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Could the LA River Play a Key Role in Helping LA Meet Its Housing Goals?

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Mayor Garcetti's announced he wants to build 100,000 new housing units by 2021, and a new report out from the Los Angeles Business Council says that neighborhoods along the soon-to-be reinvigorated LA River could make a huge difference in reaching the Mayor's goal, the LA Times reports. These neighborhoods, long ignored by developers, are now seen as "fertile land with a lot of development potential," according to the UCLA professor who wrote the report; that change in perception can be used in LA's favor when it comes to building new housing quickly and funding more of the affordable kind.

The report advocates creating special zones along the river where development is encouraged and simplifying the permitting process within those zones. The report notes that many projects along the river involve either rezoning of land or some kind of cleanup to remove environmental hazards, both of which can be time-consuming and cause costs to rise. To counteract this, a range of new policies are suggested, including "local design guidelines and expedited permitting"—all aimed at keeping costs low and building timely.

The LABC's assessment also recommends funding more affordable housing in areas where new development is being encouraged through specialized zones called Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts. The districts would function by "[capturing] new tax revenue in particular neighborhoods" and shifting it back to those same neighborhoods in the form of money for affordable housing, street improvement projects, and parks. The report proposes pilot programs in two locations—Northeast LA and Studio City/NoHo. If the pilots are successful, the hope is that they could someday expand the district to cover the entire river.

The river's over-$1-billion revitalization hasn't even begun yet but already rents in some neighborhoods along the waterway have seen rents shoot up, fueling concerns that once things get nice along the river, the people who live there will slowly get pushed out by rising housing costs. The affordable housing component and the design guidelines are important parts of mitigating that, says the business council president.

· Report advocates housing development along L.A. River [LAT]
· How Will LA Mitigate Gentrification on a Beautified LA River? [Curbed LA]