Following the conclusion of the participatory planning process for the redesign of Rolland Curtis Gardens, T.R.U.S.T. South LA and Abode Communities, with the support and leadership of the Expo/Vermont Neighbors Organizing Committee, engaged in the City’s land use and permitting approval. In order to accomplish the community vision for Rolland Curtis we sought several land-use and zoning changes, called entitlements from the City of Los Angeles, including but not limited to:
- A General Plan amendment and zone change to change the current use from multi-family residential to community commercial allowing for increased density and commercial uses on the property.
- Through the General Plan amendment and zone change we have also asked for street modifications to make the surrounding sidewalks more pedestrian friendly.
- Additionally, by taking advantage of “off-menu” density bonus incentives, we have asked the Department of City Planning to allow for a 20% reduction in residential parking from 1:1 to .8:1 and to increase the allowable height.
Depending on the scale and degree of a particular request, different types of entitlements require varying levels of review. Some entitlements in Los Angeles require documentation and rationale for any requested land-use changes, to be reviewed by a hearing officer, the City Planning Commission, the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the City Council, to the Mayor’s office for a recommendation, put to a full City Council vote, and then to the Mayor’s Office for a final signature.
A successful entitlement application is assisted by support from local stakeholders and decision makers. The Expo/Vermont Neighbors Organizing Committee comprised of current Rolland Curtis Gardens Tenants, participants, and neighbors continue to advocate for the development by presenting to stakeholders, like the North Area Neighborhood Development Council (local neighborhood council), whose support throughout the entitlement and permitting period is critical to the success of Rolland Curtis Gardens. Furthermore, the Expo/Vermont Neighbors Organizing Committee meets regularly to discuss and promote their vision for the greater neighborhood.
The entitlement and permitting period will take up to 12 months to execute (June 2014) followed by the acquisition of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to finance of the rebuild of Rolland Curtis Gardens. By March of 2017, we expect every unit of affordable housing and the commercial space at the new Rolland Curtis Gardens will be developed and leased.
|Submit Entitlements||Sept 2013|
|Submit to HCIDLA Managed Timeline||January 2014|
|Secure Entitlements||August 2014|
|Apply for Tax Credits||March 2015|
|Award for Tax Credits||July 2015|
|Begin Construction||December 2015|
|Complete Construction||August 2017|
|100% Occupancy||November 2017|
POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS
The preservation and redevelopment of Rolland Curtis Gardens has strong political implications for the City of Los Angeles, the surrounding community, and even for the county and state. The genuine absence of political support, land-use mechanisms, and lack of government funding for the acquisition of land severely limits the preservation of affordable housing near transit. As one of the first large-scale affordable TODs in the neighborhoods South of downtown Los Angeles, communities throughout L.A., municipalities in other parts of the state, local organizations, and those out of state can learn from our experience and work to advance policies that encourage the preservation and development of new affordable housing near transit.
At the community level:
- Our far-reaching community engagement process and documentation provides other developers and community based organizations with the tools to host their own planning processes in the hope that an ever increasing number of developments are designed in a participatory manner.
- We built a popular education definition of Transit Oriented Development for neighborhood residents, based on definitions from partner organizations involved in equitable TOD campaigns as well as widely accepted industry definition of equitable TOD. Our definition combined architecture, urban planning, and community definitions of co-locating housing, commercial uses, jobs, and transit.
At the City-Wide level:
- The redevelopment of Rolland Curtis Gardens will be the first large-scale affordable TOD on the Metro Expo Line, and will set precedent for developments nearby and transit communities throughout the city and country.
- As the Los Angeles Department of City Planning rolls out its newest Community Plans with the first ever Community Plan Implementation Overlays (CPIO), newly developed zoning guidelines near transit will permit significantly higher density within a half-mile of new train stations. Rolland Curtis Gardens is poised to be the first development closely aligned with the CPIO for the South LA Community Plan, with both high density and protected affordable housing.
- The community land trust ownership model at Rolland Curtis Gardens will ensure permanent community control of the land and therefore the affordability of rental housing in a transit rich neighborhood. Recent trends have shown that new developments near transit rent predominately at market rate or even luxury prices. Rolland Curtis Gardens aims to reverse this inequitable development pattern through the alternative land stewardship model of a partnership between Abode Communities (the developer and ‘owner’ of the building or improvements) and T.R.U.S.T. South LA, a community land trust which will own the land in perpetuity.
- To support developments like Rolland Curtis Gardens, cities across the country need to adopt ‘No-net loss’ zones around transit. These zones would create requirements to maintain the same number of low-cost housing units for the same income levels through preservation or construction strategies. A ‘no net loss’ policy would limit the number of conversions from affordable to market rate housing near transit, ensuring that low-income families have access to reasonably priced homes, transportation, and jobs.
- The rising cost of land near transit and therefore the increased challenge of acquiring property nearby, demands the implementation of ‘value capture’ strategies such as tax increment financing to generate crucial funding for affordable housing preservation and development in transit rich neighborhoods. For example, the City of Atlanta initiated “a tax allocation district (TAD)—which is expected to generate $1.3 to $1.7 billion over 25 years by capturing rising property tax revenues from selected properties along the new BeltLine corridor” (a current initiative which would build a light-rail system, parks and trails, and nodes of mixed-income, mixed use TOD along a 22-mile stretch of abandoned freight rail that encircles the city’s core). The Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative (ALTC), amplifies this funding through its unique structure as both an independent, citywide CLT and a central hub for neighborhood- based CLTs along the BeltLine, handling strategic planning and certain administrative functions.
- Additional value is also added to property through land use/zoning changes, i.e. upzoning, which can be leveraged to provide benefits for the community, including the provision of affordable housing, open space, other community benefits. In Los Angeles, a newly passed specific plan called the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan uses this form of value capture by keeping density low but encouraging developers to take advantage of the Affordable Housing Density Bonus program in California.
At the County level:
- An additional impact of the statewide dissolution of redevelopment in 2012 has been the transfer of funding from the State to the County Level, called ‘boomerang funding’, part of which has been allocated to fund affordable housing in L.A. County. Rolland Curtis Gardens exemplifies the type of development that the newly acquired ‘boomerang funding’ should support, due to its alignment with Countywide and local transit orientation policy.
At the State level:
- In California, the dissolution of the redevelopment agencies eliminated the application of Tax Increment Financing for cities throughout the state. The current piecemeal approach to affordable housing development near transit is challenging both financially and in terms of its scale. New state policy could institute local administration of ‘value capture’ strategies, which would facilitate the development affordable housing near transit at a much larger scale than the current piecemeal approach.
- The challenges we faced in the acquisition of funding for Rolland Curtis Gardens presents an opportunity to advocate for a permanent source of affordable housing financing in the wake of the dissolution of the CRA and with the exhaustion of previously approved statewide bond money. For instance, Prop 1C, passed in 2006, provided funding for affordable and market rate housing near TOD and Urban Infill until 2010. California needs to make a commitment to alternative forms of land tenure that decrease speculation and equitable transit oriented development.