings require more expensive steel framing. But while mid-rise housing might work best for developers, it's probably not best for the long-term health and growth of Downtown Los Angeles (which, as a very transit-accessible neighborhood, is a prime spot for some density). City Councilmember Jose Huizar wants to make sure that doesn't get lost in the boom--last month he introduced a motion that would "incentivize high-rise building and also put a moratorium on low-rise construction in key areas," the Downtown News reports. He wants to speed up planned changes to the zoning and planning rules for the neighborhood that would ease the approvals process for tall buildings and get rid of or adjust certain restrictions on big new development (like parking requirements). But he also wants an 18-month interim control ordinance that would ban construction of short buildings in South Park (roughly--up to Seventh Street) and the area around Pershing Square. (While Canadian developer Onni is right now building a 32-story tower in South Park, it's still a hotbed of short development right now.)
Huizar's rep Rick Coca explains the motion as some crucial long-term thinking: "The problem we're having right now is that if low-rises go up, they're not getting maximum efficiency out of the space. And then they're around for decades." Still, officials who recognize that Downtown needs to grow up have not forgotten all about those struggling developers: "the city might need to find a way to push better funding," says Planning head Michael LoGrande.
The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee will be the first to review Huizar's motion, but it's unclear when that'll happen.
· Huizar Motion Would Prohibit Low-Rise Buildings in Parts of Downtown [Downtown News]
· Are Nervous Developers Giving Us A Stumpy Downtown? [Curbed LA]