How One L.A. Developer Uses the Law to Build Apartments

California’s density bonus law lets developers skirt some zoning regulations to build multifamily housing.

2 minute read

August 11, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Google street view of late Victorian home in Harvard Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, with one-story commercial building next door.

The Harvard Heights home that Jha plans to redevelop into a 33-unit apartment building. | Google Maps / Google Maps

A Los Angeles developer is frustrating residents by identifying single-family lots where the law allows for building multi-family housing, buying up the properties, and redeveloping them into apartment buildings, reports Liam Dillon in the Los Angeles Times. Housing advocates might hail this as a win for affordable housing, while preservationists and neighborhood groups argue Akhilesh Jha’s relentless pursuit of new projects is destroying historic neighborhoods and using legal loopholes for personal profit.

“While Jha’s ideas are far out of scale with nearby properties, he’s also not plopping the buildings in the middle of subdivisions. The projects are all within about half a mile of a major freeway with other multifamily housing and businesses nearby,” Dillon adds. Jha has won approval for his projects largely because the law, in many cases, favors housing production.

Jha uses California’s density bonus law, which “allows developers to build more dense housing on a lot in exchange for dedicating some of the units for low-income families,” to bypass many zoning codes and building regulations such as height limits and parking requirements. Jha also filed an application using the ‘builder’s remedy’ in the brief weeks when Los Angeles was eligible for such projects.

With only 10 percent or less of the units slated for low-income households, critics argue that Jha is disingenuously using “the most aggressive interpretation of state regulations” to build outsized projects that will strain local resources and bring down property values.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023 in Los Angeles Times

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