City prepares to tighten the rules of Elysian Valley development

New Elysian Valley apartments rising next to the L.A. River.

New Elysian Valley apartments rising next to the L.A. River.

ELYSIAN VALLEY — Developers and investors have discovered Elysian Valley, the narrow riverfront community packed with small homes, warehouses and artists studios. After many residents expressed concern about gentrification and over development, the Planning Department has unveiled a set of changes that would reduce the height and size of new projects proposed for a strip of commercial parcels that front the L.A. River.

A public hearing is scheduled for June 9 to go over the proposed zoning changes, which would restrict new buildings to occupy no more than 50% of a lot and reduce the height limit to 30 feet from the current 35 feet. However, buildings that are close to the riverfront  may not rise taller than 20 feet. The new restrictions would be applied to numerous, commercial properties that are located roughly between Blake Street and the river.

While some residents have welcome the conversion of warehouses and industrial spaces into housing, shops and restaurants, others have complained that some of the projects would only lead to over development and price out existing residents.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, in an email sent last week about the upcoming public hearing, said that one of his top priorities is “to ease the pressure that fear of displacement has caused.”

Are the proposed zoning changes not enough or do they go to far? Residents and property owners will be able to express their views during the public hearing. The changes must be approved by Planning Commission and City Council.

The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9 at Dickerson Employee Benefits, 1918 Riverside Drive. The public hearing will be preceded by an open house that begins at 5 p.m.

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  1. Sounds reasonable. Improving and fixing up properties, new small businesses and amenities are very welcome in Elysian Valley but I agree that there needs to be some careful restrictions so we don’t overburden our small streets with too much traffic, but we are moving in the right direction. I like the 50% rule, that will make sure to preserve plenty of trees and green space.

    • . . preserve plenty of trees and green space?
      are you aware that this area fronts on a mile wide swath of river that is being developed into public green space?

      Why force private property owners to leave open space in their yards that the public can;t enjoy anyway. . when 10 feet away there will be the largest public park ever in an urban environment.?

      Same goes for scale- forcing maximum 2 story buildings along a giant open space seems really weird? It’s being treated as a small-town beach-front rather than central park.

  2. It’s about time! How about an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) in the meantime to put the brakes on a mad rush to file new plans before any changes to the Q Conditions take place? It’s a shame we can’t make these conditions apply to developments already in the pipeline.

    But how much of what’s being approved is just pure speculation anyway?

  3. You fail to mention here that the idea is that developers wanting to build higher or with more units than allowed under these tightened restrictions could still do so under SB1818 by including some affordable housing. Mitch O’Farrell is trying to force developers’ hands by making them include affordable housing to build up to the old heights and densities that’ll soon no longer be allowed. It’s smart, It’s also not a good idea to try and implement citywide, as some of the biggest constraints in Elysian Valley are infrastructure and access, which are very limited.

  4. Just so we’re clear: The proposed restrictions will: (1) Reduce the amount of new housing that can be built, thereby doing less to ease rent increases both in Frogtown and elsewhere in NELA; (2) Reduce the value of the affected properties (since development of them will be limited); and (3) Reduce the potential property tax revenue from the neighborhood.

    Seems like a loss for renters, owners, the city and county.

    • EchoParkDevilsAdvocate

      What he said.

    • Not a lot of affordable housing is being considered by these developers. The condo project at the old Bimbo bakery site are running 500K+ — out of reach for most of the neighborhood.
      Thanks for forgetting us Garcetti – your mandate to build every square inch of L.A.

  5. while they’re at it, perhaps they could make a rule getting rid of the silly marketing term elysian valley and we could go back to calling it frog town

    • Elysian Valley is the official name, frogtown is just a nickname because of all the frogs that used to come out of the river. Unfortunately “frogtown” is also what the bonehead “gangsters” (aka loser 18 year old dropouts with nothing better to do) spray paint on our walls in their desperate attempt at relevance.

  6. Since this issue keeps on being raised: “others have complained that some of the projects would only lead to over development and price out existing residents.”

    Would someone be able to provide documentation on the number legal evictions that have occurred in the past several years and if they are increasing or not?

  7. I’m all for infill development to ease LA’s urban housing crunch… but this was never the best place for it.

    Now if only the city could act this quickly to remove some of the ridiculously outdated zoning that plagues the rest of the city (for starters, ditch parking requirements downtown, and within a quarter mile of rail stops.)

  8. This is nothing new what the city of Los Angeles is doing to it’s low income residents. This goes back to Hollywood and the mayors then councilman Revitalization plan that Gentrified Hollywood , Silverlake , Echo Park, and now Elysian Valley. They mayors revitalization or smart growth plan has many flaws that put the health and safety of the public at high risk.. We need to look at the recent water main breaks that started in Hollywood and followed the revitalization plan down to Echo Park. The cities infrastructure in some areas are over 100 years old plus they are not designed for the new development thus leading to more water main breaks. Mitch O’ Farrell has a solution he recently put his plan out for the first “infrastructure District ” people wake up the “infrastructure district” is going to pick up the slack of the developers that have not kept there promises and the ”infrastructure district ” will use public property taxes to help bring water mains other infrastructure up to new development levels in short it will help developers not the residents. It also amazes me that Mitch O’Farrell has not taken a stronger position on development in Elysian Valley considering that he was a field deputy for Garrcitte in the 13 Th district. Where Silver lake and Echo Park were going threw Gentrification. It got so bad in Echo Park when the people were being evicted and the city inspectors were citing people like crazy. They all ended up at Echo Park Lake where they camped for months. There were well over 100 families with seniors and children living out of there cars.

    It was also upsetting at a special meeting of Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council on May the 28,2015 when some of our members sold the community out and gave support to one of the largest development projects in Elysian Valley. The Elysian Valley Neighborhood Council is mostly made up of members that have a financial interest and will gain if the development is built. Some members own multiple properties and have businesses along the river. If you Live in the Community of Elysian Valley please attend you Council Meetings every third Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm at Alessandro elementary school.

    • Outside of Downtown, we really aren’t building too much urban housing in LA. I imagine these water mains are breaking primarily because they are 100 years old. I’m curious what you think the alternative is to fixing our aging infrastructure, if not through property taxes and more efficient land use?

      • The narrative coming out of the council offices is that we “need developers to pay for infrastructure improvements” and without developers we can’t possibly achieve these necessary upgrades. The EIFD has almost no rules except that it CANNOT be used for deferred infrastructure maintenance or schools. It can, however, be used for development of flood control channels… Its a rouse. Bond issuance requires 55% of the vote, so please inform yourselves.

        Check out this State of CA site with Q & A on the EIFD and an eye-popping webinar on how anything goes for this new “redevelopment tool” http://cityminded.org/enhanced-infrastructure-financing-districts-eifd-12330

        City hall drank the River Kool-Aid and refuses to address first things first.

        If only we could kayak down water mains….

        • “The EIFD has almost no rules except that it CANNOT be used for deferred infrastructure maintenance or schools.”

          Wow, that does sound pretty bogus… I would’ve figured they would want to use most of it on deferred maintenance (as that’s where it seems most needed.) I guess City Hall has a way of screwing up even the most straightforward ideas.

  9. This article quotes information included in the Draft Elysian Valley Q Conditions Update “Quick Guide – 5.15.15” prepared by the Department of City Planning as follows:

    “The maximum building height is proposed to change from 35 feet to 30 feet.
    A new requirement limiting new buildings to no more than 50% of the lot area is proposed.”

    I wanted everyone to be aware that this guide is VERY misleading. Although the guide states that the proposed revision will do these things, when you read the actual ordinance, you can’t find them:

    1. There is NO height reduction included at all EXCEPT for the first 10′ along the river!!!!!! The height for the rest of the area will remain at the current 45′ (NOT 35′ as is erroneously stated in the document).

    2. The only properties where the lot coverage is being reduced is on the riverfront properties – the rest remain at the current density of 1.5:1. There are many properties included in the Q area that do not front on the river.

    The Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council made a series of recommendations to the planning department and to Council District 13. Among them were a request to reduce the FAR for the Q area from 1.5:1 to .75:1 (a 50% reduction) and to reduce the height throughout to 30′.

    I am concerned that the document from planning is confusing, and gives an inaccurate representation of the actual proposed revisions. I fear that the entire process is intended to mislead people and to limit actual review of the revisions.

    It is very important that community members attend the upcoming open house and public hearing on the Q condition revisions. The event will be held on June 9 from 5-8 (or so) at Dickerson Employee Benefits at 1918 Riverside Dr. The Council Office is waiting to hear from the community and if we speak loud enough, they MAY hear us.

    • Excellent work, thank you for making this clear. Once again, we get a document from City Planning that says it is designed to limit XXX but then when you read through it, it actually promotes the increase of XXX, and in the process it will “streamline” approvals (a.k.a. less public input). This practice of misleading the public is more the norm than the exception.

      I would also like to point out that the mandatory requirements for 25% family housing (3BR) of the former Q conditions are suddenly missing from these new updated Qs. Imagining that the “target demographic” follows the pattern in echo park and silver lake, expect to see developments with 80% studios and 1BR units since the parking requirements and rate of return for these units enhance developer profit margins.

      Noise regulations, although they existed in the previous iteration of the Q’s, are more likely to be enforced as “sensitive” residential uses push into the creative/industrial zone.

      QUESTION: Just how cool is that neighbor who just paid $800k for his “modern loft town home” going to be with all that artsy workshop ingenuity when it happens after whatever hour seems inappropriate to his professional sensibility?

  10. Hands OFF Elysian Valley. The one precious untouched place in Los Angeles. Now government wants to ruin it. Leave Elysian Valley alone!!

    • Sounds to me like the local government is considering more prohibitive zoning restrictions (in an area with some pretty tight restrictions to begin with) to prevent the market from “ruining” Elysian Valley with too much investment.

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