LA Zoning Reforms Could Yield Up to 250,000 New Homes

A draft plan would speed up permitting for residential projects with an affordability component and make more buildings eligible for adaptive reuse.

1 minute read

March 14, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Intersection in downtown Los Angeles with pedestrians crossing, vintage building across street, and modern glass office tower in background.

Many buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California have been converted to housing through the city's adaptive reuse ordinance. | zhu difeng / Adobe Stock

A proposal from the Los Angeles City Planning Department would revise zoning codes to make room for as many as 250,000 new housing units, reports Kenneth Schrupp for The Center Square. “With housing approvals taking longer than construction, the department’s plan to allow for by-right construction of projects with at least 20% of units affordable to earners of the area median income (a requirement known as inclusionary zoning) is expected to significantly reduce overall development times.”

The city is also expanding its adaptive reuse program, which began in the 1990s with the city’s downtown and Arts District, to include buildings that at least are 15 years old, or 5 years old with a conditional use permit. Previously, buildings had to be built before 1974 to qualify for adaptive reuse.

Schrupp notes that expanding the program could help transform some of the 144 million square feet of L.A.’s vacant office space into housing or other productive uses. “Even if just a tenth of empty offices were converted to housing — many office spaces are simply unfit for conversion due to plumbing and access needs — that would still account for 18,000 new homes.”

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