Tag Archives: zoning

New Zoning Code – City of Los Angeles

Below is a good summary by the city of its new zoning code and how they think it will be better than the current legacy code.

City Planning is modernizing Los Angeles’s Zoning Code to align with contemporary planning needs. This is the first comprehensive update to the Code since 1946 and marks a major shift from strictly Euclidean zoning—the most common form of land use regulation in the United States—to a hybrid, or modular, zoning approach. 

This shift responds to the desire for zoning that focuses both on land use and buildings’ proposed mass, scale, and characteristics, allowing the Department to separate regulations governing the built environment from a property’s use. The creation of this new framework supports a wider array of options that reflect the cultural and demographic diversity of Los Angeles and its community neighborhoods.

This evolution in planning recognizes that a building’s physical character is equally as important as the uses permitted on-site. Conventional methods of zoning have traditionally focused more on prohibiting uses at a given site than on regulating the built environment. These planning methods reflected the priorities of an earlier period in Los Angeles’s history, when housing choices were limited and dominant interests sought to restrict all types of development other than single-family homes. As times have changed, so have the overall needs and priorities of our City’s communities. 

The proposed modular zoning structure consists of five key modules, or “districts”: Form, Frontage, Development Standards, Use, and Density. While Form, Frontage, and Development Standards regulate the built environment, Use and Density refer to the activities allowed on a site. The new Zoning Code is organized in a clear, consistent way that is easier to navigate than its predecessor and constructed to enhance desired outcomes through objective standards. 

Currently, zoning regulations are scattered throughout the Zoning Code, resulting in an ad hoc and incremental approach to zoning that hinders the Department’s ability to implement adopted plans more effectively.

The new Zoning Code is adaptable to current and future policy needs and will allow planners to implement a wide range of community visions that address the design of the public realm in balance with the local architecture and characteristics of our neighborhoods. Additionally, the new Code is easier to understand and navigate due to the unbundling of regulations for the built environment from activities allowed on a site, as well as other requirements.

Best of all, it consolidates the public benefits incentive programs into one place, including affordable housing, access to bonus FAR/height, and relief/waiver from regulations, thereby creating a predictable and adaptable incentive system.

To provide a framework for this comprehensive revision, the Processes and Procedures Ordinance, anticipated to go to a full Council vote this fall, will reside in Chapter 1A of the Los Angeles Municipal Code and establish a new home for the updated Zoning Code.

DTLA DRAFT MAP OF LAND USE AND ZONING

The above map is a draft version of the Downtown Los Angeles Map of Land Use and Zoning. On the left is the Financial Distict and South Park while on the right is the Warehouse District and Arts District.

The City Planning Commission is updating the Downtown Plan for future growth and changes in land use. The new plan will set a new direction for the future of DTLA to guide the physical development of neighborhoods, and establish goals and policies for land use in addition to a range of planning topics, including streets and open space, urban design, mobility, and arts and culture.

Heavy Industrial zoning would be removed. A new Hybrid Industrial Zone would dominate in the Arts District.

In the upper right section the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP) area encompasses a large area sometimes known as the North Industrial District. Older generations may refer to it as part of Chinatown or Dogtown.

In a June 14, 2021 letter by the Chinatown Stakeholders to the Planning Commission, CASP was addressed per the below excerpt which is somewhat critical.

In the Cornfield – Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (“CASP”) adopted in 2013, City Planning attempted to promote infill development in the CASP area but also sought to limit the percentage of residential space in the floor area of new projects. This had the unintended effect of discouraging new development even at a time when other parts of the Central City were experiencing a development boom. The only project within the CASP area that has been approved since adoption of CASP (1457 N. Main St., with 244 live/work units) moved forward only as a result of the Central Area Planning Commission granting (in May 2020) an exception from CASP’s limitation of residential uses not exceeding 15 percent of the floor area. The City Council subsequently approved Councilmember Cedillo’s motion (Council File No. 13-0078-S2) directing City Planning to review the land use incentives in CASP to determine whether they had the net effect of discouraging the production of mixed-income housing.

In addition to the above commentary, the Shimoda Design Group submitted its criticism of the draft plan as per below excerpt:

The draft plan website states “Several years ago, City Planning set out to create a modern and efficient zoning system for Los Angeles. The proposed approach aims to establish a new Zoning Code that is more responsive to the needs of Los Angeles’s neighborhoods, in addition to being easier to use.”

These are noble goals, but the current draft of the code does not show itself to be more responsive to local needs, nor is it easier to use. We believe that the zoning sections regarding Form, Frontage, Standards & Use and Density are too prescriptive and need to be revised to allow for creativity and diversity in aesthetics and construction. As it stands this document is too granular and contains many contradictions in its prescription. The density and the complexity of the current version will create an administrative nightmare for the city in its implementation and interpretation. Many of the prescriptions for dimensional minimums and maximums are not reflective of real market conditions and place unnecessary limitations on creativity. The code will inadvertently create requirements that will effectively neuter Los Angeles as a competitive and desirable place to invest in. The result will negatively impact the future of Los Angeles.

We strongly believe that the current draft needs further revisions and input from the professional design and development community prior to adoption. The draft analysis of the Downtown, Arts District, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown districts in particular need to be reconsidered and not be defined by transitory cultural associations, a form-based code or by prescribed use requirements that will not evolve over time to reflect the community that it serves. We strongly believe and support the up zoning of all of these areas to increase density and affordability.

The CASP is a land use document that governs a 600-acre industrial area interspersed with clusters of residential neighborhoods, commercial activity, City-owned land, affordable housing developments, and open spaces, such as the Los Angeles State Historic Park (the “Cornfield”). The area contains 3.7 million square feet of industrial space—the most
prevalent use in the CASP—of which 74 percent is used for warehousing, storage, or distribution. There are about 1,800 dwelling units in the CASP, three-quarters of which are in multi-family buildings, totaling about 6,200 residents.

Vernon Warehouse Tax

 

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After two years of deliberation a new City of Vernon Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance was approved by the City Council and became effective on January 16, 2008.  Now the “2009 Issue” no longer will complicate owning property in Vernon.  Industrial real estate brokers and prospective property buyers can now feel relieved regarding this issue.

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However, not all is well in the Exclusively Industrial city.  City officials are considering an increase in the Special Parcel Tax which was intended to support the improvement and maintenance of city streets.  As the city’s businesses slowly changed from manufacturing to warehousing and distribution over the past few decades, the city sought increased revenues to address the infrastructure crumbling under the heavy truck traffic. Originally implemented in 1998, the tax applied to properties containing non-refrigerated warehouse uses, truck and freight terminal uses and other distribution uses.