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The city of West Hollywood has identified enough potential housing units to satisfy state requirements for the city’s 2021-29 Sixth Cycle Housing Element Update, a policy guide that aims to promote sustainable, economically diverse communities, according to city officials.
The city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which is determined by the state, calls for West Hollywood to help facilitate the creation of approximately 4,000 units, including more than 1,000 very low-income units and approximately 700 low-income units by October 2029. The city added approximately 2,000 housing units last cycle, with 77 required by the state.
On June 21, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved the housing element’s draft site inventory and the update’s timelines for the community engagement and final adoption processes.
“The good news is that, through the process, we were successful in identifying over 4,300 units that could theoretically pencil out and accommodate [RHNA requirements] to meet those needs,” Matt Maddox, of Rincon Consultants, said during a presentation to the council.
The city contracted with Rincon, as well as the lead consultant, Veronica Tam & Associates Inc., in August 2020 to assist with the update. Since then, staff has hosted kickoff meetings, created a road map for the project and presented its public engagement strategy to the council, among other things.
Staff members and consultants identified the potential for more than 1,800 units at underutilized sites in the city, as well as more than 1,200 at “previously identified” underutilized sites, Maddox said. Thirty-two units from approved projects were included, as were 670 from pending projects, he said.
“We didn’t identify the need to rezone or upzone any of the parcels within the community,” Maddox added.
However, staff members may propose “a number of amendments” to the zoning ordinance after the adoption of the housing element, said Rachel Dimond, senior planner in the city’s Long Range Planning Division. She clarified that any proposed housing developments included in the update would still go through the proper approval process.
Councilman John D’Amico, who was not in attendance, sent a memo prior to the meeting, asking that the council direct staff to review the Los Angeles County zoning that was in place prior to the incorporation of the city in 1984.
Specifically, he requested that staff look into neighborhoods where it would be “feasible and rational” to increase zoning back to county levels to help West Hollywood “plan for and produce” more housing.
“Staff should also consider if some neighborhoods may benefit from increased zoning that is somewhere between the current zoning and the prior county levels, instead of reverting to the full county density,” D’Amico wrote.
Councilman John Erickson agreed and called for D’Amico’s suggestion to be included in the housing element update – in hopes of expediting some affordable housing projects.
“One thing that I think is really important is for us to look at the ways in which our housing element provides a unique opportunity to look at the past and how it can actually impact the present [in] positive ways,” Erickson said.
He referenced a motion presented by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nithya Raman, 4th District, that called for a strategic plan to streamline 100% deedrestricted affordable housing developments in L.A.
Those kinds of projects “oftentimes take way too long,” Erickson said. “The appeals process is way too lengthy.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister said D’Amico’s suggestion is a “great idea” but should be separate from the housing element, which only requires that the city have the capacity for economically diverse housing.
“For the purposes of that document, it doesn’t really matter,” she said, adding that including the request in the housing element could complicate the process. Meister also questioned how many rent-stabilized units would be lost if certain neighborhoods were upzoned.
“We should be looking at this as well,” Meister said. “It’s not all positives. There are some concerns.” Councilwoman Sepi Shyne said she agreed with Meister but was “fascinated” by D’Amico’s memo and would like more information from staff. Mayor Lindsey Horvath invited D’Amico and Erickson to bring the upzoning review before the council at a later date.
Last week’s approval was another step toward the housing element update’s Feb. 12, 2022, deadline. Originally, the update was due on Oct. 15; however, staff opted to utilize an optional 120-day extension for additional meetings and input.
Dimond said staff members have proposed several dates for commission meetings and a third task force meeting in July. In August, the City Council is scheduled to review a draft of the housing element, with a public comment period on the environmental impact report coming in the fall, she said.
For information, visit weho.org/housingelement.
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