AIA|LA Government & Public Affairs Report
From the desk of Will Wright - September 15, 2017

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - State of California

On September 14th, the California Assembly voted to support SB 2: Building Homes and Jobs Act (Atkins) and SB 3: Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 (Beall), which is a $4 billion bond for affordable housing.  If SB 2 passes the California Senate on Friday the 15th and if the Governor signs it, it will levy a $75 fee on mortgage refinancing and other real estate transactions (excluding home and commercial property sales) to raise an estimated $250 million per year to spend on low-income housing.  SB 3 would provide $3 billion for existing housing programs and $1 Billion for veterans’ housing.

As these bills move forward, it provides a path forward for other housing bills such as:
If SB 35 is signed by the Governor, it will require cities and counties to streamline the process and provided expedited review for qualified affordable housing projects.

All of these bills will be helpful tools to provide additional housing for the State of California.


On August 22nd, the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee heard the latest proposal for an affordable housing linkage fee ordinance  and requested the Office of the City Attorney to prepare a final version of the ordinance within 30 days, which will then advance to the full city council for their consideration.  PLUM requested 14 amendments to be integrated into the final version, as well.

Where as originally, the AHLF would have imposed a fee of $5 per square foot on all new commercial and industrial development and $12 per square foot of all new residential housing development, several of the amendments will establish variable fees based on low, medium, medium-high and high market areas ranging from $3 to $15 per square foot, depending on the type of development and the area of town the project will be in, e.g.., South LA, West LA, etc.

These fees, which are meant to be re-calibrated every five years, will in return provide an estimated $75 to $100 million per year to sustain the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (assuming that we maintain today’s level of development intensity).

Certain exemptions are recommended, which will encourage more mixed-income housing production, as well as provisions that integrate more very-low, low income and medium income units into projects.  Ideally, these exemptions will encourage more inclusive development so as to avoid the hefty fees AND advocacy emphasis to date as been on calibrating these exemptions to encourage and direct the delivery of more mixed-income housing, which helps make communities healthier and more complete.

Although it is probably NOT politically wise for AIA|LA to outright oppose the fee and/or I doubt the diverse interests of the AIA membership would reach consensus as to whether or not a AHLF is just, smart and viable, I do recognize some inherent flaws in the entirety of the proposal that, in my opinion, make the AHLF litigiously vulnerable and as tax-payers warrants addition scrutiny to which we should remain sensitive.

For instance, in my humble opinion, the entire nexus that constructing new development within the City of Los Angeles inherently creates an affordability crisis that in turn needs to be mitigated by a fee is questionable.  Does new development activity really induce demand for greater affordability?  Or conversely, does new development activity actually lower the over-all cost to housing by adding value to the region with jobs and additional revenue streams and adding supply to the market in general?

The idea that new development burdens affordability might be true in greenfield settings where the construction of a big-box retail store, per se, and may in turn create additional low-income jobs, which in turn will necessitate the production of housing affordable to those with these new low-income jobs and/or to the infrastructure required for the retail employees to reach their place of employment from their existing home.  But in a city as fully developed as the City of Los Angeles, I think that nexus quickly loses relevance.  

My conjecture is that if the AHLF does pass, that it will be heavily litigated and at great expense.  The nexus that justifies the fee just doesn’t stand strong enough, in my opinion.

Granted we need a self-sustaining and durable affordable housing trust fund to build more low-income housing.  But to add to the cost of living to all, and to add to the cost of housing especially in order to sustain that fund is quite problematic to me.  The proposal from UCLA professors Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen, Michael Lens
 to tax land rather than development makes much, much more sense to me.  Especially if that tax on land was discounted if and when the land was improved/ developed in such a way as to provide for the greater good of the region. That is, you toggle that tax on land to encourage more responsive and responsible market behavior.

ReCODE LA - update

As part of the City of LA Dept of City Planning’s effort to comprehensively update the zoning code with clear and predictable language, ReCODE LA  shared a recent proposal for public comment  which will cit in half the number of project review process needed to gain entitlements.  It was also standardize the process and yet maintain opportunities for public participation.

Comments are actively encouraged from now until September 30th.  Click HERE for more info and/or send your input to Bonnie Kim at[@] and copy Will Wright at will[@]


If adopted by the City Council, the PSH ordinance will establish a set of standardized criteria and definitions for permanent supportive housing and remove regulatory barriers that slow, hinder or impair the construction and development of new supportive housing projects within the City of Los Angeles.

Qualifying projects will receive building incentives such as concessions with setbacks and open space requirements.  Performance standards would also be enhanced to ensure quality design, facade transparency, articulation and street-orientation requirements.  The PSH ordinance will also facility the joint-development of of public-private projects on city-owned lady located in Public Facilities zones.

To qualify a housing development all units are required to be affordable and with at least half of the total must be restricted to persons are are homeless, as well as considerations such as:
  • A dedicated 55-year affordability covenant
  • A one-to-one replacement of any existing affordable units
  • A demonstration of appropriate level of supportive services (on or off-site)

Comments and feedback are encouraged.  Share your recommendations in writing to Cally Hardy at cally.hardy[@]  and copy Will Wright at will[@] by October 30, 2017.

CITYMAKERS: An Urbanism Roundtable

On October 25th, AIA|LA will be co-presenting along with APA-LA a roundtable discussion featuring prominent authors and urbanists Cassim Shepard, Josh Stephens, Chelina Odbert and Geoff Manaugh.  The roundtable will also serve as a chance to further connect with Shepard, who is in town from New York promoting his new book Citymakers, which highlights architects, designers, artists, writers, and public servants and "shares their stories of urban innovation, with a particular emphasis on housing, infrastructure, and the changing nature of cultural institutions.

Manaugh is the Author, A Burglar’s Guide to the City & BLDGBLOG and has just recently moved to Los Angeles from New York.

DESIGN FOR DIGNITY:  Task Force Meetings 

As a follow up to our successful Design For Dignity housing conference this past July, a group of a few dozen volunteers has committed to meeting several times over the next several months to develop and prioritize a list of homelessness & housing policy ‘call to actions’ and to establish a road map to implement recommendations , which can help provide solutions to our affordable housing crisis.  Within 6 to 9 months we aim to have made genuine progress.  

The task force has organized itself into the following categories:

1.  The Design Competition - to highlight innovative approaches to affordable housing typologies, site specific: led by Gio Aliano, AIA of Abode Communities.
2.  The Architecture 101 presentation:  led by Gwynne Pugh, FAIA of Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio.
Because community opposition to projects is often generally based on a lack of knowledge about the societal benefits housing and density, AIA|LA had pledged a commitment to deliver a better public outreach process that can be designed to inspire community support.  A critical component to this process will be a rudimentary presentation that highlights the benefits that well-designed architecture can have on a neighborhood. SAVE THE DATE = October 4th.  Gwynne Pugh, FAIA & Leigh Christy, AIA will share a draft of this presentation at Perkins & Will.
3.  Research & Cognizance: led by Therese Kelly, AIA of Therese Kelly Design
We will create a running inventory of the common obstacles housing providers often encounter when attempting to deliver housing to the market as expeditiously as possible.  These instances will include regulatory barriers, building and zoning code impediments and litigious vulnerabilities established by 
4.  The Infographic Map designed to communicate the complexity of the housing challenge.  Led by Jennifer Schab of Rios Clementi Hale
5.  Temporary Solutions.  What measures can we take immediately to dignify and humanize the experience of living on the streets without shelter?  Mobile showers and bathrooms (hygiene), benches, shade (comfort); pre-fab, modular structures, tiny houses, shipping container homes (quick-fix, temp housing solutions). To be led by Mark Lahmon, AIA of Lahmon Architects

Presently, upcoming task force meetings include:

D4D Task Force Meeting #3 
Thursday, September 21 (6pm - 8pm)
1149 S. Hill Street, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90015

AGENDA: Status update on "moving the needle forward" and identification of specific challenges/ obstacles that need to be resolved.

D4D Task Force Meeting #4
Tuesday, October 10 (6pm - 8pm)
888 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 2170
Los Angeles, CA 90017

AGENDA: A group review of the proposed solution/ outcome. Develop a roadmap to strategic consensus building & partnerships.

D4D Task Force Meeting #5
Wednesday, November 15 (6pm - 8pm)
550 South Hope Street, 27th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90071-2627


Upcoming breakfast receptions include:
Richard Llewellyn Jr. Esq. - Interim City Administrative Officer, City of LA - Friday, September 22 (8:00AM)
Ben Allen - State Senator, District #26 - Wednesday, September 27 (8:00AM)
Kevin de Leon - Senate President pro Tempore, State of CA - Friday, October 20 (8:00AM)
Phillippe Vergne - Director, Museum of Contemporary Art - Friday, November 17 (8:00AM)
Thomas L. Safran - Chairman, Safran & Associates - Friday, December 8 (8am)

In August, we met with the following:

Grayce Liu - General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, City of LA - Friday, August 11 (8:00AM)
Joshua Schank - Chief Innovation Officer, Office of Extraordinary Innovation, METRO - Thursday, August 31 (8:00AM)

Last updated: 15-Sep-2017 04:52 PM
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