L.A. City Affordable Housing Policy
Mello Act Compliance: The Mello Act is a California State Law that requires all development within the coastal zone (1 mile from the coast) to include affordable housing. In 1998, POWER member group Venice Community Housing Corporation along with other neighborhood associations, sued the City of Los Angeles for not enforcing the Mello Act. In 2001, this group won a settlement forcing local developers to either set aside 20% of their units as low-income housing or 10% of their units as very low-income housing. The first real test of this agreement is a new 296 unit development in Venice proposed by the largest development corporation in the U.S.: Trammell Crow Residential. Yet, Trammell Crow refused to comply with the Mello Act and include affordable housing in this development.
POWER leaders fought for the past year on multiple levels of local government to ensure Trammell Crow’s compliance with the Mello Act. Hundreds of POWER leaders worked to make presentations at local area planning committee meetings, held briefings with every member of the Los Angeles City Council to win their support and launched a letter writing and phone campaign targeting our local City Council member Cindy Miscikowski. POWER also met with key figures of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee and successfully exposed a conflict of interest with a Trammell Crow consultant.
L.A. County Affordable Housing Policy
The County’s Proposed Marina Housing Policy Dilutes the Requirement to Provide Housing for Low-Income and Working Class Families in the Marina, County Owned Land
We are at the height of a housing crisis. Because of a state law called the Mello Act, Marina del Rey, which is County owned, is perhaps the only area in the County where improving the community doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all of the low-income and working class people. But the County has proposed a housing policy for Marina del Rey that pulls the rug out from under the Mello Act and under the people who are most in need of housing. Instead of creating a strong affordable housing requirement, the County policy bends over backwards to create loopholes and exemptions to ensure that developers can maximize profit, even if it means affordable units area lost and never replaced, and even if it means thatwe get less new affordable housing that we desperately need.
The Mello Act requires that if it is feasible to provide housing for persons and families of low or moderate income at a new housing development in the coastal zone, that housing must be provided. But the County has found every possible way to help developers ignore or avoid this law that protects us. The County’ Policy:
- Requires that new developments contain only 5% Very Low or 10% Low income units, even though right next door in Venice, developers have been complying with the City’s standard of 10% Very Low or 20% Low income.
- Allows developers to subtract any number of units already on the site.
- Allows developers to subtract any number of density bonus units.
As a result, a 100 unit project that could feasibly provide 10 units of affordable housing may only have to provide 2.5 units under the County’s Policy (given a 5% inclusionary requirement, a 25% density bonus reduction and a 25% reduction based on 25 pre-existing units).
The Policy needs to ensure that what little affordable housing we have is replaced if it is destroyed. Instead, the Policy is full of developer friendly loopholes:
- The Policy says that a developer can replace a unit that was afforable to households with Extremely Low ($16,500/year), Very Low ($27,000/year) or Low ($44,000/year) incomes with a unit that is affordable to a Moderate income household ($66,000/year).
- The Policy says that a developer can put replacement units anywhere in the coastal zone.
- The Policy says that only bedrooms—as opposed to actual units—housing lower income people have to be replaced.
So the Policy easily allows a developer to destroy a very low income family’s home in the Marina and replace it with a housing unit in San Pedro with fewer bedrooms that’s affordable only to a Moderate income family. That is not replacement housing. And that is not what the Mello Act requires.
The Policy cuts down the number of units that have to be replaced through more loopholes that allows under-counting of units tht have to be replaced.
- The Policy says that developers don’t have to count:
- units occupied by resident managers
- units occupied by sub-lessees
- units occupied by students whose parents claim them as dependents, or whose parents guarantee the rent, even if the students are paying the rend themselves
- units that are vacant as early on in the process as commencement of term sheet negotiations
- The Policy requires roommates to be unrelated and financially independent of each other in order for their incomes to be counted separately.
The Policy allows off-site rehabilitated units to count as the developer’s affordable housing obligation. In other words, a developer could take an affordable unit off the market in the Marina and replace it with a rehabilitated unit outside of the Marina. Because rehabilitation is cheaper than new construction, developers have an incentive to build off-site.
STAND UP! SPEAK OUT! FIGHT BACK!
Contact us for more information: (310) 392-9700.