FROM Dana Cuff
ADUs: your home can have a baby Los Angeles needs to build more housing. Many Angelenos need help paying the mortgage. Is the solution to both in our backyards? “Your house can have a baby. You can make the baby work,” said Diahanne Payne, a longtime building contractor and founder of “Illegal Additions Made Legal.” In the second show in our series “This is Home in LA: From the tent to the gigamansion, (and everything in between),” DnA explores ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units -- and asks if they might help solve the housing crisis while adding equity to costly single-family homes. DnA talks with planners and elected officials who have fought to legalize backyard homes, both existing unpermitted units -- of which there are thousands in LA, commonly known as granny flats -- and new structures. We meet a Highland Park couple who agreed to build an ADU as a test-case, in collaboration with Councilman Gil Cedillo’s office, the City of LA and the mayor’s innovation team as well as several nonprofits: designers LA Más, builders Habitat for Humanity, and financiers Genesis LA. “The purpose of the entire project was to push policy, and it was to reexamine the current policies and how they reflect how people are actually living in LA these days,” says homeowner Grace Lee. She and her husband Trent Wolpe found that building an ADU is complex, costly and full of surprises, such as finding the sloping site need deep caissons and that they needed to conform, at a price, to the design demands of the local HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone). In response to lessons learned, Ken Bernstein of the City Planning department’s Office of Historic Resources, says HPOZs can no longer impose design specifics on ADUs, only height and width limits. The legalization of ADUs represents a mini-building boom and has builders, consultants and designers coming out of the woodwork, some of who see ADU’s as a vehicle for design experimentation. DnA talks to the CEO of a firm that promises to streamline the mass-production of ADUs through deploying computational design and software. One of its investors was an early investor in AirBnB and SnapChat. Meanwhile, some designers have more fanciful ideas in mind, such as Jimenez Lai and his firm Bureau Spectacular, which was shortlisted in a recent Yes to ADUs! design competition. His solution: idiosyncratic structures full of character, “somewhat pleasantly human like or animal like with arms and legs and hats.” He also that a street of ADUs should combine to form a shared piece of local infrastructure. “If they generate electricity; if they process water; if they help with a kind of community fermentation station, then there's some agricultural or other productive use meant for the block, not for the property.” Concepts like Lai’s may be a little far off in the future. Right now, the goal is to get going with building some ADUS, and have people’s homes become both income generators and participants in solving the region’s housing needs. A rendering for Trent Wolbe and Grace Lee's ADU in Highland Park. Image courtesy LA Más.
Can granny flats help solve the housing crisis? So-called granny flats are detached second units, like converted garages or guest houses, that homeowners build on their properties. City officials are scrambling to come up with new rules for these structures, after a lawsuit recently threw them into legal limbo. On one side, critics say allowing more and bigger granny flats could destroy the character of some neighborhoods. On the other, supporters argue that granny flats are one way to ease LA’s affordability crisis.
LA to Revise Its Community Plans There are widespread tensions surrounding the runaway construction of large-scale residential developments in Los Angeles, many marketed as luxury projects. Many are built after developers receive zoning variances and planning amendments, a process critics describe as "spot zoning." Now the Mayor's office is vowing to revise the city's 35 community plans in the next decade. Will this be enough to stop a proposed moratorium on some development?
Bootlegged Apartments and Affordable Housing Housing in Los Angeles is notoriously expensive. One way to address that is to create more supply, and the city council is considering a plan that would do that. The proposed measure would legalize so-called bootlegged apartments in the city. These are unpermitted units that are otherwise safe. The law would provide amnesty for those who built units without proper approval, provided the landlords guarantee some units would be affordable for 55 years. Some property owners, however, call that requirement a “dealbreaker.”
Does Luxury Housing Trickle Down to Affordable Apartments? Can you create affordable housing by building luxury towers? A boom in development of large apartment towers has prompted a fight for a two-year moratorium on new projects that don't comply with the city's general plan. But planners say this moratorium will stymie efforts to create much-needed affordable housing. We visit the people at the heart of a development fight.
Rick Caruso's 'Main Street' Style L.A. developer Rick Caruso has spent three years and more than $10 million promoting a new luxury shopping mall in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. But local opposition has been fierce, forcing a special election. As of last night, the noes led by 186 votes, but there are still a few thousand mail-in and provisional ballots to be counted. Rick Caruso is the man behind The Grove and the Americana in Glendale. He's also set to revamp the downtown area of Pacific Palisades. Caruso is just one of several big developers to shape the way our city looks and works. But while L.A. is home to ultra-powerful developers, it's also home to an incredibly powerful group of NIMBYs. We examine the tension.
Preparing for El Niño Yesterday, a federal forecast predicted that the El Niño weather system is gathering strength and could bring record rainfall to California. If yesterday’s mudslides on the 5 Freeway in Southern California are any sign, El Niño could bring unexpected consequences. Are we prepared?
Making L.A.: The Built Environment One hundred years ago, Los Angeles was barely a city at all. Over the last century, it has blown up into a giant metropolis. And during all this rapid growth, L.A. has continued to struggle with an inferiority complex, questioning its own identity and place in the world. Are we a world-class city? Can we match those older and more sophisticated cities of the Northeast? Do we have great cultural institutions? We tackle some of these questions and more in our new series, Making L.A., which will examine how we can make L.A. more liveable. This is part one. Downtown Los Angeles Photo by Steve Devol
Gov. Jerry Brown: California and China will fight climate change together President Donald Trump reportedly wants the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, and he’s expected to announce a decision soon. California Governor Jerry Brown heads to China to strengthen climate and clean energy ties.
Morgan Parker: There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé Morgan Parker says that the poems in her book There Are Things More Beautiful than Beyoncé take a stand against the clichés of the dominant culture.