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Should all of Skid Row be rezoned strictly for affordable housing?

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A new plan calls for restricting the core of Skid Row to affordable development. Groups working in the neighborhood say it’s not enough

An aerial view of Skid Row.

A significant portion of Skid Row would remain zoned for market-rate development under a new plan unveiled this month by city planners.

The draft community plan would set aside a small portion for affordable housing, but organizations that work in the neighborhood say that by not doing that for the rest of Skid Row, the community will be carved up.

LA CAN and other groups, including the Inner City Law Center and the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, say the city should be using the community plan update as an opportunity to secure Skid Row for its current residents.

Jerry Jones of the Inner City Law Center says that if the city allows parts of the area to remain open to market-rate development, residents will remain vulnerable to displacement.

The draft community plan would guide development in the area through 2040, and it does include restricting development in the core of Skid Row—an area bounded by Fifth Street, San Pedro Street, Central Avenue, and Seventh Street—to below market-rate.

That would include a new level of affordable housing—“deeply low income”—that would apply to residents making between zero and 15 percent of the area median income (about $10,400 or less per year). It would be geared toward helping people who are homeless now get into housing.

Steve Diaz of LA CAN says it’s a “great start, but it shouldn’t be limited to such a small geographic area.”

“The planning department has the right instinct that it needs a concentrated push of affordable housing [in Skid Row],” says Jones. But it should apply to the whole neighborhood, not just a portion of it, he says.

Diaz agrees, saying he’d like to see the affordable housing-only designation spread throughout all of Skid Row—Alameda to Main, Third Street to Seventh Street.

He and others want the entire area reserved for affordable housing. But that butts up against the proposed plan, which calls for a significant portion of Skid Row to remain zoned for market-rate development.

The northeastern part of Skid Row that’s currently set aside for industrial uses would be rezoned to allow multiple types of uses, including live/work units, residential, commercial, and “light industrial.”

In the parts of Skid Row along Main Street—those closest to the Fashion District, Little Tokyo, and the Historic Core—residential uses are technically already allowed through the “community commercial” designation.

Under the plan, developers could choose to incorporate affordable units into their projects in those areas. The planning department would offer various incentives, like permission to build taller than what the zoning code allows, to encourage developers to do so. But developers could also just choose to build market-rate units.

In a statement to Curbed, department of city planning spokesperson Yeghig Keshishian says that the plan “is not designed to displace anyone experiencing homelessness within Skid Row, or even to reduce the areas in and around where services can be provided.”

Keshishian says the plan “actually does the opposite,” by expanding affordable housing opportunities and adding new zoning protections.