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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Changes Coming to Mello Act Discussed at Thursday Meeting

By Angela McGregor

Thursday night, January 30th, officials from the City Planning Office presented the preliminary draft Mello Act Ordinance to a packed room at the Venice Public Library. The new ordinance — requested by Councilman Mike Bonin in 2015 — would create stricter rules to preserve affordable housing in the Coastal Zone as well as closing loopholes in the current version.

The Mello Act, first put into effect in 1982 exclusively within the Coast Zone of California, aimed to preserve the number of residential dwelling units along California’s Coast by requiring that existing units be replaced or preserved whenever a property is demolished and rebuilt. For new buildings,  it provided 10 percent very, very low income units and/or 20 percent low income units to be built within the Coastal zone, preferably on site.

In 2000, the City of Los Angeles implemented Interim Administrative Procedures for Complying with the Mello Act in the Coastal Zone in response to a settlement agreement which tightened the statewide restrictions.   Nevertheless, according to la .curbed, Venice alone lost 700 housing units between 2000 and 2015. Housing advocates blame this on the numerous loopholes and exemptions within the existing regulations.

According to City Planning Fact Sheet the proposed ordinance “strengthens and clarifies the review process where necessary, is more transparent with clear objectives and expectations as compared to the IAP, and removes options that did not result in desired outcomes.” Among these are:

* Forbids the conversion of duplex (two unit) residential properties into single family homes

* Assumes that any rental units on a property are affordable to low-income renters unless then property owner can prove otherwise

* Conversion of residential properties to non-residential uses is prohibited

* Replacement units, which were previously allowed to be built up to 3 miles off-site of the property, must now be built on-site.

The proposed ordinance can be found here in its entirety.

The ordinance is currently in the preliminary public review stage (a prior public outreach/information session on itwas held in San Pedro, 23 January, and the public is encouraged to contact the department of City Planning with suggestions. They can reach Jonathan Hershey, the Senior City Planner in charge of this ordinance, at planning.mello@lacity.org.

The crowd who attended included both owner/developers and housing advocates. Questions were submitted in writing and varied widely, from what the new ordinance impact might be on housing conversions for AIRBNB use (the answer was that there would not be any, since AIRBNB is only legal within a primary, single-family residence). The answer to what a property owner should do if he “doesn’t want to be in the affordable housing business” (the answer was, “if you own affordable housing, you’re already in the affordable housing business).”

It’s anticipated that the public outreach and approval process for the new ordinance will take upwards of 18 months. Projects which complete the city planning submission process during that time will be subject to the previous regulations.



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