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LA sued over plan to add denser housing near transit

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Fix the City has repeatedly taken Los Angeles to court over some of its more transformative planning proposals. Now it’s targeting a development incentive program

A cluster of dense white and beige apartments on a hillside at sunset.
This year to date, almost 8,000 housing units have been proposed through LA’s “transit oriented communities” program.
Tyler Lowmiller (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A group that has repeatedly sued the city over some of its transformative planning proposals is now trying to invalidate a hallmark program that’s spurring denser housing—including affordable housing—near bus and train stops.

Fix the City filed a petition Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court targeting the city’s approval of a seven-story, 120-unit apartment building planned for Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA.

The development at 10500 Santa Monica Boulevard was approved under new transit-oriented communities guidelines, which were created by voter-approved Measure JJJ. The measure to generate more affordable housing passed in 2016 with overwhelming support from voters.

Residential developers who take advantage of the program agree to put affordable units in their apartments, and in return, the city grants them permission to construct bigger and denser buildings than what’s normally allowed under city code.

But the suit also sets its sights much higher, aiming to overturn the entire TOC program.

In its lawsuit, Fix the City says the TOC incentives now “far exceed those authorized by the voters enacting Measure JJJ, while failing to provide for well-paid jobs adhering to the prevailing wage for Los Angeles.”

It’s suing to stop the TOC guidelines from being used across the city “until and unless” the guidelines are altered to be consistent with those laid out by Measure JJJ.

The Los Angeles Times was the first to report the lawsuit.

City planners have dubbed the TOC guidelines a success. This year to date, almost 8,000 housing units have been proposed through the program, planning department data show. Of those, more than 1,600 are affordable housing units.

Alex Commisar, a spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, called the program “lawful and essential” and said it has been a boon to affordable housing production.

But TOC projects have come under fire by some preservationists who argue that it puts older buildings under rent control at a heightened risk for demolition. Often, preservationists say, new TOC projects are taller and denser but contain fewer units that are affordable than the older buildings they replaced.

Fix the City has sued the city over a number of other projects and planning proposals, including a plan to increase density along the Expo Line, which is still pending. Fix the city also sued the city an update to the Hollywood Community Plan in 2013 and over the city’s mobility plan in 2015.