Protecting Our Communities for the Future

Thanks to the efforts of United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council (UNNC),  Council District 10,  and the Los Angeles City Planning Department, sections of two historic neighborhoods in the West Adams District - Jefferson Park and Arlington Heights -  are now more likely to be conserved. 

Los Angeles has 35 separate community plans.  The neighborhoods of Jefferson Park and Arlington Heights are part of the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Park Community Plan.  For the last six years the Planning Department staff had been working on revisions and updates to this particular community plan. In 2013 these updates were approved by the Planning Commission and sent on its way to City Hall for a vote when it was stalled.  Residents in Hollywood had filed a lawsuit against some of the items in their own plan and a judge sided with them. This sent notice to City Planning to reconsider similar items in other community plans thereby putting a hold on all of the plans.

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This proved a boon to residents in Jefferson Park and Arlington Heights who had supported changes UNNC had suggested to the Planning Department prior to the final approved plan. The Planning Department had rejected their request that the zoning for a western section of Jefferson Park be changed from its current multi-family land use (allowing for apartment development) to duplex and single family zoning only.  This change would prevent current single family and duplex homes from being torn down by future developers to make room for apartment buildings.  UNNC also requested that Arlington Heights be protected from development due to its many identified historic properties.

UNNC’s written comments addressed what appeared to be a lack of concern by City planning and “what appears to be a failure to conserve character neighborhoods” as is required by city policy.  In particular, UNNC stated: “The West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Community Plan does add a lot of housing capacity on the corridors in the form of mixed use. However, it does not downzone existing character neighborhoods, particularly those that have zoning intensity higher than the actual use.”  In a nutshell what this means is development along the major commercial streets (Washington, Adams, Crenshaw, Western etc) would allow the building of apartments with commercial use on the bottom floors, increasing the much needed housing for a growing population.  But what UNNC was concerned with is that zoning for the neighborhoods, which originally allowed for high density (future building of apartments) should be “downsized” in density to fit with the current population of single family homes by preventing the growth of apartments. This would preserve the historic integrity of the community and the architecture.  

Because of the stalled action citywide on the community plans, the Planning Department staff now had time to further evaluate several residential neighborhoods which included reconsidering the UNNC suggestions. In late October and early November they presented revisions to their original recommendations.

UNNC had requested that “West” Jefferson Park – the area between Montclair and Jefferson, west of Edgehill to Crenshaw Boulevard, be changed to have zoning that matches “the predominant existing single-family and duplex use (and built form).” Planning staff agreed to this, and will propose the rezoning of these residential streets to a mix of single family and duplex zoning.

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Arlington Heights, a neighborhood bounded by the 10 freeway to Pico, Arlington to Crenshaw, has more than 1,000 residential structures, most dating from the turn of the 20th century to the 1920s. It is not yet an HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone) but is filled with homes and small apartment buildings that were identified in Survey L.A. – the citywide survey of Los Angeles’ historic resources – as potential individual landmarks and/or contributors to historic districts. Its current zoning is complex: “RD,” or restricted density, which actually has fewer restrictions than the name implies.

UNNC asked that the Planning Department create zoning that would help protect those historic resources. The current zoning allows - without any special clearances - a would-be developer to demolish a series of adjacent homes and then build large apartment buildings over multiple lots that would be out of character and scale in the neighborhood.  UNNC commented, “the RD zoning, in and of itself, is problematic in certain character neighborhoods since it allows for the joining of lots/parcels, and thus massing of new structures that are often over-bulked in comparison to the neighborhood and its surrounding residential structures.”

In response, Planning Department staff did NOT remove the RD zoning and instead created a new, “Character Residential Overlay,”zone that restricts new construction to single lots, with the same setbacks, height and massing of the adjacent character period homes. In other words, if someone tears down a house to build an apartment, they could only build one building per lot. They cannot buy three adjacent lots and build one big apartment. They would have to build three separate building each with similar height and front yard areas to the neighbors houses.  This new overlay would conserve the Arlington Heights neighborhood and be a step along the way to possibly become a unified historic district in the future.

Since the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Park Plan has already been approved by the City Planning Commission and is waiting to move forward for the City Council vote, these new changes will need Council President Herb Wesson to introduce a motion at City Council, with the attendant notice to property owners, public hearings and City Planning Commission approval before becoming part of the Plan. 

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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