Residential/Industrial Land-Use Conflicts: Conserving Industrial Land in Southeast Development

According to the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), the conversion of industrial buildings to market rate residential units is arguably the single most significant issue facing the downtown industrial community.  They believe the growth of residential developments on industrial land has the potential to decrease the number of jobs for low-skill, transit dependent workers.  Of particular concern to the CRA/LA is the impact of  future housing development in the Southeast downtown sub-area, an industrially zoned region bound by Alameda St to the east, the 10 Freeway to the south, the Central Industrial (CI) redevelopment project area border to the west and 7th St to the north. 

The purpose of this report is to inform the CRA/LA on how to best preserve industrial land in the Southeast downtown sub-area.  From our evaluation of policy options available to the Agency, according to their political feasibility, effectiveness, and technical feasibility, we provide two recommendations to the CRA/LA: 

1)  Define and adopt explicit standards for recommending land-use policies 

The CRA/LA has the final decision authority to approve or deny residential conversions on industrially zoned land in the Southeast downtown sub-area.  However, CRA/LA staff in the area often feels pressured by members of their designated citizen review body, the Central Industrial Citizen Advisory Committees (CICAC), and other stakeholders who generally support the prevailing trend to convert.  Because the current criteria used for making decisions about residential conversions remain relatively ambiguous, adopting explicit standards will guide CRA/LA staff to effectively evaluate the merits of a residential conversion project, regardless of politically-motivated influence.   

2)  Include the CRA/LA earlier in the Zoning Investigation Process 

All of the residential conversions of industrial buildings require the developer to obtain a permit from the Office of Zoning Administration in the Department of City Planning.  However, CRA/LA staff is not included in this process until 24 days before the public hearing; on average 53 days after the case has been filed at the Planning Department public counter.  While CRA/LA staff are trained to examine the effects of land-use decisions on the surrounding area, this late notification severely limits their ability to adequately inform the Zoning Administrators on the impact of multiple residential conversions on the area’s total industrial land. Including the CRA/LA earlier in 7 the Zoning Investigation process, therefore, will allow them to better inform Zoning Administrators to deny residential conversions in the Southeast downtown sub-area, when appropriate, by showing that the proposed housing (in combination with the units already in the downtown industrial area) will both displace the currently vital industries there, as well as make it impossible for future industrial development.    

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