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A first for Warner Center: Developer says yes to affordable housing

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Thousands of new market-rate units are in the pipeline for the Valley neighborhood

Via Promenade 2035

Plans to redevelop a struggling mall into 34-acres of housing, new shops, and an event venue has become the first major project in Warner Center to incorporate affordable housing units.

Developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield announced Friday it will include 100 rent-restricted units among the first 1,000 units it builds as part of the project.

Those units will be set aside for qualifying tenants who earn below the median income. Fifty additional units will be reserved for local workers through a “stakeholder incentive program.” Details of how that program will work are still being finalized.

“People who work in Warner Center should be able to afford to live there, and this is a step in the right direction,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield.

Blumenfield said he had “worked closely” with the developer to add community benefits like the affordable housing.

The new plans for the project, called Promenade 2035, were the result of “many months” of negotiations with community members, and reflect their input, URW vice president Larry Green said in a statement.

Like every other development proposed in the neighborhood over the past seven years, Promenade 2035 was originally presented with only market-rate housing.

That chafed some locals, who worried that employees of the future stores and restaurants in the redevelopment would face big commutes because they could not afford to live in any of the new units.

The city’s planning guidelines that shape development in the vital San Fernando Valley commercial hub went into effect at the end of 2013. The guidelines have spurred proposals for thousands of new units, but do not include mandates or incentives for the production of affordable housing. Until the Promenade 2035 revisions, none had been proposed.

While planners and city officials work out a way to boost affordable housing in the area, rents here are on the rise.

The addition of affordable housing also addresses at least one appeal brought against Promenade 2035.

One appeal, the Los Angeles Daily News reported in August, was brought by a neighborhood group wanted affordable housing included in the project.

Appellant Gina Thornburg wrote in her appeal that she knew many people “who work full time or more while living with friends or family because the rent in L.A. is so high, they cannot form their own households.”

Another appeal came from the developer itself. It protested a reduction in size of the event venue in its project recommended by city planners. URW had wanted to build a 15,000-seat venue, but planners recommended it be only 7,500 seats.

That recommendation from planners “appears to be based on comments from certain members of the community as to their preferred size and not related to what is permitted and envisioned by the Warner Center Plan,” URW wrote in its appeal.

Now, URW is proposing to shrink the 15,000-seat event venue it wanted, opting for either a 10,000-seat enclosed arena or 7,500-seat open air design.

The updated plans for the redevelopment will include 1,400 new rental units in all, plus 572 hotel rooms, 629,000 square feet of offices, 244,000 square feet of shops, and 5.6 acres of public open space.

URW previously stated that work on the multi-phase project could begin as early as 2021.