A nonprofit group focused on planning issues is seeking to strike down one of L.A.’s signature programs for building affordable housing and bringing taller, denser apartment buildings to the city’s public transit corridors, it was reported Wednesday.
Fix the City filed a lawsuit last week targeting the city’s Transit Oriented Communities program, which has loosened planning rules for real estate developers who have projects near rail stations and major bus stops.
In a broad-based legal assault, the group said the program, known as TOC, violates city and state laws and should have been approved by the City Council before going into effect, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Fix the City’s lawsuit seeks to overturn the city’s recent approval of a seven-story, 120-unit residential building on Santa Monica Boulevard just west of Century City that relied on the city’s looser planning rules.
Under that program, developers can go taller, include a greater number of housing units or receive other city incentives if at least a portion of their projects are kept affordable for lower income households. The project on Santa Monica is expected to reach 79 feet, instead of the 57 that would be allowed under existing rules, and offer less open space than otherwise permitted, according to the lawsuit, The Times reported.
The Transit Oriented Communities program was established as a result of Measure JJJ, which was approved by L.A. voters three years ago and billed as a way of addressing the city’s homelessness crisis and producing good construction jobs.
Laura Lake, a board member with Fix the City, said she voted for Measure JJJ when it was on the ballot in 2016. But she contends that city officials have not made good on the ballot measure’s promise of higher wages for construction workers.
Lake said city officials improperly used the program to rezone much of the city without securing legislative approval. They also provided developers with incentives, such as increased height, that go beyond what was authorized by the voters, she said.
“We’re challenging more than the one project at 10400 Santa Monica Blvd.,” Lake said. ”We’re challenging a policy and practice that the city is using for all TOC projects. We want that halted and we want the planning department to start all over again with due process, public hearings and do what the voters approved.”
A spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer said the city’s lawyers will review the lawsuit and ”have no further comment at this time.”