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Big Flower Market redevelopment moves through city committee

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AHF’s appeal took issue with the amount of affordable housing that would be provided in the Skid Row-adjacent redevelopment

A rendering of the new development, which rises to 15 stories, against the backdrop of the Downtown LA skyline.
The flower market’s reboot would add a 15-story tower but keep flower selling on the property during and after construction.
Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa

A plan proposed by the longtime owners of the Southern California Flower Market to redevelop the wholesale and retail floral marketplace in Downtown LA into a residential and mixed-use complex received the green light Tuesday from a city planning committee.

The Los Angeles City Council’s planning and land use management committee approved the project’s environmental impact report and denied two appeals, including one brought by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation over the affordability of units. Approval by the full council is still required.

Scott Yamabe, of the Southern California Flower Growers Inc., which owns the flower market, told the committee that the market needs a redevelopment to remain afloat.

“We are not developers looking to build and sell,” Yamabe said. The redevelopment is a way for the business to remain relevant and stay in business, he said, “for the next hundred years.”

Designed by Brooks + Scarpa, the redevelopment would bring hundreds of residential units, offices, residential, retail, and space for continued flower sales. The southern building on the site would be demolished to make room for a new 15-story building with 323 residential units, plus roughly 64,000 square feet of offices, 64,000 square feet of wholesale space, and about 10,000 square feet of event space.

The property’s namesake flower market would stay open throughout construction, and would continue to operate after the redevelopment is complete.

The committee also denied appeals of the project from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Coalition for Responsible Equitable Economic Development (CREED LA), a construction labor group, though a condition was added to the committee’s approval that the developer remain in negotiations with the labor group

AHF’s appeal took issue with the amount of affordable housing that would be provided in the Skid Row-adjacent redevelopment.

As planned, the 323 residential units would include 32 units for families with moderate incomes. AHF wanted to see Measure JJJ-compliant levels of affordable housing—namely, much more affordable housing than is now proposed for the project.

CREED claimed that the environmental review of the project had been inadequate and that descriptions of the project and its construction were insufficient.

City planners countered that the project’s applications were completed before Measure JJJ went into effect and that the project actually requires zero affordable units; the inclusion of the moderate income apartments was a benefit, they said, not a requirement.

Dozens of people attended the meeting to speak on the project, including a number of flower growers and vendors at the market and the adjacent Los Angeles Flower Mall.

The flower market opened in 1909 on Los Angeles Street—the market’s original location—and began as a collective of Japanese-American families pooling together to vend flowers. It moved to its current Wall Street location in 1923. The market is now owned by a consortium of families, many of whom are descendants of the founding vendors.

Competition in the industry has increased, Yamabe said, and buyers are increasingly afraid to shop in the area. “If we do not adapt soon, our market’s demise is around the corner,” Yamabe said.