Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles City Council directed attorneys Wednesday to draft an ordinance that would give amnesty to the owners of illegal residential units, as part of a larger effort to retain affordable housing in the city.

The proposed ordinance would give owners of multi-family complexes a path toward making their unapproved units legal, as long as the units are kept affordable, are safe to live in and comply with other conditions.

Councilman Felipe Fuentes said existing city laws do not give property owners enough time to work at bringing their illegal units into compliance, leading to tenant evictions in about 80 percent of such dwellings found by the city.

“We ending up displacing families,” Fuentes said. By changing the process, “we can add some flexibility to the existing law so that we preserve these units,” he said.

The illegal units that would be affected by such a measure are usually converted from non-residential spaces, such as rec rooms, into living units, and are usually livable but out of compliance with the area’s zoning laws, Fuentes said.

Fuentes introduced a motion last year calling for an alternative way of dealing with the units. He said he hopes to next tackle illegal living spaces converted from garages, which are tougher to bring into compliance.

Other cities, such as San Francisco, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, have already set up ways for unapproved housing units to be brought into compliance.

The city issued citations against the owners of 2,560 illegal units between 2010 and 2015, according to a city report. While 201 were legalized, 1,765 were ultimately removed, leaving tenants of those units without affordable housing.

The proposed amnesty period would apply to the remaining 594 unapproved units that have not been removed, and others that have not yet been identified.

— City News Service

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