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L.A. Mayor Launches Program To Fast-Track Building For Accessory Dwelling Units

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Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Standard Plan Program on Friday — a new initiative administered by Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) that offers builders and homeowners a variety of pre-approved ADU building plans and designs to allow for faster and less expensive permitting. 

“Every day, Los Angeles and our residents tackle our greatest challenges with creativity, innovation, resilience, and an immeasurable can-do spirit,” said Garcetti in a statement. “This program is about making ADUs more accessible, more affordable, and more beautiful — and making them part of the blueprint of our efforts to tackle our housing crunch and create more affordable communities citywide.”

In midst of L.A.’s current housing crisis, ADUs have become critical to the City’s ability to expand and diversify the supply of housing. Since updates to State law making it easier to build ADUs took effect in 2017, ADUs now comprise 22% of newly-permitted housing units. 

After a year of development and a 7-month pilot phase, the ADU Standard Plan Program gives homeowners access to 20 pre-approved design options from 10 different firms. By choosing from one of the pre-approved layouts, homeowners can now reduce the LADBS plan check review process from four to six weeks to as little as one day.  

Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and SO-IL

Angelenos will be able to access the pre-approved designs on the ADU Standard Plan website. The designs will help simplify, expedite, and reduce the cost of the overall permitting process by offering consumer protection from contractor abuses; direct access to architecture firms who have secured approved plans; and flexible designs that will work for most residentially zoned properties.

The ADU standard plans — which build off an existing LADBS Standard Plan for swimming pools, stairwells, and other design features — are designed to accommodate a range of homeowner needs, from small studios to larger, two-story layouts. Another 8 designs from 4 additional firms are pending approval, giving the program a total of 10 local firms within the L.A. region. The program is open to all architects, contractors, and other firms able to meet the program’s basic requirements. Interested firms can learn more here

“The Standard Plan Program will dramatically streamline the process for homeowners of selecting and getting an ADU design approved by LADBS while at the same time supporting the work of Los Angeles architects and extending the City’s rich tradition of innovation in residential architecture,” said Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles in a statement. “The ADU plans available at launch include contributions from some of the most talented architecture and design firms at work in Los Angeles and around the country — and we look forward to seeing new designs added to the mix.”

Building off the rising interest in ADUs, the City has continued to explore ways to reduce the time associated with securing ADU permits to bolster L.A.’s affordable housing stock. Mayor Garcetti launched the L.A. ADU Accelerator in fall of 2019 to allow homeowners to rent their accessory dwelling units to older adults facing housing insecurity in exchange for benefits such as tenant screening, timely rent, and landlord support. 

Last month, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Bob Blumenfield led a motion in the City Council that builds off the work of the ADU Standard Plan Program to call on the Bureau of Engineering, LADBS, the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, and City Planning to develop standard plans for modular multi-family homeless and affordable housing, bungalow courts, and ADUs.

“It’s imperative that we bring down the cost of housing in LA and this program adds new tools to help us with that goal,” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield in a statement. “ADUs are an affordable way to create units and it’s important that we continue to take steps like this, streamlining the processes so more can go up faster.”

For more information about the program and its participants, please visit the website here.

Renderings of the pre-approved designs can be found here

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L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the  L.A. City Council agenda.

In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.

On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature. 

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.

“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.

“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.

In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.

The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing. 

Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.

The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide. 

The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months. 

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L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand

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Devon Miller / The Valley Post

The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity. 

The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic. 

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.

Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to  Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.

“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement. 

The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director. 

The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.

LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. 

However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.

The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year. 

LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.

Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.

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Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million

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Los Angeles Homes

The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.

The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).

June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.

“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”

The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.

A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.

The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.

There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.

“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”

That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.

Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.

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