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Los Angeles City Councilmember says transit density bill threatens single-family neighborhoods

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Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents neighborhoods in the Valley and Central Los Angeles, including Bel Air, Westwood, and Encino, is registering his opposition against a state bill that would allow taller apartment and condo buildings near rail stations in California cities.

In a statement released Thursday, Koretz said Senate Bill 50 threatens single-family neighborhoods, and he’s asking the full City Council to take a stand against the legislation.

“We could look forward to seeing tall narrow 4 to 5 story buildings towering over single-family homes until they are squeezed,” he said.

Under the bill, cities would have to waive their limits on building heights and density for apartments and condo complexes within a half-mile of a rail station and within one-quarter mile radius of a stop on a “high-quality” bus corridor.

In these areas, new buildings would be allowed to rise at least four or five stories (depending on proximity to a stop), regardless of local zoning rules.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill, has said the goal is to “legalize apartment buildings in these locations so that more people can live near transit and near where they work.”

In a phone interview today with Curbed, the senator said he was “floored” by Koretz’s approach, which includes aligning with the Coalition to Preserve LA.

The coalition worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to draft Measure S, a ballot initiative that would have suspended major development projects across Los Angeles. That measure was rejected by voters in 2016.

In the statement released by Koretz, the coalition’s director Jill Stewart says Wiener has a “dystopian version of the growth of California cities.”

She said his bill “seeks to end the world of yards, single-family homes, tree-lined streets and places for children to thrive.”

Today, close to half of all developable land in the city of Los Angeles is set aside for single-family homes. Experts say restrictive zoning codes that favor single-family-living have compounded LA’s housing shortage, which has fueled the rising cost of buying and renting, making the city unaffordable for low-income and even middle-income buyers.

Koretz is asking that the entire city of Los Angeles be excluded from SB 50.

“Los Angeles already has its own increased density mechanisms that are being tailored to better fit the city’s many unique neighborhoods,” he said.

One of those mechanisms, a plan to add more residential density around Expo Line stations, was scaled back by Koretz, who prevented a stretch of Pico Boulevard from having taller buildings.

Wiener says Koretz is basically saying: “We want housing; just put it somewhere else.”

“That is not the way to fix California’s housing crisis,” he says.