City Council members and mayors from across Southern California voted Thursday, March 5 to adopt an eight-year regional housing plan, which Los Angeles officials said will make residential development requirements more equitable, but which representatives from some cities said requires an overburdening amount of new units.
The plan from the Southern California Association of Governments allocates 1.3 million housing units to Southland municipalities, based on a state requirement. The number of affordable units each city is required to build is based on household growth, access to transit and jobs. Input from localities is also taken into consideration, according to the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment.
The SCAG Regional Council is expected to publish a draft of the RHNA allocations on April 2.
In November, the regional council, which is made up of 86 city council members and mayors, voted to not use methods that rely heavily on household growth forecasts to determine where housing should be built.
Instead, the regional council will use a different method and examine a set of recommendations made by the 16-member Los Angeles voting bloc to see if the original plan’s numbers will be “significantly” altered.
The regional council’s methodology could result in the allocation of about 455,000 units to be built in Los Angeles in the next eight years — and increase Beverly Hill’s allocation, for example, to more than 3,100 units, according to a spreadsheet that SCAG officials distributed.
In late February, a letter from the city of Cerritos was submitted to a SCAG subcommittee that asked them to use a third methodology that emphasizes household growth.
This method would have reduced the number of housing units some municipalities would have to build, but not as few as the original proposal, and the city of Los Angeles and a couple others would still receive the lion’s share of required housing.
The latest proposal caused a rift in the SCAG board meeting, as some claimed that Los Angeles has not done its due diligence in assessing the amounts cities should receive.
Long Beach City Councilmember Rex Richardson, who is the SCAG regional council vice president, said the 1.3 million units the state is requiring SCAG to divvy up among the cities is “not the right number,” and that SCAG staff and studies have found it’s too much.
“The question here is, is the methodology equitable and does it meet and […] follow state law?” Richardson said. “If we win on the conversation of whether the number was right or wrong, then everyone’s numbers go down. That’s where the focus should be.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he’d heard SCAG representatives say that the methodology that was approved in November was seen as a conspiracy engineered by Los Angeles to move housing units to other areas, yet the city is taking on more than it initially would have.
“There was really no conspiracy […] and we’re all trying to do the best for our areas,” Garcetti said. “The state has (set) huge goals for us, and we don’t know […] how we’re going to do more. I feel you. I hear you. We’re in that same predicament altogether. If we don’t figure out ways to knock down all the impediments, from financial to regulatory to the cost of building housing, we’re going to see our children’s dreams leave and go to another state.”
Irvine Mayor Pro Tempore Michael Carroll said that the allocation of 23,000 units to his city of 280,000 is in no way equitable and he questioned the way the Regional Council came to its decision on the methodology.
“This (regional council) did not work together. This body had a process and the process consisted of meetings that were run by the committee chairs and multiple community functions,” Carroll said. “That methodology was upended by the attendance of members who don’t think it’s important to attend and they’re busy doing other things, and I would daresay that we are all busy doing other things. If housing is that important, I find it strange that not a single member of this body from the city of Los Angeles sits on the (SCAG) Housing Committee.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu cautioned that if the regional council voted to start a new process of reviewing another methodology, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development could step in, taking away their local control over the housing allocations.
Los Angeles city officials argued that new housing needs to be built closer to where jobs are clustered and where people most need the housing.
Many cities that are not near job hubs and may not develop employment centers in the near future were initially allocated many more housing units than affluent cities such as Laguna Beach or Beverly Hills.