Planning Commission Endorses Eliminating Parking Requirements for Lower-Income Housing

Image courtesy of Bay City Beacon

With a 5-1 vote Thursday night, the West Hollywood Planning Commission responded to new state law AB 1763 by approving the elimination of all requirements for on-site parking in new buildings if 100% of the units are dedicated to lower-income residents.

The idea behind abolishing the parking requirement is that various “affordable” building projects target different populations and those populations all have differing parking needs. Thus, a one-size-fits-all parking requirement for such affordable buildings is impractical.

Peter Noonan, the city’s rent stabilization and housing manager, explained that eliminating the parking requirement would allow a nonprofit developer to “right size” an affordable housing project and spend money otherwise used for constructing costly parking spaces on more housing units instead.

“This does not mean that an affordable housing project is going to be built without parking,” said Noonan. “Not all targeted populations that need housing need the same levels of parking. This allows great flexibility for the nonprofit [developer] to design a building to best fit the needs of the community [in terms of both units and parking spaces] going forward.”

The Planning Commission was amending the city’s zoning code to match new state laws addressing the state’s housing crisis. These new state laws set no limit on the number of units in a 100% affordable building project and also allow those buildings to be up to three stories (33 feet) taller than the area’s zoning allows. Thus, in a residential area where the maximum height allowed is four stories, a 100% affordable building can go up to seven stories.

As for parking, the new state law, AB 1763, says that 100% affordable buildings only need to create one parking space for every two units (.5 spaces per unit), provided the building is within a half mile of a major transit stop, which includes 95% of West Hollywood. While the city must comply with the state law and amend its zoning laws accordingly, the state does allow a city to set even looser requirements. That’s why Noonan proposed eliminating the parking requirement entirely and leaving it to the developer to decide how much parking a building would need.

Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner voted against the change, saying that it is foolish to think low-income residents do not need parking and that low-income people need their cars to get to their jobs.

She further contended that keeping the requirement at .5 parking spaces per unit gives the city the ability to have some say in the design of a building and grant lower parking requirements on a case by case basis.

“By keeping the .5 [parking requirement] as the state law is, we would be able to continue to have discretion and we would be able to continue to try and develop projects that are not a one-size fits all,” said Hoopingarner.

However, Noonan noted the city frequently provides some funding for 100% affordable buildings and therefore has some input on design at that level.

Commissioner John Erickson contested Hoopngarner’s position and said it’s unlikely that a building would ever be proposed with absolutely no parking because a developer would know his target audience and build accordingly.

“I think the red alert alarm that’s being declared up here is trying to say that we’re going to have projects that come before us that are multiple stories high that don’t have any parking, that is fake news. That’s not true,” said Erickson, in an apparent reference to Hoopingarner’s comments from the Planning Commission dais. “I think people have to be very careful about the verbiage they’re using up here because this is the exact type of NIMBYism that gets us into the situation of where we are at right now.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Adam Bass noted some affordable buildings target residents with special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or those at risk of becoming homelessness. He said it would be highly subjective for the city to try to determine the exact parking needs of these special needs populations.

“We would just be sitting here debating what special needs is, which I don’t believe as a Planning Commission we’re really qualified to do,” said Bass.

This discussion was about amending the zoning codes regarding 100% affordable units in general. However, several Norma Triangle residents used this as an opportunity to protest a specific project – the recently announced seven-story, 100-unit, 100% affordable Wetherly Palms project that the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation proposes to build on Wetherly Drive, just north of Cynthia Street.

Norma Triangle residents, already upset about a seven-story building in their neighborhood, were even more incensed at the idea the Wetherly Palms building might not have parking. They noted their streets are already jam packed with minimal street parking. To build that project with no parking would force residents of the Wetherly Palm building to park on the street, making an untenable parking situation even worse, they argued.

“This can’t be a one-size-fits-all zoning law,” said Norma Triangle Rebecca Damevanol. “If you pass some kind of zoning law like this, you’re making it harder for us living in the neighborhood. This shouldn’t be a burden on us.”

Norma Triangle resident Charles Jasper said the area was already too crowded and congested and more cars competing for parking would just make it harder to live there. Resident Georgina Moore opposed the project, asking who’s watching out for the needs of the existing residents.

Noonan contended several times that he never heard of the Wetherly Palms building and said the city has received no paperwork regarding it. Finally, Bass said that was “disingenuous” since WEHOville ran a Jan 27 story about the building and the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (WHCHC) has issued a press release about it. Bass also pointed out that Noonan is a member of the WHCHC board of directors. He is one of 15 people sitting on that board.

Given the public’s negative reception to these zoning changes, the Commission questioned whether Noonan and his staff had done any community outreach on the matter. Noonan replied they had not since state law required the changes be made

Commissioner Sue Buckner was absent.

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Pragmatic
Pragmatic
6 months ago

Everything about this project is suspicious. This project has been rubber stamped as a done deal without any community outreach or regard for the neighborhood, it’s character, or the feelings of the many lifelong residents who chose these serene few blocks for the very reasons this behemoth will destroy. Residents beware, critics will come back to anyone protesting by trying to label existing residents as NIMBYs as a way to guilt or shame those opposed. It’s a cheap PC ploy to make those challenging to just roll over into submissiveness and accept their irrational, insensitive, inappropriate, and clearly incompetent decision,… Read more »

Matt
Matt
6 months ago

This is a very reasonable policy, not to mention required by state law. Regardless of income level, West Hollywood is very walkable and bikable and has multiple (and even some free) public transit options. West Hollywood is very easy to get around without a car. I live in the Norma Triangle and often go days at a time without using my car. Housing costs would be much lower if all new apartments were not required to build parking. Starting with eliminating the requirement for 100% affordable housing projects makes a lot of sense and is a good start to reducing… Read more »

JF1
JF1
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt

It’s not reasonable to have a 7 story building next to a single family one story. That’s ridiculous and will destroy the character of neighborhoods – and overwhelm neighborhood capacity for parking. If we had a transit system like New York or Chicago you might have an argument regarding zero parking but it would still destroy the character of the neighborhood -totally out of scale with the structures around it.

Jason K
Jason K
6 months ago

I agree with Hoopingarner. Why put a blanket no parking rule when they can grant exceptions for projects that it might be appropriate to have less parking.

Déjà vu
Déjà vu
6 months ago

THANK YOU COMMISSIONER HOOPENGARNER. THE only voice of reason!
And that John Erickson has got to go. He is totally disrespectful and so full of himself. Oh and he is wrong a lot. Stop grandstanding and do your homework.

Vigilant
Vigilant
6 months ago

The professed ideals of West Hollywood, its founders and current administrators appear to be sinking.

Michael LaBarbera
Michael LaBarbera
6 months ago

How nice of the planning commission to say “You’re old and poor. You don’t need to have a car or deserve a place to park, or rooms actually big enough to put real furniture in. Those things are for the rich!” I NEVER thought I’d see the day when anyone involved with the City of West Hollywood would treat low-income seniors like third class citizens. With friends like you, who needs enemies?

Manny
Manny
6 months ago

What is this 1930s Manhattan?! Where 200 unit buildings where constructed without parking. That didn’t turn out very well, and now low income people, and others, are land locked on an island with complete parking and traffic chaos (yes that’s real “chaos”) along with $1,000 a month parking spaces for rent.

Furthermore, if you believe the argument that no developer will actually construct a building without parking, then why change the minimal requirement?

Government shouldn’t be telling people that they don’t need a car, and Planning Commissioners should only be discussing what’s before them, not pontificating.

Vigilant
Vigilant
6 months ago
Reply to  Manny

Hear, hear. Planning Commission meetings should be dedicated to efficient, informed dialogue on matters within their purview. Speculation on other matters only serves to confuse themselves and the public. If one doesn’t know an answer, it’s alright, just ask a question. Wandering off into personal displays showmanship for other objectives should be curbed as being inappropriate.

Unhappy neighbor
Unhappy neighbor
6 months ago

While I understand the need for affordable housing, I do not understand why any housing project anywhere in LA can be allowed to move forward without without assured parking options. This lack of parking in the new Wetherly construction will affect the new residents, as well as those of us who have lived in this neighborhood for decades. Why can’t the new building plan include underground parking???

Jessica
Jessica
6 months ago

How can Pete Noonan make a proposal and recommendation for 0 parking requirements when he has a complete conflict of interest?!?!?!? He is the city’s rent stabilization and housing manager AND he sits on the board of directors for the developer in question, West Hollywood Community Housing Corp.?!?!? Shame on the City of WestHollywood!!!! How can the City of West Hollywood allow such a clear conflict. He must recuse himself, be removed from the city or be removed from the board of the developer’s company. Clearly something stinks in this arrangement. Obviously the developer has provided “many perks” for Pete… Read more »

Upset neighbor
Upset neighbor
6 months ago
Reply to  Jessica

Everyone should be up in arms! This is blatant disregard of neighborhoods and protecting our environment and “over building” on a site

Upset neighbor
Upset neighbor
6 months ago

This is completely ridiculous. Elected city officials are supposed to do what is best for neighborhoods. It is obvious they have not made any kind of environmental impact studies and do not serve our community in a fair way. These are obvious back door talks which have terrible long term effects on our community. Shame on West Hollywood city council for allowing this to happen.

Mojo
Mojo
6 months ago

It looks like the city is going to throw the weho residents under the bus for affordable housing in areas that won’t work for anyone. They just streamlined the ability of developers to take whatever they want from anyone. A non profit is still a developer and there should be something to slow them down and protect the community in place. We all want affordable housing done the right way and this isn’t it.

Upset neighbor
Upset neighbor
6 months ago
Reply to  Mojo

Well said! So true

Pragmatic
Pragmatic
6 months ago
Reply to  Mojo

So true! The commission has thrown these few precious blocks under the bus in a huge way. Approving this huge project for the WHCHC without any outreach, traffic studies, environmental impact studies, not just for this structure, but for the combined effect on these issues from the huge Edition hotel at Sunset and Doheny and the other two huge hotels that they also approved directly East of the Edition and North of the proposed Wetherley project. Have these planners completely failed to consider the impact that these hotel complexes alone will affect traffic density and the environment in just the… Read more »

Jim
Jim
6 months ago

Peter Noonan, on whom we lavished $241,425 in pay and benefits in 2018, is a remarkably uninformed bureaucrat.

https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=Rent%20Stabilization%20%26%20Housing%20Manager

JF1
JF1
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

uniformed and OVER PAID.

Upset neighbor
Upset neighbor
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

And he doesn’t even live in weho!