I am worried about 7 story apartment buildings being plunked down in the middle of single family neighborhoods without any public hearings and without the possibility of appeal through the City or through the Courts! That’s why I am opposing 5 such projects which have been proposed in our community (CD3).
At the end of last year, to help address the homelessness crisis, Mayor Karen Bass issued Executive Directive 1 (ED1) which created a streamlined approval process for 100% affordable housing projects. Under this process, the City has no discretion over ED1 projects, meaning they are automatically approved if they meet some basic criteria. Unlike the regular approval process, they have no public hearings, are not appealable, are not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and therefore are not subject to lawsuits.
Months after the Mayor authored ED1, the Planning Department realized that it did not explicitly say it was meant only to be applied to areas zoned for apartments. Given our housing crisis, it makes sense to streamline in areas that are already zoned for multi-family, but it makes no sense in areas where such large buildings would stick out like a sore thumb.
A handful of developers took advantage of the ambiguity in ED1 and quickly submitted large affordable housing projects in single family areas. The Mayor’s office has, appropriately, made clear that her intent was not for the ED1 streamlining to be used in these areas. While the Mayor has now ensured that ED1 explicitly does not apply in single family neighborhoods, eight projects were submitted before she clarified her order.
Once the intent was made clear, those 8 projects were taken off the fast/no public hearing track. However, 3 developers have objected and appealed the City’s decision to follow the intent of the law. Unfortunately, the brunt of the impact of these 8 projects would be in our community (CD 3). This is a real problem and I want to be clear with you about what is happening, and what I’m doing to help ensure that our voices are not silenced.
Five of the eight properties are located in the northern part of CD3, in Reseda, Winnetka and Canoga Park. The first appeal from the eight cases was heard by the City Council on September 27th for a 200 unit, 100 percent affordable apartment building proposed in Sherman Oaks. Even though the Mayor and the Planning Department didn’t think that the project approval should be streamlined, the Councilmember for the area supported the project and urged the Council to grant the developer’s appeal to be allowed to use ED1 streamlining.
During the discussion, I pushed for that project and all 8 projects to follow a normal application process by denying the developer’s appeal. Against my legal and policy objections, the Council voted down my motion (8 votes to 5) and the seven story Sherman Oaks project was given the go ahead to be built.
On October 3, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) addressed the second of these 8 projects, in Winnetka. The fast track/no hearing ED1 process does not require any notice to neighbors who will be impacted. This is why you probably are hearing about this project now for the first time. Located at 8217 Winnetka, they have proposed a 7-story building slated for about 350 units. I say ‘about’ because the proposal had an inconsistent number of units — an oversight I rarely see and that indicates how hastily the application was put together.
I personally testified before the Committee and urged opposition to using ED1 for this project and asked them to deny the developer’s appeal. Fortunately, the committee listened and voted to deny the appeal. The decision will be brought to the full City Council for a final vote, and even should we win that vote, the developer could still sue.
The other proposed projects in our community are located at 7745 Wilbur, 7947 Wilbur, 19448 Saticoy and 8550 Variel. I will push for them to go through the regular approval process. And to be clear- I am in favor of ED1 to speed the building of apartments in areas already zoned for apartment buildings. I cannot support 7 story buildings being approved in single family neighborhoods without public hearings and input.
Please contact me or my Planning Director, Elizabeth Ene, at [email protected], if you have any questions or concerns.
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