Court Orders City of L.A. to Stop Violating Development Law in Hollywood

In Featured, News by Ged Kenslea

In a victory for planning and the rule of law, a California court confirmed that the City of L.A. must enforce State redevelopment laws and Redevelopment Plans.  Those plans include that 15% of new housing units in redevelopment project areas must be affordable.  The court also found that L.A. broke the law by issuing conditional use permits (CUPs) to circumvent the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan

LOS ANGELES (April 28, 2022) A California court ruling this week, in a case brought by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), clarified a hotly contested legal issue about the City of Los Angeles’s attempt to avoid legal duties required of it under the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan and other redevelopment plans.

The City’s redevelopment plans contain, among other protections, affordable-housing mandates for residential real estate developments approved and built in vast swaths of the City of Los Angeles. The City tried to eliminate those protections by an illegal limited transfer of the land use duties and responsibilities of the former Community Redevelopment Agency.

The court in Sacramento ruled the City is bound by the redevelopment plans, which also resulted in a declaration by the court that the City’s practice of granting conditional use permits (CUPs) to circumvent the plan protections, especially in Hollywood, was “unlawful.”

On April 25, 2022, the Honorable James P. Arguelles, California Superior Court Judge, County of Sacramento, issued a Combined Final Ruling in the Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Complaint for Declaratory Relief brought against the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Council in October 2019 by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

Judge Arguelles’ ruling protects the public and ensures greater oversight of development approvals, including by upholding the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan’s affordable-housing mandates and protections.

“This is a huge victory for planning and the rule of law,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “The City of Los Angeles, including its City Council and the Planning Department, were called out for past illegal actions and advised that all must follow the law on affordable housing and other mandates in redevelopment plan areas moving forward. We thank Judge Arguelles for his clarity here and will now monitor Los Angeles officials and developers closely to ensure legal compliance.”

Background on the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA)

A decade ago, the California Legislature abolished all California redevelopment agencies, including the City of L.A.’s. The L.A. redevelopment agency had designated two dozen redevelopment project areas and had overseen certain land-use-related plans and functions there.  After the dissolution of the L.A. redevelopment agency, many/most of those land-use-related plans and functions continued to exist but needed to be administered by a live government agency or else the plans and functions would be effectively dead letter.

In September 2019, the Los Angeles City Council formally adopted the “Transfer Resolution and Ordinance,” a resolution requesting the transfer of land-use-related plans and land-use-related functions from CRA/LA, the successor agency to the L.A. redevelopment agency, to the City itself. The transition of authority to the City centralized the land-use planning functions that had previously been housed in two government agencies, CRA/LA and the City.

In its pleadings, AHF asserted that the City of Los Angeles essentially took the position that it could pick and choose which plans and functions to take responsibility for. Notably, the specific responsibility that the City of L.A. wanted to shirk was to make sure that at least 15 percent of housing units in new housing developments in redevelopment project areas are affordable to low-income people.

In Judge Arguelles’ Combined Final Ruling, the court made the following declaration: “The Resolution and Ordinance transferred to the City …  all of the Former Agency’s land use related plans and land use related functions” (emphasis added).

Over the past decade, a perfect storm of self-dealing politicians and deep-pocketed real-estate developers has contributed to the illegal approval and construction of scores of residential developments lacking the requisite number of affordable units, and, in the case of Hollywood, built with greater density than currently legally permitted under the existing Hollywood Redevelopment Plan, thus causing destruction of existing low income housing stock and displacement of vulnerable tenants.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of AHF by The Silverstein Law Firm, APC.

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