The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to oppose a local government association’s assessment of the region’s housing needs, saying that it requires cities with higher-income earners to build far fewer units than lower-income cities, and to build in inopportune employment locations.
The Southern California Association of Governments is scheduled vote on its eight-year housing plans at a meeting Thursday.
SCAG is required to develop a Regional Housing Need Assessment methodology to distribute regional existing and projected housing needs, which covers the planning period of October 2021 through October 2029.
City Councilman David Ryu said the way the numbers of housing requirements are allocated to each city are unfair. Cities that are far from regional job hubs are slated to build far more than cities where job growth is high, and more housing is required from cities with larger populations of low-income earners, he said.
“The proposed SCAG methodology pushes nearly all of those units into cities with low average incomes and into far-flung locales,” Ryu said. “If approved, it will harm the region’s urban centers, harm the environment, increase traffic congestion and continue to disadvantage low-income communities. The crisis of housing that our region faces must be answered by a unified effort to build housing and connect them to jobs through thoughtful transit options.”
Ryu said during the last RHNA cycle, SCAG distributed more than 425,000 units and Los Angeles was given 20% of the burden. The next RHNA cycle calls for 1.3 million units in Southern California, with 35% of them to be built in Los Angeles.
The reasons why the numbers are so much higher this year, city officials said, was because of some changes to state laws that took into consideration overcrowding, access to public transit and cost-burdened communities, but the Southern California region typically scores poorly on those indicators.
“This is an eye-popping number, but what’s truly shocking is how they are distributed,” Ryu said.
According to the proposal, Ryu said cities like Beverly Hills would be required to build about 530 units in the next eight years, whereas Coachella in Riverside County would be required to build about 15,000 in an area that doesn’t have high job-growth or large transit areas.
Calls to SCAG officials were not immediately returned.
Los Angeles city officials said they will provide four recommendations at Thursday’s SCAG meeting to make the process more equitable: reduce the growth forecasts and the reliance on them as a factor in assessing housing needs, modify the job-proximity imbalances, reassess housing locations near public transportation and to build housing where opportunities for job growth are strong.
“This continues the pattern that has created a housing crisis, which is why I voted no (at an SCAG RHNA meeting),” City Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “The pattern of planning will not only continue to increase the housing crisis but also increase the strain on our roads, as more people will be required to travel further.”
The advantage Los Angeles has is that with all 15 city council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti as voting members, it is the largest voting bloc of the 86-member SCAG Regional Council, which would need 43 votes to stop the plan from going forward.
If SCAG’s council does vote to approve the plan as it is written currently, it would then go to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which would comment on its methodology and send it back to the regional council for consideration.
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