From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs
Action needed for Building Infrastructure Success
The recently Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure package (H.R. 3684) included important policies to improve America’s buildings. However, there is much more to do as Congress debates new infrastructure investments. Help this critical campaign by contacting your Member of Congress today to urge for building sector investments in any federal infrastructure bill.
Three Steps to Zero Carbon: URGENT CALL TO ACTION
Architecture 2030 is calling on all architects, engineers, planners, and individuals involved in the building sector worldwide to design all new projects, renovations, landscapes, cityscapes, and infrastructure to be zero carbon starting now.
As emphasized by AIA National’s recipient of the 2021 Gold Medal, Ed Mazria, FAIA: “If our community acts together today, we can mitigate and even prevent the worst effects of climate change. Our calling is, and has always been, to make the world a better place. Now is the time to step up and help protect life on this planet.”
Advancing AIALA’s Call for Action: House All Angelenos
Over the past few weeks members of AIA Los Angeles have met with planning deputies from Council Districts 14, 11, 4, and 2.
The ideas that have resonated the most include the need to perform a comprehensive audit of the current departmental clearance process and the need to establish an ombudsman that will fast-track affordable housing projects and resolve interdepartmental snags and delays.
Upcoming meetings include Council Districts 8 and 10 (RSVP below) and we’ll continue to schedule meetings with additional council offices.
AIA LA & Council District #8 (Marqueece Harris-Dawson) = Housing For All
When: Sept 3, 2021 (1:00pm – 2:30pm)
AIA LA & Council District #10 (Mark Ridley-Thomas) = Housing For All
When: Sept 7, 2021 (11:00am – 12:00pm)
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with details about how to participate in these working sessions via zoom.
These meetings serve as a forum for architects to share insight about AIALA’s Call To Action To House All Angelenos and specific recommendations for how we can improve the entitlement, permitting, and regulatory process to facilitate a more effective way to deliver housing to the market.
One of the prime recommendations we are advancing is the need for the City of LA to create an affordable housing overlay ordinance that permits all projects with at least 50% affordable units to be built by-right.
Additional ideas include:
1. To advance legislation to make housing choice vouchers universally available to low-income households, modernizing and expanding the Section 8 program to make it more palatable to housing providers. Congress can pay for this added expense by eliminating the annual $25 billion mortgage interest deduction subsidy.
2. Prioritize and fast-track interim, transitional, and supportive housing that is designated to serve our currently houseless population by delegating authority to HCID-LA for the approval of funding commitments and LACP for by-right entitlements.
3. Acquisition as a complement to new construction:
A. Incentivize private capital with property tax abatements to purchase and rehab existing housing, to preserve neighborhoods, and extend affordability covenants (> 50 years). This will also extend the useful life of buildings, reduce GhGs and optimize embodied carbon, prevent displacement, and leverage public investment more broadly.
B. Expand and streamline a Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), which will allow qualified, mission-driven housing providers “the right of first offer and/or refusal to purchase eligible properties to prevent displacement and create long-term affordability.”
4. Establish and scale-up a ‘missing middle’ home-ownership program for communities of color, utilizing the design solutions offered in the recent Lowrise LA competition.
5. Eliminate site plan review for all housing projects that are 100% affordable, and raise the threshold to 200 units for all housing in general.
6. For projects with at least 50% affordable housing, establish a by-right entitlement process that can be approved by LACP over the counter, consolidating all of the various zoning clearances required by all of the other city departments. This will free up City personnel resources and allow LADBS to more effectively focus on building code plan check and inspections.
7. Sunset low impact development provisions for housing projects for at least five years, or until we’ve reached our affordability targets and ‘functional zero’.
8. Audit the existing departmental clearance process, re-configure departmental authority, and consolidate or eliminate clearances that are not essential to fire, life, and safety.
DTLA 2040 and the New Zoning Code
On August 26th, the City Planning Commission voted to continue their hearing on the new zoning code and DTLA 2040 community plan update at the request of Council Districts 1, 9, and 14. The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, September 23 (8:30am). All AIA members are highly encouraged to review both proposed new zoning code and the DTLA 2040 community plan update and share comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and please copy email@example.com so I can keep updated on your comments and concerns.
The AIALA Government Outreach Committee (GO!) has been actively engaged with meetings with Los Angeles City Planning and is in the process of updating a letter that includes their remarks, recommendations, and key concerns. If you’re interested in getting involved with that effort, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share zoom access to our working group meetings.
To better understand the prospective impacts of the new zoning code on the Arts District in Downtown LA, AIA members Joey Shimoda, FAIA and Chris Carlton, AIA have prepared a VISUAL STUDY.
This visual study also helps to reinforce the concerns we’re hearing from the AIALA Government Outreach Committee (GO!) members Chava Danielson, AIA and Tracy Stone, AIA: 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 negate Los Angeles as a competitive and desirable place to invest in. The result will negatively effect the future of Los Angeles.
An example of this issue occurs with the establishment of ‘build to’ requirements – an element in many cities’ zoning and planning documents but new to Los Angeles. We support the Planning Department goals of activating street fronts and the public realm in general, however, this is a dated tool that we feel will have the opposite effect in Los Angeles. The creation of a strong street wall using ‘build to’ requirements increases privatization and enclosure of ground floor spaces, increasing segregation between neighborhoods and exacerbating the problem of under sized sidewalk widths throughout most of our city. Pedestrian Amenity Allowances will be a great tool in this regard and should be allowed up to the full width of the lot frontage, by right
PLEASE NOTE: The team from Los Angeles City Planning working on the new zoning code are doing a diligent, careful, and comprehensive overall of the zoning code to consolidate all of the provisions into a centralized location. However, the downside is that too often the City of LA asks its zoning code to execute specific policies and societal outcomes, while perhaps well-intended, do little more than to bake-in potential inequities or unintentional (and litigious) complexities down the road. The fix in my opinion is to not ask our zoning code to arbitrate societal challenges and instead address those challenges on a separate framework.
The Effects of Project Labor Agreements on Affordable Housing Production
SCANPH in partnership with the RAND Corporation is hosting a virtual forum on September 9th (2:30pm) to highlight a new report that details the impact of project labor agreements on Prop HHH housing developments.
RSVP HERE if you’d like to attend.
AIA CA is actively tracking forty-five legislative items and issued a list that details support and opposition, as well as, a status update and brief synopsis explaining the prospective impact of each item of legislation.
AIA CA is on record in support of SB 10, but has selected to remain neutral on SB 9.
CLICK HERE to access to the list of 45 state senate and assembly bills.
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted on a resolution to express their opposition to both SB 9 & 10. Personally, I found their opposition deeply disappointing and severely misguided because SB 9 and SB 10 would slowly allow for more low-rise and missing-middle solutions and a greater mixture of housing typologies to be integrated into neighborhoods (over time). Also, in my opinion – there is a misguided fear that legislation like SB 9 and SB 10 is going to transform neighborhoods overnight. The direct beneficiaries are existing property owners, not developers per se – and the shift to transform parcels is inherently “locally controlled” by the existing property owner. That is to say, there is no “magic wand” but rather the need for the widest array of land-use tools we can assemble.
Both SB 9 & 10 are still alive and will next be heard by the California Senate. The California Assembly voted 44-16 to advance SB 9 and 41 to 12 to advance SB 10.
AIA National has just released their Call for Proposals for the A’22 conference.
Proposal are due by September 19th.
AIA National also just officially launched a new digital grassroots advocacy program through Phone2Action (P2A), a leading technology company for civic participation and stakeholder engagement.
California is one of the 16 states that will be included inter pilot program to the use the P2A platform. Look out for an email from AIA National announcing the initiative.
For more information, please contact Davon Gray, Sr. Director of Advocacy Capacity Development at email@example.com