Sat, Apr

Build Better LA’ Initiative: Right Idea, Wrong Approach


VOICES--(The Los Angeles Business Council has strongly advocated for affordable housing development for over a decade. On June 8, the LABC Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the Build Better LA (BBLA) initiative because they believe it’s the wrong approach for our city.

Below is an excerpt from a recent letter sent by the LABC to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, to formally state their opposition to BBLA, which is slated to appear on the November ballot.)

Over the last several months our leadership and membership have reviewed the Build Better LA proposal to craft a position only after we did our due diligence. While we agree with the need to make citywide improvements and updates to our planning processes and guiding documents, and agree with the need to increase the stock of available affordable homes, we unfortunately disagree with the path to a solution laid out in BBLA.

The LABC supports market-driven tools and incentives to increase affordable housing development and decrease the cost to build. Also, we support streamlining the process to reduce the cost and complexity to build housing in LA. As you know, our members have expressed concerns specifically with the requirements for:

  • All projects with 10 or more residential units that require a General Plan amendment or zone or height district change to include a percentage of affordable units;
  • And, developers of these projects to hire contractors who guarantee 10% of the workforce will come from residents living within five miles of the project.

We’ve heard from many of our developers that the “10 or more residential units” threshold would be too costly for developers to build these smaller projects, which tend to be lower-income, multifamily affordable housing projects. We recommend increasing this threshold to 50 units, to align with the requirements for site plan review.

Our members have also expressed concern over “10% of the workforce [coming] from residents living within five miles of the project”, mainly over the feasibility of this requirement. While we agree that priority should given to the local workforce we have concerns that the percentage required would increase costs too greatly.

We are concerned these new mandates would deter future housing development in Los Angeles, a result which would be counterproductive to the goals that BBLA seeks to achieve - more affordable housing development and much-needed, high-paying jobs for the local workforce.

Perhaps most importantly, we believe the coalition who developed this initiative should have obtained the input of market-rate, affordable housing developers early in the process, because of their extensive experience developing here in Los Angeles and awareness of some of the biggest challenges to developing housing for middle- and lower-income Angelenos. This experience is invaluable to the development of any policy looking to reform the way we plan and develop in LA.

As such, we are unfortunately unable to express our support for the Build Better LA Initiative. We look forward to working with you in the future on developing policies to incentivize affordable housing development and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to provide our input.

(Mary Leslie is President of the Los Angeles Business Council (LABC), a nonprofit advocacy and education organization dedicated to serving L.A.’s business community while strengthening public policy in the region.)