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Planning commission approves new community plans for South LA

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The plans will guide development in the area for years to come

Construction on South Central Avenue at Adams. A new plan will guide development in neighborhoods in South LA and Southeast LA, focusing new construction along transit lines.
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The Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of updated community plans for South and Southeast LA last week, paving the way for the plans to be adopted as early as this fall.

The two plans, which city officials are reviewing simultaneously, cover more than a dozen different neighborhoods roughly east of Arlington Avenue and south of Pico Boulevard, extending as far west as Alameda Street in places, and as far south as 120th Street. Neighborhoods within those boundaries include Historic South-Central, Vermont Square, Florence, and Watts.

Key elements include a focus on transit-oriented development, revitalization of commercial corridors, and the elimination of public health hazards that can arise when housing is situated within close proximity of industrial sites.

Planning commissioner John Mack stressed that community input played a large part in shaping the new plan. “What we are doing is planning in the right way for these communities and our city,” he said.

But not all members of the South and Southeast LA community are completely sold on the plan.

Prior to the planning commission meeting Thursday, community coalition United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) released its own plan, which emphasizes preservation and development of affordable housing, community-focused economic development, and creation of neighborhood-serving resources like parks and health facilities.

Joe Donlin, associate director of nonprofit group SAJE and a member of the UNIDAD coalition, tells Curbed that he is encouraged by the incentives that the plans provide for developers to construct affordable housing. Still, Donlin says he would like to see “stronger, enforceable anti-displacement policies,” including caps on the number of rental units developers can demolish or convert into condos.

LA planners are updating the many aging community plans that guide development in neighborhoods across the city. It’s not always a smooth process; in 2012, the city council adopted a new community plan for the Hollywood area, only to see it struck down in court a year later.

It’s probably too early to say whether the updated South and Southeast LA community plans could face the kind of organized legal resistance that has tied up the Hollywood plan, but the plans will certainly have a significant impact on a broad swath of the city.

Now that they have been approved by the planning commission, the updated plans will be reviewed by the City Council’s planning committee, and finally by the council itself.

Donlin says there’s still work to be done in order to ensure the plans are as equitable as possible. “We have to make sure the council is hearing the needs of its most vulnerable residents,” he says.