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7 things to know about the new community plans that will guide development in South LA

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The plans for South LA and Southeast LA could shape a large chunk of the city for years to come

Map of Southeast LA showing zoning changes City of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Department of City Planning hosted the second of two public hearings last night about its proposed community plans for South and Southeast LA. These two regions combined make up an enormous chunk of the city, and this plan, once adopted, will shape the area for years to come.

That said, the meeting was held in an unheated tent on a weeknight in December, so we understand if you decided to sit this one out.

The new plans are just two of the 35 community plans that are being updated right now. Decades have passed since most of them have been overhauled during which time many neighborhoods have changed immensely.

Together, the new plans will help guide the growth of the city, striking some sort of balance among the needs of residents, business owners, and developers. Here are some of the most important things to know about the South and Southeast LA plans.

1. It was developed with community input

LA city officials have a long tradition of ignoring their constituents and holding a public hearing outdoors with no formal presentation seems to follow in that custom (we overheard several community members grumbling about this last night as they made their way through the tent). But the plan was formed after three years of community outreach efforts from 2007 and 2009.

Whether community needs may have shifted in the seven years since then is a matter of debate, but the plan is designed to address some of the key concerns that residents voiced during the outreach process.

2. The plan is designed with population growth in mind

Over the past few decades, the pace of development in Los Angeles has lagged behind population growth, helping to create a shortage of housing that has driven up rents and home prices.

The Southern California Association of Governments predicts that by 2035, population in South LA will grow by about 43,000 residents, while Southeast LA will gain nearly 25,000 residents. The plan uses these numbers as a guide, and its authors predict it will allow for that rate of growth and more.

Additionally, SCAG estimates that the two areas will see a combined 21,000 new jobs over the next two decades. The plan offers capacity for about 18,000 more than that.

Map of South LA zoning City of Los Angeles
Map of Southeast LA showing zoning changes City of Los Angeles

3. Denser development will be centered around transit corridors

To accommodate for expected population and job growth, both communities will need to become more dense. To alleviate traffic or parking-related issues associated with the arrival of larger developments, planners are trying to center much of the new housing around metro stops, where residents will have easy access to public transit.

4. The plans include protections for single family neighborhoods and industrial zones

Just as the proposed plan encourages the development of larger projects around transit corridors, it also takes steps to block such development in more low-slung neighborhoods, where the projects would be out-of-scale with their surroundings.

The plan would also make it more difficult to convert industrial properties into housing. In part, this is to ensure that residents are protected from the potential environmental hazards of living in close proximity to industrial zones; it’s also meant to preserve local jobs.

As has been well illustrated by former industrial zones like the Arts District, in a housing market like LA, owners of industrial parcels often stand to increase the value of their properties exponentially by rezoning them housing. The new plans would make it harder to do that, encouraging property owners to suck it up and find an industrial tenant.

5. The plans rely heavily on incentives

Los Angeles has plenty of regulations determining what kind of buildings can go where, but in the end, the city only has so much control over the types of projects that developers choose to build. So the new plans seek to reward them for building the kinds of projects residents and planners would like to see more of.

For instance, developers who build affordable housing would get away with constructing less parking—or more units—to help compensate for income they might have gained by building market rate housing. Similar incentives would exist for projects that include banks, grocery stores, health clinics, childcare centers, and other businesses that provide a benefit to the community.

South LA CPIO map City of Los Angeles
Southeast LA CPIO map City of Los Angeles

6. There are these things called CPIOs

This is one of the most important—and certainly one of the most confusing—elements of the new community plans. It’s also been the focus of at least one major lawsuit, so you know it’s juicy.

CPIO stands for Community Plan Implementation Overlay District, and the planning department describes it as “a zoning tool that implements many of the Community Plans’ goals and policies, giving them ‘teeth’.”

Basically, the CPIOs are specific areas within larger communities that have a specific set of zoning regulations. These subareas, often as small as a couple blocks, are meant to ensure that the larger goals of the plans are carried out.

Most of the changes these plans bring to communities will be fostered by the CPIOs, but the districts will also protect certain areas from incongruous or incompatible development.

So they include zones meant to accommodate transit-oriented development, but also to preserve industrial or commercial zones. Other subareas maintain existing single-family neighborhoods or designate areas for multifamily use. Neighborhood Serving Corridor CPIOs are meant to encourage the growth of community-oriented businesses and to make those areas more pedestrian-friendly.

7. The plans could go into effect as soon as next year

The South and Southeast LA plans still have to clear multiple city commissions and committees—as well as the full council—but the Department of City Planning expects that they will eventually be adopted by mid-2017.

To find out more, you can visit websites the city has established detailing both the South LA plan and the Southeast LA plan in much greater detail.