According to the Los Angeles Times, an L.A.-based nonprofit has filed a lawsuit seeking to eliminate one of the city’s most successful affordable housing programs. Fix the City (FTC), which board members describe as a “pro-safety, pro-livability, pro-‘rules-matter’ group,” is suing the municipal government over its implementation of the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program, which loosens planning regulations for developers who build near transit stations. FTC’s leaders assert that the TOC scheme, which was initiated after Los Angeles voters came out in favor of Measure JJJ to address the city’s homelessness crisis, has allowed local officials to bypass the elected leaders of the city council and operate without proper civic oversight.
The lawsuit is intended to halt progress on the construction of a 79-foot-tall apartment building on Santa Monica Boulevard, which would accommodate 120 residential units spread across seven stories. If the project moves forward, it will be allowed to exceed existing height limitations on Santa Monica Boulevard by more than 20 feet in exchange for a guarantee that a certain percentage of the units will be set aside for affordable housing—a provision of the TOC program aimed at increasing residential density. FTC board members have accused the city of providing developer incentives that go beyond what voters approved under Measure JJJ, insisting that officials should redraw the housing plan with greater attention to due process and community oversight.
Contrary to what the FTC’s most recent lawsuit might suggest, the Transit Oriented Communities strategy has actually been quite successful in encouraging developers to build more residential units across the city. Since it went into effect in late 2017, the program has led to developer-led proposals for 20,000 new units, almost 4,000 of which are designated as affordable. Mayor Eric Garcetti has also indicated that the initiative’s focus on transit corridors will help to reduce L.A.’s crippling congestion problems.
Supporters of the TOC program and Measure JJJ have criticized the lawsuit as an impediment in the city’s quest to address its mounting housing crisis. The FTC, which has repeatedly sued the city over planning decisions ranging from the construction of a 27-story tower in Koreatown to the addition of hundreds of miles of bus and bicycle lanes through the Mobility Plan, is a known impediment to such actions. Whether the latest lawsuit will mark a legal victory or defeat for the city still remains to be seen.