The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted its intent to impose a 1 percent civic art fee on non-residential developments in unincorporated areas, but postponed a decision on whether to do the same for residential projects.
In March 2017, the board asked its lawyers to draft an ordinance mandating a 1 percent fee on new, privately developed commercial, industrial and residential properties to fund civic art. The county already requires developers on county-funded public building projects to pay 1 percent of project valuation for the arts, and at least 36 cities countywide have similar policies or ordinances.
The ordinance would apply to projects valued at a minimum of $750,000. As originally drafted to include residential properties, it would exempt affordable housing, performing arts or museum spaces and certain other types of properties.
Developers can meet the requirement by installing or providing art on site — including performances and arts education — valued at 1 percent of the project cost. Or developers can pay 1 percent into a county fund for the arts. The Department of Regional Planning estimates that such a fee could generate between $268,000 and $1.6 million annually for the county arts fund, depending on how many developers choose to participate that way.
During the public hearing, Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn asked their colleagues to postpone a decision on the fee as it applies to residential projects specifically, raising concerns about how it might affect development in a supply-constrained environment.
“The proposed percent for art program is an important goal for achieving more civic and cultural art for the community,” Barger said. “However, it must be done flexibly and efficiently so as not to stifle our new development.”
Barger and Hahn asked for a 60-day delay to address the concerns of community groups, though the speakers who thanked them for the postponement and further consideration were representatives for property owners, developers, builders and commerce associations.
“Any increase to housing construction and any increase to housing costs is a direct increase to housing for middle-income earners,” said Diana Coronado of the Building Industry Association.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl warned her colleagues not to confuse the dire need for affordable housing with a shortage of market-rate housing.
“(Don’t) let market-rate housing somehow hide behind the need that we have for affordable housing,” Kuehl said, adding that she was willing to call the bluff of developers who might warn they’d go elsewhere. “I honestly don’t see people walking away from building market-rate housing in L.A. County. It’s worth a lot.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis said the city of Los Angeles’ long-standing arts fee seemed to have no negative effect on supply.
“They don’t seem to have a problem with getting developers to come downtown and build,” Solis said, noting that there are plenty of vacant apartments, condominiums and townhomes in the area.
The board unanimously approved Barger’s amendment bifurcating residential and non-residential development, which also directs staffers to report back on how credits would be implemented for projects that include some affordable units and to present a full list of fees that the county assesses on residential development.
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